LOTR Readalong – The Hobbit

I love the fantasy genre, have read Paolini, and am absolutely in love with Katsa and Po in Graceling.  I’ve read all the books in The Chronicles of Narnia, play World of Warcraft, and I rather enjoyed Goblins! An UnderEarth Adventure.  So when I read about the Tolkein Readalong, I decided to Crash the Unexpected Party.

The Lord of the Rings ReadalongJanuary was the month of The Hobbit with A Striped Armchair.  I got a late start, so I’ve had to hurry a bit to catch up, but I’ve now finished the prequel to The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  It was a re-reread for me, “the third time pays for all”, as Bilbo says, and my last time on the journey There and Back Again was in early 2008, I believe.  It amazes me how this book was still able to keep me in suspense through goblins chasing them, Riddles in the Dark, the sticky troubles in Mirkwood, imprisonment in the wood-elves city, Bilbo’s battle of wits with Smaug the Dragon, and through the final scene of the book, The Battle of Five Armies.  I so love Tolkein, and I seem to forget how much until I read his work.  Next month will be The Fellowship of the Rings with The Literary Omnivore.

So Eva at A Striped Armchair gave us the following questions:

  • Where are you in the story? So far, has the book lived up to your expectations (for first-timers)/memories (for rereaders)? What’s surprising or familiar?
  • Have you been bogged down anywhere in the book?
  • Let’s talk about the songs…are you skipping over them to get back to the prose? Why or why not?
  • What do you think of the narrator’s voice?
  • Does your edition have illustrations or maps? Have you been ignoring them or referring back to them?
  • Now it’s time to play favourites! Who’s your favourite main character? Who’s your favourite minor character (i.e.: villains, random helpers, etc.)? What’s your favourite scene? Do you have a favourite quote to share?
  • Okay, so here we go :-)

    1.  Where are you in the story? So far, has the book lived up to your expectations (for first-timers)/memories (for rereaders)? What’s surprising or familiar?

    I have just finished the book about twenty minutes ago, after tackling it in about 3 days.  I was a bit burned out by the ARCs that I’ve read this month, and desperately need a fun escape in a comfort read and The Hobbit fit that to a T.  I really do hope to take the next books a bit slower, because it gave me a bit of a brain-ache this way.  As always, it lived up to my memories, and I’ve been running over to YouTube to watch the 1977 Cartoon version of it that I watched repeatedly at my parents naseaum as a kid.  What really surprised me was that, even though I know the story, know what all’s going to happen, and know the outcomes, it can still hold me in suspense.  I was biting my nails and flipping pages, even though I knew they were all going to make it through.  Of course, since it was a reread, it was familiar, and maybe it is the cartoon I watched for all those years that makes it a comfort read for me.

    2.  Have you been bogged down anywhere in the book?

    I did have trouble in the beginning of the book getting started.  I kept falling asleep.  However, that may have more to do with the fact that I was in a nice, warm bed at 12 o’clock at night, with the audiobook playing as I read along.  There is a reason we read bedtime stories to kids to make them go to sleep, and I can tell you it works on 36-year-old moms just as well ;-)

    3.  Let’s talk about the songs…are you skipping over them to get back to the prose? Why or why not?

    Well, as I said, I read along with an audiobook, so I didn’t skip the songs this time, but I never skipped them anyway.  I figure Tolkein put them where he did for a reason and read them (sang them, out loud, even if it drew stares) where he plunked them.  It was a bit different hearing them from the audiobook reader, who also sang them, (but with breaks that I didn’t care for) in that his tunes for them was a bit different than the ones I had sung.  Honestly, it would have never occurred to me to skip them.

    4.  What do you think of the narrator’s voice?

    I have always loved the book’s narrator voice, and I’d have to say that I like the audiobook’s narrator’s voice, as well.  I hope he’s doing the next three, as well.

    5.  Does your edition have illustrations or maps? Have you been ignoring them or referring back to them?

    Yes, my book had both the dwarf map of the Lonely Mountain and the moonrunes that Elrond discovered (lol, I can’t read runes, though, so what does that matter?), as well as a broader map that shows the Misty Mountains, Mirkwood, and the Grey Mountains, as well as Smaug on the Lonely Mountain.  They’re labelled “Thror’s Map” and “Wilderland”, and I referenced them often, especially the one of Wilderland to get a good sense of the directions they took and how far they travelled.  Like Bilbo, I too LOVE maps!

    6.  Now it’s time to play favourites! Who’s your favourite main character? Who’s your favourite minor character (i.e.: villains, random helpers, etc.)? What’s your favourite scene? Do you have a favourite quote to share?

    Ooh, favorites…  I knew this question was coming, so I tried to be prepared, but I just was too into the book to remember to pick them.  Let me see….

    Favorite main character:  Well, of course it’s probably Gandalf.  Do people answer anything else?  Why or how could you have any other favorite than the Wandering Wizard?  Well, maybe Bilbo…  since he is the one about whom the story was written.  Certainly, it can’t be the dwarves, they’re a bunch of pansies who push Bilbo out in front like a Hobbit-shield.  Money-grubbing, short, lazy.. grumble grumble.  I know too many people like them in real life to like them much in the book, especially the pompous, self-important Thorin (though, he does redeem himself in the end).

