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.

    _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    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.

    T’Aragam by Jack W. Regan

    T'aragamTitle:  T’Aragam

    Author:  Jack W. Regan

    Paperback:  286 pages

    ISBN:  9781442114593

    Book Challenges:  ARC Challenge

    From the website:

    Young Max Ransome watched his father die, killed by marauding phantors as they swept through T’Aragam at the bidding of the evil wizard Zadok. Barely escaping with his own life, Max is thrust into a whirlwind journey as he races against time to save T’Aragam, the world he loves, from a dark dominion. Can Max overcome the horror of his father’s death and save T’Aragam from the grasping talons of its enemies?

    Woven with a charming mix of zany humor and genuine danger, T’Aragam immerses the reader in a world of original characters and tightly-woven plot. Young Max leads the cast and is ably supported by, among others, a faithful medgekin friend named Gramkin, two monster brothers named Doom and Gloom, and an equuraptor named Dresden.

    Coupled with quirky supporting characters, such as mercenary Captain Baggywrinkle, Lord Stench, and a perpetually hungry sea serpent named Bob, this cast of characters steps from the pages and pulls the reader into the story.

    I am thoroughly entranced by this book.  It’s fantasy with wizards, phantors and equuraptors (part horse, part dragon, and few are alive who’ve seen them in person).  It’s also got a good comedic side to it with monster brother Doom and Gloom who are afraid of everything, including birds and boys, and Doom is particularly put off by the lack of tea time and unsanitary conditions of the dungeon.  There’s adventure, the battle of good and evil, and 13-year-old Max must decide between doing what is right, even if it leads to a horrible and long death, or to do what’s comfortable.  All of it works to make a very addictive read in this first book of The Max Ransome Chronicles.

    Okay, some side notes from me… I’ve gotten a bit caught up in World of Warcraft lately.  After making fun of everyone I know who plays it, I thought I’d see what the deal was and found out I’m as big a dork as them.  What’s more, Maggie is even worse about it than me!  So reading T’Aragam has been like being “in game,” even though I was AFK.  I could picture it all and could relate to Max as if it were me in it… because I’ve done or seen similar things, or felt similarly while playing WoW.  And I can’t wait for more of this series. 

    Another point is that you have to go to Podiobooks and listen to the Regan perform the audiobook (while there, feel free to make a donation… Regan gets 75% of it ;-) ).  It was listening to the first chapter of the audiobook that sold me on this book; Regan is one of the best performers I’ve heard.  I suppose it could be argued that the author would do the best reading, since they know exactly how it should sound, but I have two words to argue that:  Ray Bradbury.

    While this book is technically a YA and geared for boys, I’d have to say that anyone who enjoys Tolkein and C.S. Lewis would enjoy T’Aragam.  I was impressed with Regan’s storycrafting, the fluidity of his writing without it becoming blah or going over the reader’s head.  I never wanted to put it down, and when I had to for life’s demands, my mind kepty drifting back to how Max was going to get out of whatever situation I’d left him.

    For it’s ability to spirit me away to the land of fantasy and take me on an adventure, I give T’Aragam by Jack W. Regan 5 out of 5 stars, and am dying to know how much longer I have to wait for book two??

    Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

    Title:  Neverwhere

    Author:  Neil Gaiman

    Paperback: 400 pages

    Date Published:  1996

    Publisher:  Harper Torch (div of HarperCollins)

    ISBN:  9780380789016

    “So what are you after?”  Richard asked Hunter.  The three of them were walking, with extreme care, along the bank of an underground river.  The bank was slippery, a narrow path along dark rock and sharp masonry.  Richard watched with respect as the gray water rushed and tumbled, within arm’s reach.  This was not the kind of river you fell into and got out of again; it was the other kind.

    “After?”

    “Well,” he said.  “Personally, I’m trying to get back to the real London, and my old life.  Door wants to find out who killed her family.  What are you after?”  They edged along the bank, a step at a time, Hunter in the lead.  She said nothing in reply.  The river slowed and fed into a small underground lake.  They walked beside the water, their lamps reflecting in the black surface, their reflections smudged by the river mist.  “So what is it?”  asked Richard.  He did not expect any kind of answer.

    Hunter’s voice was quiet and intense.  She did not break her step as she spoke.  “I fought in the sewers beneath New York with the great blind white alligator-king.  He was thirty feet long, fat from sewage and fierce in battle.  And I bested him, and I killed him.  His eyes were like huge pearls in the darkness.”  Her strangely accented voice echoed in the underground, twined in the mist, in the night beneath the Earth.

    “…And I shall slay the Beast of London.  They say his hide bristles with swords and spears and knives stuck in him by those who have tried and failed.  His tusks are razors, and his hooves are thunderbolts.  I will kill him, or I will die in the attempt.”

