Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz.

This was a BOTM selection.  Koontz is a hit and a miss for me sometimes.  I often feel that he is too close to King, but since King's writing in my mind has fallen off since his accident, Koontz becomes more enjoyable.  I really liked this book.  Odd Thomas is a young man that sees ghosts.  I know, I know not a new concept, but just because Koontz isn't the first person to come up with story line doesn't make it any less enjoyable.  Odd determines that a horrible massacre is about to happen in his home town and he is trying to stop it.  There are these black creatures called Bodach's which I visualize as the heartless from the game Kingdom Hearts, an epic love story, and the King!  It is a super easy read and it was really hard for me to stick to the BOTM reading schedule.  I didn't take very many notes while reading this book, mainly because the story line seemed to flow so easily.  It wasn't a deep thought book, it was a settle in with a cup of tea and enjoy yourself type of book.  Nothing too serious, but not completely frivolous either.  I admit the end had a twist I didn't see coming, I of course am not going to share with you, because I would hate to ruin the same surprise for you.
This seems like a really short review to me, but as I said this wasn't a meaty book that required a ton of dissection.
Koontz wrapped things up really well in the final chapter, I don't think that it was intended to be a series.  I know that it will be a while before I can get to the remaining books in the series, BOTM has voted to continue them in like a year.  Don't get me started on the voting, I lost.  But anyways, I'm ok with that because the book ended in a nice tidy way.  Anybody out there have any thoughts as to if you think Koontz intended this to be a stand alone book or a series?

(Read 11/4/13 through 11/30/13)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

This is a book I never would have chosen to read on my own.  As  most of my books these days are book club selections rather than my own, this book got read.  But then again that is why I joined a book club, to read books I normally wouldn’t pick up and read on my own.  I went in to this reading tentatively, I hadn’t voted for this book and I really didn’t think that I would like it, but I did.  It wasn’t a can’t put’er down book, but when I choose to sit down and read it, it kept me interested and I didn’t give up.
The book itself is about Henrietta Lacks and the immortal cell line, known as the HeLa, that was collected in 1951 from her cervical cancer cells.  These cells have been used in multiple research projects and helped lead to the vaccine for polio.  They have been one of the greatest contributions to medical advancement, yet they were essentially stolen from Henrietta and used without her permission.  The book not only finally shares the life of this woman, whose legacy was never imagined in her wildest dreams. It also explores the ethical questions surrounding taking tissue samples used in research with out the patient’s consent and just how much consent needs to be given.  
When I started the book I was outraged that the Lacks family had seen no benefits from the sale of Henrietta’s cells, that her children couldn’t afford health care and her were so poor.  They had limited education and were taken advantage of multiple time, until Ms. Skloot came along to write her novel, no one even bothered to tell them what was really happening with their mother’s cells.  They were in the dark, hearing only tabloid type stories, and no one even tried to reach out to them.  I was so angry, but by the end of the book I could see the scientific communities point of view and their concerns over being able to advance medicine.  I still don’t think the Lacks family was treated well or fairly, but I wasn’t as angry.  
The writing was good, Ms. Skloot tried to tell the facts without being so technical the reader gets lost, she also tried to tell the Lacks story in their own words.  The result is a wonderful humanistic scientific piece.  I'm not sure that is even a real phrase, but that is what it is.  Some of the sections are in the family members own words and were a little harder to read, but all in all Ms. Skloot did an amazing thing bringing Henrietta's story into the light where she could be recognized for her contribution and her family could finally know the truth of what her cells were and what they were doing.
(Read 10/28/13-11/12/13)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Dune by Frank Herbert