    Favorite minor character:  Ahh, now this one gives us a much broader choice.  My favorite minor character is, by far, Beorn.  I loved Beorn!  He treats his animals with care and love as if they were his own children, and watches over and guards his friends, too.  Beorn could be called “The Guardian of the Wood”, I think.  And I had forgotten about him until reaching his house after the Eagles had dropped them all at the Carrock.  Beorn has this sense that he could be dangerous (well, and his does transform into a bear, after all), but there’s a gentleness about him at the same time.

    Favorite scene:  My favorite scene had always previously been the barrel-escape scene.  However, this time around, my favorite scene is at the end, when Gandalf and Bilbo begin their journey home, parting company with the elvenking, and Beorn stays with them and protects them.  I don’t know why I’d never paid much attention to him before!

    As for my favorite quote…  There were so many great lines and passages in this book, obviously!  But here’s the one that struck me this time around:

    “The the prophecies of the old song have turned out to be true, after a fashion!” said Bilbo.

    “Of course!” said Gandalf.  “And why should not they prove true?  Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself?  You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit?  You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!”

    “Thank goodness!” said Bilbo laughing, and handed him the tobacco-jar.

    -The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein, page 330

     

     I found a deep sense of comfort in this passage this time around, and I’m not exactly sure why.  Perhaps it’s the idea that I myself am “quite a little fellow” (or whatever the term for a girl fellow is) in a wide world, and it’s a comfort to know that it all will turn out okay in the end.  Sometimes it feels like I’m battling the forces of darkness just to raise my kids to be honorable, integral, self-respecting, well-mannered, civilized, law-abiding, good citizens.  And though it would be nice to have a wizard helping me along the way, or a bear-man like Beorn to watch over them when they’re not under my own watchful gaze, it is a comfort to know that there is Someone who does keep them, and all of us, and, though we might not understand the hows and whys, there is a Plan that is being worked out for the good of all.

    This counts toward my 451 Challenge.

    Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan

    Title:  Of Bees and Mist

    Author:  Erick Setiawan

    Paperback:  405 (Advaced Reader’s Edition)

    Published:  August 2009

    ISBN:  9781615233502

    Acquired:  Received from Barnes & Noble’s First Look online book club

    Challenges:  ARC Reading Challenge 2010, New Author Challenge 2010

    “If you have something to say, then say it,” said Meridia.  “I know you’ve been talking to Mama behind my back.”

    A smile slow and calculating parted the girl’s lips.  The liveliness in her eyes extended to her mouth, which now took on a delight almost to fiendish for her thirteen years.

    “You’re wearing… the necklace Mama gave you.  You wear it three, four times a week.”… Malin’s laugh leapt up with contempt.  “You’re just like the rest of them.  So easily fooled.  When I first met you, I thought you had it in you to stick it to her….  Can’t you see how cheap that necklace is?  I wouldn’t be surprised if she fished it out of  a garbage bin.  And yet you wear it like it’s the most precious thing you own.”

    “I wear it because I like it.  Mama was generous enough to give it to me.”

    “Have you listened to yourself lately?  Every other sentence you say is ‘ Mama this and Mama that.’  It makes me sick to hear you go on!  Well, she’s not your mother and she never will be.  Why do you bend to her every wish?  Why does everyone?  If you only knew the things she says behind your back.”

     -Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan, pages 128-129

    Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan is descibed on the back of the book as an adult fable, and I had to Google “fable” to understand how they could call it this, as my previous understanding of the term was “a short story told for the purpose to entertain an audience while teaching them a life lesson.”  You know, “Moral of the story is…”  But Of Bees and Mist is not a short story, and I’m not exactly sure if it’s got a moral. 

    According to Google, there are two specific definitions of “fable” that can apply to this book:

    A fable is a succinct story, in prose or verse, that features animals, plants, inanimate objects, or forces of nature which are anthropomorphized.

    A story about mythical or supernatural beings or events.

    In Of Bees and Mist, Setiawan tells the story of two families of strong matriarchs who are brought together by the marriage of Daniel and Meridia.  Eva, Daniel’s mother, is a larger-than-life personality with poise and charm and sweeps everyone up into the palm of her hand by her charisma.  Once in her grasp, however, she expects them to do her bidding and never argue or suffer the consequences.  She takes particular aim at her own husband, Elias, as well as her youngest daughter, Permony, of whom she has always seen as competition for her husband’s affection.  She continually nags, berates and cajoles them for differing reasons and effects.  With Elias, she peppers him with swarming bees at all hours, particularly at night when he’s trying to rest (she naps during the day so she can keep at him) until he breaks from exhaustion and flies off the handle.  As to Permony, Eva treats her as the whipping girl and gets out her frustration and irritation on the young girl.  When Meridia comes along and takes up Permony’s cause, expresses her own opinion and shows herself to be both beautiful and intelligent, Eva can’t stand it.  She levels her sights to destroy her new daughter-in-law.