    -Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, pages 226-227

    Meet Richard, Richard Mayhew… Dick.  Mild-mannered, Scottish born, hard-working London resident and all-around nice guy.  Richard is affianced to the eager, forward-thinking and career-driven (read:  controlling and pushy) Jessica who sees Richard as a project:  lots of potential, but also lot of work.  Richard’s life is dull, he has no family, and Gary, his co-worker, is his only friend… other than Jess… I mean Jessica.

    Then, as he and Jessica are on the way to dinner with her boss, they come upon a strange girl, hurt and bleeding, in need of help.  Richard is compelled to help the girl, to which Jessica gives him an ultimatum:  Either he leaves the girl for someone else to help, or he can consider their engagement over.  Richard has no choice BUT to help and leave Jessica to dine with her employer alone.

    However, in helping the girl, whose name is Door, he quickly finds his life is turned upside down, literally.  Suddenly, he no longer exists.  People don’t seem to see or hear him.  Cabs won’t stop for him.  Even the people in his office don’t know him and his desk and all his cubicle’s contents are gone.  Bewildered and feeling alone, he returns to his apartment to take a bath, only to be surprised by his landlord showing his place to a couple looking to rent.  He is forced to return to London Below to find Door and to find a way to get his life back.

    Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman is like Alice in Wonderland meets Grimms Fairy Tales, with a bit of Wizard of Oz and an ending reminiscent of El Dorado.  London Below is like a walk through history.  Every thing and everyone who has slipped through the cracks and has been lost, overlooked, and forgotten can be found in London Below.  Creatures lurk in the sewers and under subway platforms, and everyone is dangerous. 

    Neverwhere is an urban fairy tale, with the teeth to scare you and fill your inner child with wonder.  I really enjoy Gaiman’s writing style, as well as his ability to weave a magical web of a story that draws you in and keeps you entranced.  When it was exciting and intriguing, I couldn’t put it down; I had to know what happened next.  And when it wasn’t being scary, I didn’t wantto put the book down because I was enraptured by the story itself.  The idea that somewhere Roman soldiers who deserted are huddled around a campfire, telling dirty jokes in Latin.

    With Neverwhere, Gaiman flexes his imaginative muscles, but it’s more than just a fantasy book.  It has  a mystery to solve, both Richard and Door mature through their adventures, and prejudices have to be overcome if they want to survive.  Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman is a well-crafted story and I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

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    Ever wonder where Gaiman gets his story ideas? In this vid clip, he reveals his source :-)

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    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?

    Back from Lunch WITH a headache :-\

    Photobucket

    After everyone settled down, we made quick work of Chapter Four in The Magician’s Nephew. The kids were quite engrossed with the reading by the time Digory grabbed Polly with his one hand to keep her from slipping her yellow ring on and ringing the bell with the other. They were chanting, “Next chapter! Next chapter!” but it’s one chapter a day, and no more :-) They’re dying to know what magic thing will happen after Digory rang that bell ;-)

    We trotted off to the library and lunch, where I got a monster headache and don’t know why, then carted three takeout dinners of lasagna for supper tonight. One less thing to worry about.

    So here I sit, ibuprofen consumed, and ready to pick up where I left off in How to Be a Villian. Gwen’s sighing… loudly… for her computer time. I have quite rudely routed her from the chair for my own selfish need to blog an update. Tcha! What was I thinking!

    Reading update hour four:

    Empire Falls by Richard Russo ~ finished.
    The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis ~ chapter four, pp 45-60, read.
    How to Be a Villian by Neil Zawacki ~ starting page 88, “Location for Your Lair: corporate tower” section.

    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?

    The Icy Hand by Chris Mould

    Title: Something Wickedly Weird, Vol. 2: The Icy Hand

    Author: Chris Mould

    Illustrator: Chris Mould

    Unjacketed Trade Hardcover: 176 pages

    Publish Date: September 2008

    Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (div of Macmillan)

    ISBN: 9781596433854

    The yellowy-white translucent light of a long-dead and well respected scoundrel began to form by the side of Stanley’s bed until it was the fully formed (but headless) figure of a man. Of course, Stanley was blissfully unaware of this. It was three in the morning and he was wrapped in his bedclothes preserving warmth and dreaming furiously.

    …The spirit felt for Stanley’s sheets, and when he was sure he held them in his hand, he unrolled the tight chrysalis with a prompt jerk. Thrashing wildly, Stanley rolled on to the floor.

    … His dead uncle lifted the forefinger of his right hand and drew four words, on inside each small square pane that ran along the bottom of the window. I need my head.