Whew..finally some time to write.  This is a BOTM selection. I really like Dune, this is not my first reading and I have seen the movie a couple of times so I know what's going on. Saying that, I think this is the best book in the series, the other never really held me like this one does. And man does it feel good to be back to a genre I love with a story line that holds me and makes me not want to put the book down.
This is the story of Paul Atreides, a young duke, and his rise to power as a religious messiah for the natives of Arrakis.  His Father is betrayed and murdered and he finds his way amongst a savage civilization. This is a power struggle for the whole universe, but as all power struggles start is just between two people, it grows to engulf two families and grows until the entire universe is drawn in. We just come into the story near the end. This was written between 1959 and 1965, and to me it has a lot of the themes of the time, religion, politics, evolution, philosophy. Herbert asks a lot of big questions in a digestible way, mainly where are we going as a whole and how do we want to be when we get there.  It still feels current to me with all the technological  advances we have made and the ethical questions that revolve around our scientific advances.  it gives me food for thought on our entire society, I guess the same questions have been being asked for 50 years now, and we still are unsure.
I think Herbert does a great job setting up the motivations and the characters, Paul is so young and smart and the world's events are about to take him over and change him so. Jessica is using her whole person and all her skills to protect her family, and the Duke, well the duke is noble and tragic and if he had just been a little less proud thing would have gone different, but then he wouldn't have inspired the loyalty he does. And the Harkoneans are diabolical and cruel as all bad guys should be.
I was sad Leto died and pissed that the Baron had a lucky escape at the end of book I. But I guess you can't kill the main villain in the first part. I think Leto died valiantly and I'm always glad that he didn't die a cowering mess or tortured to death, he went on his own terms thanks to Dr Yeul. And strangely I don't hate Dr. Yeul, his hand was forced and his betrayal was awful but at least he saved Paul and Jessica and allowed Leto a chance to take out the Baron. What kills me is how much time is skipped between the end of book one and the start of book three. Paul has a kid and is a true favorite part is where he rides the worm. But just so much is skipped.
The ending was good, it did leave some things open ended, but not so much that if you don’t want to read the rest in the series you feel that it is incomplete.  It is obviously part of a series, but at the same time it has the ability to be a standalone book as well. (Read 9/16/13-10/27/13)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

It seemed appropriate to be reading practical magic in October, it is about witches after all.  This was a nice light and easy read, nothing too mind bending.  However this will probably be one of the few times I will say this, I enjoyed the movie better.
This is about the Owen's sisters Frances and Jet, Sally and Gillian, Antonia and Kylie.  The aunts (Frances and Jet) take in Sally and Gillian after their parents die and raise the girls.  However Sally and Gillian are most unappreciative of Aunts, and get out as soon as they can.  Gillian much quicker than Sally.  Sally has a two girls Antonia and Kylie who she takes away from the aunts home and attempts to raise them as normal girls.  Then one stormy night Gillian shows up with a dead boyfriend and the aunts are called back when things get to rough.  At the end all the generations are getting along and it is one big happy family.
Can we say bleh.  The characters in this book just seemed a little flat to me, the aunts were barely developed, and there was way more focus on the Antonia and Kylie's relationship that I was expecting.  And it seemed the characters didn't stay in character, for example Sally agreeing to bury Jimmy in her backyard for Gillian.  Sally is supposed to be this uber responsible person and she doesn't bat an eye at burying a dead guy...I don't think so.  Gillian is a selfish brat and she does stay that way pretty well through the book so that is good.  Sally's girls were much older than in the movie and so had a chance to much more developed, but I think that cost the Aunts.  The Aunts were the characters I really wanted to know about and they seemed to just be after thoughts.  There was way too much sibling rivalry and even generational rivalry.  It didn't seem as magical to me.  I mean there were moments and elements, but it just seemed more practical I guess, hence the name.  
Don't get me wrong, I liked but the movie is one of my favorites and I guess I just had higher expectations.