    The second mother in the equation is Ravenna, who has gained a reputation in their small town as not being quite right in the head.  A great deal of the time, Ravenna lives in her own world, mumbling her own private language to herself while constantly cooking for no one in particular.  She lives her life behind a veil of forgetfulness, hiding from a past no one will talk about.  However, occasionally she finds her way to the surface, and is a force to be reckoned with.  Her essence and spirit has lasting power and Meridia is able to sustain herself in between Ravenna’s moments of sanity.  Whereas Eva has a vile and evil presence that drives people to bitterness and contention, Ravenna has a soothing and calming effect, bringing peace with her and driving out Eva’s bees.  It is between these two women that the battle of Good versus Evil seems to play out.

    Along with the bees that pour from Eva’s lips to attack those at whom she directs them, there are other supernatural elements.  There are the three different mists that are characters in their own right in the book.  The white mist that encases the house that Meridia grew up in which keeps it the temperature and hearts within the home cold.  The yellow mist that comes in the evenings to take Gabriel, Meridia’s father, away to his mistress’s house and the blue mist that brings him back in the mornings.  There is a ghost that inhabits the mirrors, as well as fireflies that visit, protect and guide Meridia, and roses and marigolds that seem to war for dominance over Eva’s lawn.  AND, there is Hannah, Meridia’s best friend from childhood, who returns for visits with her as an adult when times are hard for her.  No one ever sees Hannah, but I don’t think she’s Meridia’s imaginary friend.

    The worst evil Eva commits is to make a deal with a man whom she knows is wicked to marry her daughter in order to profit monetarily from the match.  Worse yet, when her daughter confesses to discovering the man to be part beast (a pig-man), and to raping young girls in their basement, Eva sends her back to him.  Telling her daughter she doesn’t want a scandal surrounding her name.  For Eva, saving face and her pride are her most precious treasures.

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    Honestly, Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan is a complex story with many facets.  One of the things I found most amazing was that Setiawan hung so many guns on every room of a mansion in this book, and fired them all.  There are no strings left untied, everything was used.  Another thing I was impressed by reading Of Bees and Mist is the difference in storytelling between Western and Eastern cultural style.  This book really showed off the Oriental thought process of fluidity, connectivity and moments of experience, whereas in the Occidental custom, storytelling and philosophy is linear and cause-and-effect.  Because of this, Of Bees and Mist doesn’t follow the “this-then that-then that happened” but was more like friezes in the lives of the characters within, with the balance of their lives being weighed out in the end.

    I may re-read this book later… I haven’t decided.  There were just so many aspects of the story that I think I’d could still get more out of it.  Overall, Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan is a fantastic story that sweeps the reader along.  I was surprised how much time and pages went by as I read.  Though I’m not exactly sure why I’m not giving this a 5 out of 5, it’s still a great book, and so I’m giving it 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

    Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk

    Title:  Haunted

    Author:  Chuck Palahniuk

    Paperback:  412 pages

    Date Published:  2006

    Publisher:  Vintage

    ISBN:  9780099497172

    Looking back, it was Mr. Whittier’s stand that we’re always right.

    “It’s not a matter of right and wrong,” Mr. Whittier would say.

    Really, there is no wrong.  Not in our own minds.  Our own Reality.

    …In your own mind, you are always right.  Every action you take – what you do or say or how you choose to appear – is automatically right the moment you act.

    …We’re all condemned to be right.  About everything we can consider.

    In this shifting, liquid world where everyone is right and any idea is right the moment you act on it, Mr. Whitier would say, the only sure thing is what you promise.

    “Three months, you promised,” Mr. Whittier says through the steam of his coffe.

    It’s then something happens, but not much.

    In that next look, you feel your asshole get tight.  Your fingers fly to cover your mouth.

    Miss America is holding a knife in one hand.  With her other hand, she grips the knot of Mr. Whittier’s necktie, pulling his face up toward her own.  Mr. Whittier’s coffee, dropped, spilled steaming-hot on the floor.  His hands hang, shaking, swirling the dusty air at ech side.

    Saint Gut-Free’s silver bag of instant crepe Suzette drops, spilled out on the cornflower-blue carpet, the sticky red cherries and reconstituted whipped cream.

    And the cat runs over for a taste.

    Her eyes almost touching Mr. Whittier’s, Miss America says, “So I’m right if I kill you?”

    -Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk, pages 60-61

    Hauntedby Chuck Palahniuk is the stories and poems within a bigger story that is the shadow of the truth.  It is the camera behind the camera behind the camera, as is often said in the book.  It’s the story of a collection of strangers who have all answered an ad about a writer’s retreat, but find it’s a lot more than they bargained for.  Mr. Whittier, the operator of the “retreat” tells them that they’ve promised to write and, for the  next three months, he intends to hold them to that promise.  However, there is an unfortunate hiccup in the plan when Whittier dies from a busted gut after eating the equivalent of 10 freeze-dried turkey dinners.  Now the strangers are on their own, locked in an abandoned hotel/theater, each with their own guilt and story to haunt them.