A Prince in Camelot by Courtway Jones (July 2013)

This is a selection from my BOTM club, series edition. This is the third in a trilogy about King Arthur.  This installment follows the life of Mordred, Arthur's bastard son.  Although in this series he is the son of Morgause (Arthur’s aunt) not Morgan (Arthur’s half sister).  This was the most boring of the three. It took me forever to read it because the story didn’t move a long, Mordred came to Camelot was hurt that Arthur didn’t acknowledge him and spent a lot of time being a Knight and blah blah blah.  There was no movement, the story got facts from the previous books wrong, the timelines were all screwy!  I couldn’t wait to get this one over with.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Witch of the North by Courtway Jones (June 2013)

This is a selection from my BOTM club, series edition. This is the second in a trilogy about King Arthur.  This installment follows the life of Morgan l Fey, Arthur’s half sister.  For some reason I didn't find Morgan as enthralling as Pelleas (In the Shadow of the Oak King). Her story really reminded me of Irene Radford's series which is from the point of view of Merlin's daughter. Don't get me wrong I still thought it was good, but I like the first book better.
Jones has Morgan’s love interest being her cousin Gawain, and they never seem to get their timing right, unlike Pelleas and Nithe.  I actually wish Morgan and Gawain had gotten together, I think Morgan would have had a happier life. Gawain would have been more understanding and a better knight.  
As a side note I was pleasantly surprised that Morgan kept mentioning Queen Boudicca. I actually have a book about her in my to read pile, she has moved up higher on that pile.
Tthe third part of the book is a quick read but nothing worth writing home about.  Besides everybody dies and most in a stupid pointless way. There weren't even enough events besides death to help me with the timelines. I have no idea when things happened in the third part. Not so happy with this part, hoping the third book takes me back to my happy place of the first.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

In the Shadow of the Oak King by Courtway Jones (May 2013)

This is a selection from my BOTM club, series edition.  This is the first in a trilogy about King Arthur.  
I LOVED this read and flew through it. It started in the introduction as Jones was talking about how much research he did, changing some of the facts from the original story to be more historically correct. Even going so far as to making up the 5th century romano-celtic calligraphy font the book is written in for a more authentic feel. It may not pass the muster of some, but to me it spike of how much Jones loved his story and his subject. The introduction I thought did a good job of explaining the tribes, but maybe that is because I took so many history classes in college about this era. 
I have read a ton of Arthurian legends, I love the ones from other points of view. Although I admit I have started Mists of Avalon three times and never been able to finish it. In fact, a previous post discusses the Arthurian series by Irene Radcliff. There were some similarities to her series that I noticed when reading this section I think this book came first, but I'm not sure. I made some notes that in both series Merlin head a wolfhound familiar and could mind speak. Irene had more magic, while Jones uses cleverness. 
All of the Arthurian books I have read always have Merlin as a mysterious figure, even when the book is from Merlin's point of view. This allows me to make my own assumptions and let my imagination fill in the back or side story, sometimes later on in a book I'm proved wrong but that is half the fun.
This book is told from the point of view of a companion that I had never heard of Pelleas.  The story starts out with how Pelleas meets Myrddin (Merlin) and how they come to raise Arthur on Ector’s Isle.  Myrddin is a master smith and teaches Pelleas the trade.  Myrddin is also raising Nithe, his neice who is the daughter of the Lady of Lake.
Some comments were made in my book club discussion that there were no strong women characters.  I disagree.  I think this has more strong women in it than just Nithe. In the beginning Jones talked about how Pelleas's mother owned the property. Thanks to my women history class I know this was the way because the only true parentage that could be confirmed at the time was the mother, can't deny a baby popping out as not yours. This all changed because then catholic church was so anti-women, but that is a whole nother lecture. Anyways back to my point, the women in the story are not helpless sops, they may not be picking up the swords themselves, but they are not spineless either. Pelleas's mother had a lot of power over her husband, not as much as we are used to being equals now-a-days, but she wasn't helpless.
I love wolves and I have since high school so the portion where Pelleas saved the wolf and they protected him later really grabbed me. 
Pelleas is Uther’s son and he is to be sacrificed to the Oak King so the Urther may continue his reign and Myrddin saves Pelleas.  As usual, Urther is a weak willed selfish bastard. Sacrificing his own children though takes him to a new low in this series. Also as usual, Myrddin is always stuck cleaning up Urther's mess and caring for his children. Although I did think that the King needing to sacrifice himself to the Oak King was a way toput a term limit on a monarch’s reign, and like all politicians Urther found the loop hole to stays in office longer.
The second section has a lot more action, the story really moves along at a nice pace too.  This is the part where the characters return from Ector’s Isle and Arthru becomes king by pulling the sword from the stone, which by the way is a very clever trick from Myrddin.  It seem Pelleas and Nithe may have a chance to get together if they would both just stop being so difficult. It takes Pelleas forever to figure out that Nithe is an option. I swear when he realized it I could picture the lightbulb over his head switching on, but the idiot never said a word to her, he expects her to do everything. Typical! Then he buys her for a year and walks away, thank goodness she had more brains than him.  Although, when he does make her an offer she is torn between him and Lancelot, and walks away like a foo.
I found it really interesting how popular Arthur is with the common people. The Bishop dismisses the common people, because they don't make kings. Yet when Arthur won the fight at the tournament, they are the ones that rushed in and insisted he become king. The Bishop was very wrong, then common people did elect him essentially. 
Pelleas fights for the King with his Wolfhound companions then is betrayed by Saxon’s and his relationship with Arthur breaks down.  Pelleas leaves on his own revenge mission and suceeds by becoming a King in his own right.  He finally gets Nithe in the final chapter and it was quite the sigh of relief on my part, for a while there I thought they were both going to be completely stupid and miss out on each other.
Now that I have read all three books in the series this is by far the best.  And if you only read this one and skip the others, it’s not really that much of a loss.

Oops - Long time no post.

So I know I haven't been posting much lately, that doesn't mean I haven't been reading.  I just haven't had time to write up my comments until now, be prepared for a slew of reviews.  :)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Unfaithful Wives by Orrie Hitt

This was a random selection from my free Nook ebooks.  I thought this was a weird crime fiction novel.  It is pure pulp fiction.  It is written and set in 1956.  The characters are very dated and classic.  There are lots of characters, whose lives all intertwine.  No one is faithful, not even to themselves.
A man, Fred Sharpe, has an affair/one night stand with Sandra Thomas.  He comes to regret this indiscretion, especially once Sandra turns up murdered.  Fred is married to Rita, who is having an affair with Norman Williams.  Norman is using Rita for cad, but is in love with Betty.  Rita then accuses Fred of killing Sandra, and a whole mess begins. The story it's all about trying to untangle the web that has been created, and no one gets a happy ending.  Very strange book.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Seven Steps to Closure by Donna Joy Usher

So next in line on my kindle, is little read. I'm not sure what I thought this would be about, but I was totally impressed for how hooked I got. This is the story of a woman trying to recover from a divorce and how her friends push her down the path of recovery with 7 steps.  This turned out to be a romance novel that snuck up on me.  Now I have nothing against romances, but I find them a little too formulated.  Girl meets boy, girl and boy fall in love, something separates girl and boy, some how girl and boy find each other again, and live happily ever after.  Now I'm not saying this book doesn't follow the formula, because it does.  But it was a fun read, it reminded me of the movie Eat Pray Love (sorry haven't read the book, only know the movie, and I'm sure they are very different).
The main character is likeable and has limited moments of sopiness. Surprising the object of her affection comes later in the story and of course is every girls dream boat.  Her friends are great and funny.  The story has some real growth and healing, and romance.  The landscape of the storyline is amazing, beauty and love on an unexpected place, but isn't that usually how it its?
I was surprised at show much I enjoyed d this book.  The storyline was very fast paved although it covers many months it doesn't drag on. There isn't a ton of literary critiquing for this book, it is just a nice quick read.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Mr. Penumbra's 24 hour bookstore by Robin Sloan