    From a psychological/sociological point of view, this book is fascinating.  It’s  a bit like Lord of the Fliesin that it is the witness of the de-evolution of society.  How depraved can people get?  How little humanity will be left at the end of the three month period?  When food runs out (because they’ve all sabotaged the supplies) what will they eat?  That they are all there as writers and artists, what will they do with this time they are given?

    It is a dark look into the human soul.  The Missing Link states that it is how we treat the animals around us that shows our humanity… the cat disappears shortly after he says this.  Director Denial makes a statement again and again that people turn each other into objects, then turn objects into people.  Points are made that humans have  a low threshhold of tolerance to boredom, that we seek out a villain to blame all our troubles on, and that we thrive on chaos, drama and disaster.  There’s no joy like the joy found in another’s suffering.  That all this drama and difficulty is to prepare us for our final act, our own death.

    While these are the concepts that drew me to this book, I found the book itself a bit on the boring side.  I kept falling asleep… though, that may have been because I couldn’t nibble while reading due to the nauseatingly disgusting content.  Haunted has more canabalism in it that the Donner Party was ever accused of.  The graphic descriptions of the toilets backing up, the cooking of a baby, and decomposition were enough to make me gag. 

    This is only my second Palahniuk book, Rant being my first, and I’m aware he can be a bit disgusting and warped.  One review I read said that Hauntedwas for the true Palahniuk fans.  I’ve got a few more of his books on Mt. TBR, but I think I’m going to wait for a while before reading another by him… let my stomach settle.  It’s definitely NOT for the faint of heart.

    Even though it was gut-churningly gross, the intellectual appeal was enough to keep me reading on.  I give Hauntedby Chuck Palahniuk 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

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    One of my favorite parts of my Border’s newsletters is the shortlist.  When Palahniuk’s book Snuff came out, the following video was his shortlist offering.  I think it was this vid that made me want to read more Palahniuk (as well as pick up Clown Girl)

    The Sunday Salon ~ Guaranteed Job-Winning Interview

    The Sunday Salon.com

    I’ve been travelling through space and time a lot this week.  I’ve been to the desert planet of Arrakis, 8000 years into the future.  I’ve been to late 19th century England and Narnia (again) to watch the world’s beginning and the entrance of evil before it was even 5 hours old.  And now, I’ve just returned from a frightening not-to-distant future United States.  Oddly enough, they have more in common than just time.

    In all three books, Dune, The Magician’s Nephew, and Fahrenheit 451, there is oppressive rulers and the reaching into the minds of people to control their very thoughts.  With Dune, the Bene Gesserit wish to control who gets knowledge and sight, who marries whom, and even what sex a child will be.  The Harkonnens and Sardukars viciously hunt and kill the Fremen in a pogrom, because the Fremen are independent and refuse to kiss the perverse butts of the disgusting Harkonnen “rulers.”

    With The Magician’s Nephew, the Witch destroyed her own world in a bid to control it and take the throne from her sister, using the deplorable word to kill all life except the one who speaks it.  Then she tries to take over England, but without her magic, she’s just a violent nutter on a thieving rampage.  Once in Narnia, however, she’ll hide and bide her time… then make the move to enslave and opress the land for her own pleasure.

    Fahrenheit 451, though, is the one I’ve most recently finished, so the thoughts about it are still tumbling around.

    The fun thing with Fahrenheit 451 is that it’s been on Mt. TBR since before there was a Mt. TBR, way back when it was just an “I’m gonna read that soon” pile, when there were maybe 20 books on that pile.  I have NO idea how many books are on Mt. TBR now. Library Thing says I have catalogued almost 1000 books, but some of those are books I’ve read, or books I’ve mooched away and NOT read.  I have tagged 493 books either unread or TBR, but I’ve gotten lazy and haven’t been tagging any of the books I add, so I’d say Mt. TBR is well over 300 books (simply “unread” don’t count as TBR books).

    So, some of my thoughts on Fahrenheit 451… 

    One of the things that Guy Montag has to do is to decide which book he’ll sacrifice.  Captain Beatty knows he took a book and tells him if he turns it in within 24 hours, it’ll be forgiven.  Montag’s not sure if Beatty knows he has one book, a hundred books or which title, so he figures if he brings him one book, any book, he’ll pass without suspicion.  But how can he choose?  He decides not to turn over the last known surviving copy of The Bible, which was a funny moment with his wife, who asked him:  Which is more important, me or that book?  Der, easy answer… 

    *SORTA SPOILER ALERT*  After running from the police, Montag finds a group of men hobo’ing who have memorized a chapter of a book, or even entire books, and burned the hard copies, and now wait for a time when society will return to it’s senses and want literature again.  They half-jokingly introduce themselves as the particular book title, i.e. “Hi!  I am Plato’s Republic, and Simmons is Marcus Aurelius.”  Knowing how the statement “I am” is an affirmation, and also that the more you say it, the more it takes hold and becomes a truth about you,  I wonder who they’ll be in 20 years.  Their personalities, and such.