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is amazing! I flew through this book in a little under 24 hours and wanted to immediately read it again.  It combines elements of fantasy, mystery, and adventure and speaks to the bibliophile that lives in my soul.
Clay Jannon, an unemployed Web designer, takes a job working the graveyard shift at a 24-hour bookstore, owned by the strange Mr. Penumbra. The store has two kinds of customers — random passers and a strange group of people that borrow (never buy) from private collection of books, which Clay has been instructed not to read.  One night Clay succumbs to his friends pressure and discovers that the books are written in code. With the help of his roommate, a special effects artist; his best friend, a successful creator of “boob-simulation software”; and his romantic interest, Kat Potente, who works for Google in data visualization, Clay goes on a quest, in much the same fashion as in his favorite series The Dragon Song Chronicles. He solves puzzles and digs up secrets, that lead him to a place he never expected and a 500 year old secret society.  Sloan so seamlessly combines old technologies (books themselves) and new technologies ( computers and e-readers) that it gives the novel a sense of purpose and almost enlightenment.  And trust me I KNOW how cheesy and awful that sounds.  I myself resisted e-readers for a long time because I thought I would be losing something that only real books could give me.  Sometimes I still do. This book spoke of that struggle, and verbalized something that u didn't even realize needed verbalizing. And it was a fun read.  The characters are Uber likable and the storyline is paced just right, not too fast and not too slow Goldilocks.
If you are a bibliophile add this book to your reading list, you won't regret it.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Locked Up in La Mesa by Steve Peterson

So this is the next book in line from my free Kindle books.  This is the story of a white guy in the late 70’s that got caught smuggling pot from Mexico into the US.  His bad was luck was that he got caught on the Mexico side with no bribe money and was sent to La Mesa. Apparently this is a famous Mexican prison, but I had never heard of out before I read this book. 
It was an OK book, the writer has some wild stories, but it is not well written.  The chapters are short stories almost, but the writer has a tendency to go off on tangents.  The stories are believable, and not as crazy in this day and age as they might have been in the 70's.  I have pretty neutral feelings it was an easy filler book, but not something I would read again.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Halestorm by Becky Akers

This is a book I picked up from for free from Amazon, and I have decided instead of randomly reading these free books that I have no idea what they are about other than free to start at the A’s and work my way to the Z’s. 
This book was better than I expected, it is about the American revolution and the only American Revolutionist hung for spying Nathan Hale, he is famous for his final words "I regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."  This is novel that is full of love and conflict, murder and betrayal.  From the beginning the reader knows Nathan dies, yet his character is still endeared to us and we find ourselves hoping fervently for a different ending.
The main character is of course Nathan Hale,  his “step sister” Alice Adams, and his rival Guy Daggett.  Of course both Guy and Nathan are in love with Alice, and it is this conflict and Alice’s stupidity that leads to Nathan’s capture and death.   
Guy is portrayed as a typical useless popinjay, and of course he is a nasty loyalist.  Guy embodies everything evil and dirty about men, he is greedy and lusty, he has no concern for anything but his own needs and wants, and if he doesn't;t get what he wants, well why it isn’t because he is lazy or selfish it is someone else's fault, and 9 times out of 10 that other guy is Nathan.
Alice, oh she is the most beautiful girl in the county yada yada yada, but man she has no political savvy or common sense in a way she is just as selfish and awful as Guy, the mean part of me had hoped that once Nathan had died she would find herself unhappily married to Guy.  Admittedly, Alice did not mean to blow Nathan’s cover and get him caught, but if she had thought about things for a day rather than rushing blindly into a situation that she knew nothing about and even said was against his nature she might not have gotten him killed.  But there is still a bitterness in me that this great character of Nathan was so easily screwed over by his “Love.”
The other person that is to blame is Nathan’s pious father Deacon Hale, who had a one night stand with his second wife years before his first wife died.  Not so pious and upstanding was he.  Well this affair led to Alice.  Which leads to a really different twist as to why Alice and Nathan can’t marry.  However, Deacon isn’t man enough to own up to his affair to his children and won’t explain his reasoning behind forbidding them to marry.  The kiddos are of course confused and angry, especially since Alice’s older sister Sarah married Nathan’s older brother Jonathan.  If the Deacon had been able to own up to his own mistakes Alice wouldn’t have pined for Nathan and chased him down and blew his cover.  It would have been quite a blow, but at least they would have understood and all of history could have been changed.
As I said earlier in the review, even though I knew the ending, I was hoping for a different outcome.  That speaks volumes to me of Akers writing skills, she was able to draw me in and keep me hooked through the whole book, in fact there were times that I couldn’t put it down.  Now I’m sure Akers did her research, but I have no idea if the fats actually line up the way she said they did, but that is the fun of historical fiction right…take a story we know some about and flesh it out.  This wasn’t so amazing that I am scouring for her other works, which I have no idea if she has any, but it was a good solid 3 star.  The price at the kindle store has gone up from $0 to $2.99 and I would say, hey if you have $3 this is a pretty good read.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Peaches by Jodi Lynn Anderson