    In Fahrenheit 451, Mildred, Montag’s wife, is very attached to her “family,” the people on the television.  These “relatives” yell at each other, call each other names, act the fool, and are otherwise “entertaining”.  They have a device that allows the owner to hear their own name in messages and shows, and the picture is even adjusted to make the actor’s lips appear to say the name.  So that for her, the announcer says, “Mrs. Montag, wouldn’t you love to try Denham’s Dentifrice?”  And their living room, or parlor room, has wall-sized screens (remember, this was written in the late 40′s – early 50s), and when you had all 4 of your wall-screens installed, it would be just like being in the show… surrounded by your “family”.  Creepy!  and sad…

    Clarisse McClellen is the oddball neighbor that sets Montag’s feet on the road of awakening.  She tells him of how kids her age frighten her.  They enjoy killing each other and themselves and destroying things.  They go to the “amusement park” and break windows in “Vandalism Town” or drag race legally, as long as they have enough insurance they can destroy whatever they want. 

    One of Mrs. Montag’s friends tells how she thinks it was nice having kids, and she does her best to accommodate them the 3 days out of a month she has them (the rest of the time they’re away at school… grade schoolers, btw).  She just plopped them down in the parlor with the “relatives” as soon as they got home from the hospital.   But, she doesn’t know why they hate her.  Hmm…

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    And now for something completely random and different  (because the vid clip I wanted to post is embedding disabled).

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    So, If you had to sacrifice one of your books to save the rest, which one would go into the fire?

    I’d be tossing the Babysitter’s Club ones… maybe the stray Captain Underpants one I think’s somewhere around here. The Reader’s Digest condensed books could be chucked, too… if they’re still here.

    If you were one of the books (which was the vid clip, btw… Montag meeting the Books), what book would you be and why?

    It’s a book I’d re-read mentally and recite every day… it’d become a part of me and eventually I’d become that book to an extent…. I think I’d pick the book of Proverbs (Montag was the Book of Ecclesiastes) because it’s wisdom. Everything you need to know about dealing with people, living life, psychology… everything…. is in Proverbs.

    Your turn! What book would you sacrifice? Which would you be? Why?

    How to Be a Villian by Neil Zawacki

    Title:  How to Be  a Villain:  Evil Laughs, Secret Lairs, Master Plans, and More!!!

    Author:  Neil Zawacki

    Illustrator:  James Dignan

    Hardback:  160 pages

    Date Published:  2003

    PublisherChronicle Books

    ISBN:  9780811846660

    Being evil is more than a job, it’s a lifestyle.  By embracing the dark forces, otherwise ordinary men, women, and even children and pets can gain power and wealth beyond their wildest dreams.  Perhaps the single greatest benefit of a career in evil is equal access to executive level positions.  Black, white, or green; male, female, or alien life form; spikes, scales, or brain in a jar – nothing prevents a devotee of darkness from rising to the top of the quagmire of destruction.

    - “The Benefits of Being Evil” from How to Be a Villain by Neil Zawacki, page 10

    In these troubling times, jobless rates on the rise, paychecks dwindling into microscopic amounts, and a general malaise about the economy, you might be considering a career change.  If so, might I suggest a career in EVIL?

    The field of Evil-Doer is wide open, and you have a delicious variety of career paths that include:

    • Becoming a criminal mastermind!  Whether you choose to rob banks or send out emails asking for help to move your multi-million dollar wealth out of your impoverished, third-world country, crime is the tried-and-true classic medium for a villain to flex his wicked muscles.
    • Try your hand as a necromancer!  If graveyards and funeral parlors are your favorite places to hang out, and you can get your mitts on ancient books of the  occult, why not take possession of your true purpose and give Ol’ Scratch a run for the “Most Evil” award this year.
    • Take that corner office with the wall of windows and become a corporate bastard!  You can even mix career advancement and the pleasure of revenge by taking over and destroying the very company that let you go.  Make sure to funnel off all the executive pension fund before it’s demise, though, or you’ll be back to square one, JOBLESS and BROKE.
    • Have a knack for mixing ingredients?  Give mad scientista try!  Build up your army of mutant eight-legged simians, actual spider-monkeys, and take over the world.  Then you can set about re-create MAN in your OWN image.
    • If you like horseback riding and wearing metal clothing, black knight might be the path for you!  You will derive endless pleasure from making peasants your neighbors bow before you, quaking in terror, wondering if today will finally be the day you make good on your threat to “gut them like the pigs they are.”
    • If you own a lonely motel on a lonely stretch of never-used highway AND  have conversations with your long-since deceased mother, horror-movie villain may have your name written all over it!  Rub elbows with A-list actors and slay sexy starlets, not to mention peeping on the co-eds getting busy in the next room, are all in a days work!
    • Take dominion of the spirit world as an avatar for a god/demon/supernatural creature beyond all comprehension!  While allowing the forces of evil to use your body, you’ll be enjoying all the perks of your new-found godhood.
    • Not quite up to all-out evil?  Try a career as a marketing executive!  Shape the way future generations think by creating advertisements that mesh their favorite, beloved underwater hero and a sexually-depraved rapper.
    • You may even try your hand at an evil-lite career as a villain and become a telemarketer!  Endless pleasure can be derived from interrupting dinners, sleep, and the recipients physical fun with their significant other.  This career as an evil-doer, however, has been in a steady decline since the invention of caller ID.

    How to Be a Villainby Neil Zawacki is a fun, light read full of tongue-in-cheek, dead-pan humor that feels like an actual tutorial how-to guide.  The quirky and fun illustrations, however, let assure you the book does not take itself seriously.  Get in touch with your inner villain by picking up a copy today :-D  I give this book 3 1/2  out of 5 black hats.

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    This video is cheesy (on purpose)  and is an example of the information found in How to Be a Villain by Neil Zawacki.   They do not credit the book, so I don’t know if it’s where they got their ideas, but it’s great :-D  (seriously, though, cheese factor is off the charts!)

    A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle

    Title:  A Wrinkle In Time

    Author:  Madeleine L’Engle

    Paperback:  247 pages

    Publisher:  Square Fish

    Publish Date:  2007

    ISBN:  9780312367541

    Miscellaneous:  Originally published in 1962 (after 26 rejection letters, I might add), A Wrinkle in Time is the first book in The Wrinkle in Time Quintet book series.

    Meg’s eyes ached from the strain of looking and seeing nothing.  Then, above the clouds which encircled the mountain, she seemed to see a shadow, a faint think of darkness so far off that she was scarcely sure she was really seeing it…  It was a shadow, nothing but a shadow.  It was not even as tangible as a cloud.  Was it cast by something?  Or was it a Thing in itself?

    The sky darkened.  The gold left the light and they were surrounded by blue, blue deepening until where there had been nothing but the evening sky there was now a faint pulse of star, and then another and another and another.  There were more stars than Meg had ever seen before.

    “The atmosphere is so thin here,” Mrs Whatsit said as though in answer to her unasked question, “that it does not obscure your vision as it would at home.  Now look.  Look straight ahead.”

    Meg looked.  The dark shadow was still there.  It had not lessened or dispersed with the coming of night.  And where the shadow was the stars were not visible.

    What could there be about a shadow that was so terrible that she knew that there had never been before or ever would be again, anything that would chill her with a fear that was beyond shuddering, beyond crying or screaming, beyond the possibility of comfort?

    -A Wrinkle in Timeby Madeleine L’Engle, pages 81-82

    I have started reading and put down without finishing A Wrinkle in Timeby Madeleine L’Engle three or more times in my life.  It is one of those few books that I have felt like I’m suppose to read it, or that I should read it, but have never been able to finish.  I have long felt like I couldn’t let the book beat me, even going so far as to watch the movie in hopes of encouraging myself.  And now, I can finally say that, after first picking it up nearly 25 years ago in fifth grade, I have read A Wrinkle in Time.

    I’ve always said that I didn’t know why I couldn’t get into this book, and this time around I figured out what it is that grates my nerves about it.  MEG.  Meg is whiny, and mopey, and self-deprecating.  She’s horrid, to be quite honest, and every time she spoke I rolled my eyes so hard they nearly fell out.  “Wah Wah Wah… nobody likes me.  I’m dumb.  I’m ugly.  Blah, blah, blah.”  BUT, she does change, thank GAWD!  In fact, as the book neared it’s end, her attitude and behaviour is explained.

    “I’m sorry… I wanted you to do it all for me.  I wanted everything to be all easy and simple….  So I tried to pretend that it was all your fault… because I was scared, and I didn’t want to have to do anything myself” -page 220

    Beginning with a groaner of a first line, “It was a dark and stormy night…”  A Wrinkle in Timespins a tale that crosses the universe and even dimensions.  Young Charles Wallace is different from other people, he understands the world around him in a unique way.  He is very protective of his sister Meg, whom he sees as needing him.  Meg is a sulky teen girl going through an ugly duckling phase, who prefers math and science to anything having to do with the world of words.  The two of them plus Calvin, a local sports hero and relates to the world around him in a similar way to Charles Wallace, travel across the universe by tessering, something akin to a wormhole.  They are on a mission to save Charles and Meg’s father from IT, the controlling entity on Camazotz, a planet which has submitted to the darkness.  To accomplish this task, they will all learn much about themselves, their talents and faults, and ultimately about love, the only force capable of conquering evil.

    I really wish I had stuck with this story when I first started it.  I think I would have truly appreciated it had I pushed through the first fourth of the book.  As it is, I still enjoyed it, and want to read A Wind in the Door, the next book in the Quintet.  I was surprised by L’Engle’s Christian references.  If people are shocked and wish to challenge Narnian books on the basis of their religious overtones, then these same folk would have apoplectic fits when reading actual passages from the Bible in A Wrinkle in Time.

    The fact that the book is so overtly Christian, though Buddha and Gandhi are also given credit as “lights” in the fight against the darkness, is even more stimulating when you take into consideration that the story takes Einstein’s theories about time and gravity as inspiration AND makes a further bold step (mind, this book was FIRST published in 1962, before civil rights and ERA) by making the hero and saviour a female.  The story itself is interesting, if not a bit simple, but the context surrounding it and the complex science it incorporates make A Wrinkle in Time an impressive book and a literary classic.