I read this a filler for the week off between my BOTM books, it was a freebie from Nook I got a few months ago, it looked like some light reading.  It was light reading, this is a sort of typical teen book about three girls from very different backgrounds who become the best of friends and stick by each other through the hard times.  It is a story that we have read a bunch of times, but thanks to Mrs. Anderson’s  writing I didn’t mind.   As a kid I loved the “Babysitter Club” series and this book reminded me of it, not storyline wise, but the flow and the writing style.
The three main girls are Leeda, who is the vision of a Southern Belle.  She is wealthy, beautiful, popular, perfect.  At least at first glance.  Her mother prefers her older sister, and Leeda is often pushed aside.  Murphy, is a poor girl from the wrong side of the tracks, she is wild and a bit slutty.  She has anger issues stemming from her mom parading all sorts of men through her life.  Birdie, is the sweetheart of the story and the glue that holds Leeda and Murphy together as friends.  Birdie is a na├»ve country girl, homeschooled and very shy.
The story is set in Birdie’s father’s orchard.  Leeda is Birdie’s cousin and to prevent Leeda from spending time with her boyfriend Rex her parents sentence her to the Orchard for Spring Break.  Murphy gets caught trespassing on the Orchard and is sentenced to serve her “community service” there over spring break as well.  Spring Break turns into the entire summer as the Leeda and Murphy help Birdie work the orchard that is almost bankrupt and about to be sold to the neighboring golf course.   There is boy drama, and friendship drama, and family drama.   All so classic in a teen novel.  The girls are so likable and the setting it is so picturesque that I found myself drawn in.  In fact as soon as I finished I downloaded the next two in the series to read at a later date because I want to know what happened to these girls.

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

Lonesome Dove
So this was a BOTM book.  I had seen the miniseries when I was a child and vaguely remembered liking it but I didn’t remember any details, which is nice because I can take a fresh view of the book.  I thought I would like this book, I didn’t.  I didn’t absolutely hate it, but I wish I had checked it out of the library rather than purchasing it.
The book is originally set in Texas and is the story of a cattle drive to Montana by group that is led by retired Texas Rangers Call and Gus.  They have two of their fellow companions Deets and Pea Eye, and a young boy with them.  Plus some hands they hired on.  Along for the ride but separate are another of the former Ranger Jake and whore Lorena.  The description to Lonesome Dove Texas and the characters were so bleak. The characters felt depressing and dull, Lorena is hopeless, the hands are witless, the landscape is god awful. Thankfully, that feeling only lasted until about chapter 8 or this would have been a really long read.
I did not feel a connection with this book is ok and I do find that I want to know what happens, but I'm not excited about it. Sadly I barely took any notes while reading. Which says to me that I have pretty neutral feelings about the book.
What few notes I did take were about the female characters....why are they all whores? There were non whores in the west, why aren't they in the story? The female main characters are all either currently whores or previously whores and hiding it. Does Mr. McMurtry have poor opinions of women? And if the woman does have brains she is unliked and portrayed as a bitch.  For example July’s sister-in-law Peach is unlinked because she is an intelligent woman, but man someone in this book needs some brains.
The story is rambling and pointless, nobody seems to have a plan, even Call who is supposed to be this great worker. And I know that back in the west the there was little education, but that doesn't mean everybody was simple minded. The two characters that did have some brains and are made out to be eccentric old fools. And there were tons of death that just seemed pointless, like McMurtry created too many characters and didn’t know what to do with them so he killed them.

All that being said my favorite character is still Gus. He seems like a decent guy. He seems to genuinely care about people, which is a bit refreshing in this book.
This book reminds me so much of my dad, that I keep picturing him when reading, for example when Call gives Newt the gun and says "Better to have it and not need it, then need it and not have it." I heard my dad saying it not Call. My dad says that sort of thing all the time. When ever I read a western I can't help but to compare the characters to my dad, he is one of the last real cowboys in my eyes. And the character that reminds me the most of him is Gus, the way he jabbers and sees things in the people around him is like my dad, but when it comes to actual verbiage, my dad is more like call. Also, the way Call never stops working reminds me of my dad, at 78 my dad is still breaking horses and works most of the day, although the ranch is smaller than it used to be.
I'm glad it is over. But it felt incomplete, leaving Newt and the boys in Montana while taking Gus back to Texas. Nothing seemed resolved,what was the point of the story?  I feel like I missed something. It gives me warm and fuzzies because of my dad, but that is it’s only redeeming thing.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Book Five of Merlin’s Decedents: Guardians of the Promise by Irene Radford

Guardian of the Freedom
I received this eBook free through LibrayThing’s Early Review program.  This is the fifth book in a series of novels focusing on the mythical bloodline of Merlin. I have read and reviewed the previous four books.
This installment is set in the time of the Revolutionary War, and moves the Kirkwood family from Great Britain to America.  And thank goodness Radford went back to her same style as her first two in the series.  Thank goodness!  I sped through the book.  This story had a lot more politics than magic, but the story was still enthralling.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hobbit
For those of you haven’t read Tolkien I am going to try very hard not to give away spoilers. It was a pretty easy read I think, maybe it is because it is the umpteenth time I have read it. Since I am a fan, I thought I should include a little bit of fun facts and history. Tolkien was fascinates with languages, which is what lead to him creating his own. He was a professor of Philogy, which is a branch of linguistics that studies written records. When he moved to Oxford to teach at Premboke College, the countryside inspired him to begin writing stories in which his languages would have been spoken. The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings stemmed not from the story but the stories stemmed from the languages.
The Hobbit follows the journey of Bilbo Baggins. Bilbo is a respectable bachelor who lives in his burrow Bag End . Bilbo is smoking his pipe on his front step one day when Gandalf the Grey, a wizard, stops by. Gandalf is looking for someone to join him on an adventure. Bilbo makes it clear that he does not want an adventure, but Gandalf feels differently and secretly leaves a mark on Bilbo’s door. The next day 13 dwarves arrive at Bibo’s house for tea and enlist him in a treasure hunt. The dwarves tell of the dragon Smaug that attacked the dwarves home under the Lonely Mountain, and slew most of the dwarves and claimed the treasure there for his own. Something stirs in Bilbo and to his own surprise he leaves with the dwarves on the adventure. They first are delayed by trolls, which they defeat and take some of their weapons for their own. Then they make it Rivendell and visit with the elves there. It is in Rivendell that they discover the secret door into the lonely mountain. After leaving Rivendell they are captured by Goblin’s and get separated. Bilbo finds a golden ring on the floor and puts it in his pocket without even thinking about it. Bilbo finds Gollum in the bowels of the Goblin lair, and participates in a riddle contest with him. Bilbo wins and Gollum is supposed to lead him out, but Gollum tries to trick him and Bilbo slips the ring on and becomes invisible. Gollum become outraged, because he realizes that Bilbo has the ring and in his rage he heads for the exit and Bilbo follows him out. While