    A Wrinkle in Timeby Madeleine L’Engle incorporates science and religion in a harmonious way and said that guys aren’t the only heroes, is math and science just for men.  For all that the story is and what the book represents, I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    The following video is a clear and concise mathematical explanation of a tesseract. It incorporates lines from the book, as well.

    Oww… OW! My brain hurts!!!

    Brisingr by Christopher Paolini

    Title:  Brisingr

    Author:  Christopher Paolini

    Hardback:  764 pages

    Publish Date:  2008

    Publisher:  Alfred A. Knopf  (div. of Random House)

    ISBN:  9780375826726

    MiscellaneousBrisingr is the third book in the Inheritance Cycle.

    By the light from the coals in the oven, Eragon studied Sloan’s hands; the butcher lay a yard or two away, where Eragon had placed him.  Dozens of thin white scars crisscrossed his long, bony fingers, with their oversized knuckles and long fingernails that, while they had been meticulous in Carvahall, were now ragged, torn, and blackened with accumulated filth.  The scars testified to the relatively few mistakes Sloan had made during the decades he had spent wielding knives.  His skin was wrinkled and weathered and bulged with wormlike veins, yet the muscles underneath were hard and lean.

    Eragon sat on his haunches and crossed his arms over his knees.  “I can’t just let him go,” he murmured.  If he did, Sloan might track down Roran and Katrinan, a prospect that Eragon considered unacceptable.  Besides, even though he was not going to kill Sloan, he believed the butcher should be punished for his crimes.

    … What, however, would constitiute proper punishment?  I refused to become an executioner, thought Eragon, only to make myself an arbiter.  What do I know about law?

    -Brisingr by Christopher Paolini, page 75

    As we return to Alagaesia in this, the third book in the Inheritance Cycle, we begin the journey of growing up as most of the old leaders, Brom, Ajihad, Hrothgar, and Durza all died in the second book and Eragon, Roran, Nasuada, Orik and Murtagh have all stepped into the positions of leadership their deaths left open.  This concept, that of the younger generation stepping up and carrying the banner, is the continuing theme throughout Brisingr by Christopher Paolini.

    To be completely honest, I doubt this book could be a stand alone novel.  There is so much that occurred in the two previous books that has led to the events in this book, and most of those events are not referenced, it is assumed that the reader already knows.  Even though I’d read the first two, and had read them less than a year ago, there were still a couple times where even I failed to remember what previous happening was alluded to.

    What’s more, Brisingr seems to be a bloated and under-edited cry of “look at me!  I’m so smart!  I has talents!” from Paolini.  Yes, Eragon (the first book of the series) was an impressive show of skill, partly because if the story and writing, but also because of the fact the author was 15 when he wrote it.  And Eldest was a continuation of that book.  Both were exciting and fascinating, with dragons and elves and the battle of good versus evil.  Both contained sword fights and duels of magicians, and the fight to protect one of the most basic rights people have, to have and be safe in one’s own home.  Disappointingly, though, Brisingr drags on and on, with pages spent on day trips of hunting or flying around, and with Eragon’s whining.  I got so sick of his whining by the end of the book!

    It is not entirely bad, though.  There are several things that I loved about this book.  SPOILER ALERT… warn you ahead of time.  I appreciated Eragon’s difficult choice not to kill Sloan, who’s decision to betray the village of Carvahall to the Galbatorix led to the death of many and the ultimate destruction of the village.  He chooses not to be an executioner, yet he also realizes justice demands Sloan’s punishment.  Eragon shows a depth of character and the ability to think on many levels with the punishment he imposes.  He does not abandon Sloan to the desert, being an executioner by proxy, but takes up the responsibility for the man’s life throughout the book.  Another facet of Brisingr I truly loved is Eragon’s true parentage.  I cannot think of a better or more noble resolution to the struggle Eragon goes through after Murtagh revealed to him that they were brothers.  In fact, this little nugget makes me hate the movie version even more, because it was never touched (That movie will have negative stars before the end of this series!).  Also, I have enjoyed watching Roran come into his own as a leader within the Varden, no longer viewed solely as the cousin of the Dragon Rider.

    Seriously, Brisingr by Christopher Paolini leaves a lot to be desired, but it’s one of those things that I’m glad I did now that I’m done.  I wanted to finish it because I loved the first two books, and I will buy and read the final book when it comes out.  I give it 3 out of 5 stars.  Maybe they should make a condensed version?  Does Reader’s Digest do fantasy books?

    Other reviews of interest for Brisingr:

    ImpishIdea Brisingr Review

    Ngewo’s Dirty Little Mind Brisingr Review

    Material Witness Brisingr Review

    In the following video, two teenage guys try to make sense of two popular YA books. Twilight versus Brisingr…. who will win?

    Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe

    Title: Doctor Faustus

    Author: Christopher Marlowe

    Paperback: 56 pages

    Publisher: Dover Publications, Inc.