escaping they are treed by the Goblins and wargs (giant wolves), and are rescued by the Mighty Eagles. After leaving the Eagles, Gandalf leaves the group and the dwarves and Bilbo have to navigate the forest of Mirkwood on their own, which is disastrous. First the dwarves are captured by spiders and when Bilbo rescues them, the whole group is captured by Wood Elves. Bilbo escapes capture by slipping on his ring again. Bilbo rescues them by putting the dwarves in barrels add floating them down the river, where they are rescued by the men of Rivertown. From there they finish their journey to the Lonely Mountain, and Bilbo sneaks in and gets his first view of Smaug. It is there that he notices that there is a scale missing from his chest, right over his heart. Bilbo sends a message to Bard in the Rivertown with this information, and when Smaug attacks Rivertown in his anger over Bilbo’s visit and theft, Bard is able to slay Smaug. Afterwards the Men and Elves of Mirkwood demand treasure from the dwarves, however the dwarves do not want to share, and a war is started. The dwarves summon reinforcements from his cousin. It is during this battle that the Dwarves, Elves, and Men are attacked by Goblins and the Eagles join the battle, which becomes known as the Battle of Five Armies. The Goblins are defeated and in the spirit of the alliance the treasure was shared. Bilbo returns home with his treasure and his ring.
I think of all the books, this is my favorite because it is such an easy read and so whimsical. Hopefully, once we get into the trilogy there will be a discussion of the different tones to the stories. I feel that the trilogy defiantly shows more adult focused audience in Tolkien’s writing style, whereas the Hobbit was written for children and it reflects that. The Hobbit was originally stories told to Tolkien’s children, and it was his good friend CS Lewis that persuaded him to submit it for publication. Which I for one am very thankful for.
Hobbits are a race completely invented by Tolkien; the other races in the books were infused by Tolkien’s studies of Norse, Welsh, and other myths to form their descriptions. I love the descriptions of fat little hobbits that are fond of food and drink and smoke, but are made of much sterner stuff than they first appear. Look at how many messes Bilbo got the dwarfs out of. As Gandalf said at that first dinner in Bilbo’s home “There is a lot more in him than you guess, and a deal more than he has any idea of himself. You may (possibly) all live to than me yet.” Which is true, Bilbo pulled the dwarfs asses out of the fire many times.
Tolkien is so descriptive, but not in a way Steinbeck or MacLean descriptive. To me at least Tolkien’s descriptions are just detailed enough to draw you in and paint the picture in your mind, without boring you. It makes me want to live in a hobbit hole, and visit Rivendell. The Mirkwood scares me, and the River town sounds like a great vacation spot. My imagination formed Middle-Earth in my mind the first time I read the hobbit in 5th or 6th grade and it hasn’t changed over the years, only become more enriched each time I read the book. I am actually quite nervous to see the movies, because middle earth is so formed in my mind, and it was one of the things that upset me about LOTR trilogy movies. Some things were better than I imagined, while others did not live up to my expectations. Although, I do admit that when the songs are sung in the book I hear them in my head the way they were sung in the1977 cartoon version.
So between every reading of the Hobbit, I forget about Beorn, so every time it is like a new discovery, I’m not sure why this section of the book is so forgettable to me, because it isn’t badly written. I just can’t seem to keep it in my brain.
It amazes me how easily Bilbo picks up the ring and puts it in his pocket. With no thoughts, it called to him, and with no chance to resist he starts the whole LOTR story in motion.
As a side note, I haven't seen the movie The Hobbit yet, but I was speaking to a friend at work and he said that the Movie incorporates parts of the Simirillion in it as well, and that is why it is three hours and three movies long....which makes sense, but makes me VERY nervous.