    Publish Date: 1994

    ISBN: 9780486282084

    Miscellaneous: Dr. Faustus takes its protagonist from the German Faustbuch (1587), which was based on the life of an actual German astronomer and necromancer named Johann Georg Faustwho died about 1540. Rumored to have exchanged his soul for supernatural powers, he entered German folklore as the consummate naughty trickster, usually indulging in callow mischief. In Marlowe’s play, however he is transformed somewhat, and possesses a certain tragic distinction, though in no way is he exculpated from his crimes. Marlowe is also credited with transforming the English blank verse line, giving it a vigor and range of expression that was to prove a strong influence on his contemporaries, including William Shakespeare.

    FAUSTUS:The reward of sin is death?” That’s hard.
    Si peccasse negamus, fallimur, et nulla est in nobis veritas.
    “If we say that we have no sin,
    We deceive ourselves, and there’s no truth in us.”
    Why then belike we must sin
    And so consequently die.
    Ay, we must die an everlasting death.
    What doctrine call you this,
    Che sera sera,
    “What will be shall be?”  Divinity, adieu!
    These metaphysics of magicians
    And necromantic books are heavenly;
    Lines, circles, scenes, letters, and characters,
    Ay, these are those that Faustus most desires.
    O what a world of profit and delight,
    Of power, of honour, of omnipotence
    Is promis’d to the studious artisan!

    A sound magician is a mighty god…

    -Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe, Scene 1, lines 40-53, 60

    Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe is an age-old tale about a man who makes a deal with the devil, swapping his soul for knowledge and power. Initially, Faustus imagines all the things he will do with the powers he will be given, reroute the Rhine and maybe even give himself a kingdom for example, but in the end he is little more than a conjurer performing parlor tricks for people’s amusement.

    Right from the start of the play we see Faustus, a man of incredible intelligence… too smart for his own good, debating the merits of various disciplines from medicine to philosophy and ultimately divinity. Having received his doctorate in divinity from a world-renown school, Faustus should have a better understanding of God’s mercy and the nature of Grace, but he seems to lack a grasp of the basic elementary concepts of Salvation, Redemption and God’s limitless, unconditional Love. Dr. Faustus’ arrogance and pride in regards to his own geniusness shines through and we get a picture of a man jaded by religion and desiring forbidden knowledge for his own personal gain.

    For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?   -Matthew 16:26

    For all Faustus’ plans, dreams and schemes of political influence and power, to be “a mighty god,” as the play progresses he becomes baser and more ridiculous until he is on the level of a clown and a jester, performing parlor tricks for the scholars and locals and using his unfathomable powers to play pranks on the unsuspecting.

    Marlowe wrote Doctor Faustus toward the end of the Renaissance, a period of time that valued the pursuits of knowledge and self over relationship with God, and meant for the play to be both cautionary and commentary. Through Faustus’ questions put to Mephistophilis (his personal assistant from Hell… literally), Marlowe shows that all things have their origins in God. As the kingdom of Hell is set against Heaven, it because an exercise in futility and vanity for Faustus to pursue all the hidden knowledges because he can not follow them to their ultimate ends, God Himself.

    Several times in the play (which covers a 24 year period as that is part of Faustus’ contract) Faustus shows signs that repentance is weighing heavy on his heart. Faustus is caught between the Good Angel’s council to repent and that God will forgive him, and the Evil Angel, who first tries to entice Faustus to follow Hell, and ultimately threatens him that if he repents devils will viciously tear him apart. All the way to the last few days, God continues to call to Faustus and tries to turn his heart to repent and return, but Faustus refuses every time. With the final call, Faustus shows how cruel and vulgar he has become by sending devils to torment and kill the old man who had tried to inspire him to turn back.

    One of the fascinating things about Doctor Faustus is that it has historical origins. There really was a Dr. Faust who was rumored to have sold his soul to the devil for supernatural knowledge and abilities.

    While Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe isn’t one of the best plays of the Elizabethan era, it is intellectually and morally fascinating. It is possible that Marlowe would have become Shakespeare’s equal had he not died at the age of 29. Also, as I read this play it occurred to me why this type of literature can be so difficult for readers. Unlike novels, which include every detail of the story and make it much easier for the reader to be a passenger in its telling, a play requires you to imagine the missing information and to set the timing. Plays are much more interactive than novels. For flexing my brain and using “shoulder angels,” I give Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe 4 out of 5 stars.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    The name of Faustus’ familiar spirit is Mephistophilis, which reminded me of John Lovitz’ SNL performance in the following clip. What is hilariously funny about it is, it’s actually fairly true to the play. Of course, it’s an 18-year-old hair dresser named Vonda Braithwaite instead of Faustus, but for the most part it’s all there. Lol… the ending is different, too, though you have to wonder would Mephistophilis have stood a chance had the doctor taken his case to Judge Wapner?

     
    I love the line “Now you listen to me. I’m Mephistopheles, Prince of Darkness. When I start harassing you, YOU’LL KNOW IT!”

    How Evil Are You?


    You Are 70% Evil


    You are very evil. And you’re too evil to care.

    Those who love you probably also fear you. A lot.

    Okay, some of the questions I may have clicked and not been the truth, but some of them I didn’t click that I should have.  SO I guess it all evens out,  My score on the virginity test would back this result up, too.
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