    -The Icy Hand by Chris Mould, pp 33-39

    When I first came across a banner for The Icy Hand by Chris Mould, I thought it would be an incredibly fun book. With a werewolf, a headless ghost, angry pirates back from the dead and a talking fish, how could it possibly go wrong?

    *sigh* Let me tell you how…

    Within the first 30 pages, this book was off to a bad start. Part of its problems are poor transitioning. There are times when it goes from one event to another, hours later, without any break. The pacing and tempo is either all over the place or completely M. I. A. from this book. My thoughts on this issue were that, given it’s listed for ages 9-12, maybe it’s a style that works for the younger, less patient audiences?

    So I grabbed my 9-12 year old (Maggie, age 10), and read her the books description. Like me, she thought werewolves, headless ghosts and pirates sounded promising. However, after only a few pages, she brought the book back to me saying, “It’s not my thing. I like stories with main characters in them.”

    Which brings us to another problem with this book. The characters are poorly developed and rather two-dimensional. It is possible that they were developed in book one, which I have not read, but I’m disinclined to believe that. Again, with the characters, this book is all over the place. They do this then that… sometimes seemingly without purpose.

    There is a bright spot with this book. The illustrations are fantastic. They’re dark and creepy, but still maintain a safeness that keeps them from being terrifying to small children. In some ways, the illustrations remind me of the Lemony Snicket series (though I don’t know exactly why), but they are uniquely Mould’s creations.

    While The Icy Hand by Chris Mould has a few problems, it’s not entirely unlikeable or readable. I’d be willing to bet, though, this is one of those books that would make a much better movie. I definitely think it’d be a really cool movie, but it’d probably be better to make one of the whole series instead of just one book. I give The Icy Hand 3 out of 5 stars.

    I found an interesting video to go with this post, but the embedding is disabled. Watch as Chris Mould creates the cover art for The Darkling Curse, another book in the Something Wickedly Weird series.

    Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling

    Title:  Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

    Author:  J. K. Rowling

    Hardback:  352 pages

    Publisher:  Scholastic Inc.

    Publish Date:  2005

    ISBN:  9780439784542

    “Fine,” said Harry, who was concentrating on handing Ron a glass of pumpkin juice.  “There you go, Ron.  Drink up.”

    Ron had just raised the glass to his lips when Hermione spoke sharply.

    “Don’t drink that, Ron!”

    Both Harry and Ron looked up at her.

    “Why not?” said Ron.

    Hermione was now staring at Harry as though she could not believe her eyes.

    “You just put something in that drink.”

    “Excuse me?” said Harry.

    “You heard me.  I saw you.  You just tipped something into Ron’s drink.  You’ve got the bottle in your hand right now!”

    “I don’t know what you’r talking about,” said Harry, stowing the little bottle hastily in his pocket.

    “Ron, I warn you, don’t drink it!”  Hermione said again, alarmed, but Ron picked up the glass, drained it in one gulp, and said, “Stop bossing me around, Hermione.”

    She looked scandalized.  Bending low so that only Harry could hear her, she hissed, “You should be expelled for that.  I’d never have believed it of you, Harry!”

    -Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling, page 293

    Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling  is the sixth of the seven book series chronicling the lives and exploits of the orphaned title character and his friends and classmates as they discover they are witches and wizards, go to Hogwarts school to learn to hone their skills, and learn to bond with friends and co-exist with enemies under the genially paternal headmaster, Professor Dumbledore.  In this particularly darkest book yet (I’m told book seven is even worse), Harry struggles with coming to terms (still and again) with the deaths of those close to him, while desiring to get revenge on Lord Voldermort, aka Tom Marvolo Riddle, for the deaths.

    Yeah….  I remember when the first book was taking the American bookworld by storm, causing some Christian groups to suffer apoplectic fits at the thought of their sweet angelic prodgeny being infected by evil should so much as the book’s binding touch their innocent hands, and children clamoring to snatch the books off their shelves.  However, six books in and it just seems to be a repeat of each of the last five books’ plotline.  The children return to school, Harry suspects evil is afoot right away, no one believes him, everyone turns against him and treats him like a nutter, then evil pops out from behind the painting of the tutu-wearing trolls and says “Bwa-ha-ha!”  Harry saves the day, Hogwarts and the entire wizarding world, everyone apologizes for doubting him, then they all say good-bye for the summer and look forward to returning in the fall where they can go through the whole cycle all over again.  HP and the HBP has all that plus pimples, crushes and love potions.

    It’s an okay book, but nothing I’ll remember next year… I doubt I’ll remember it next month, even.  I found myself trying to remember when whatever event being referenced occured, and I realized that I’ve forgotten a lot of the content of the previous books already.  What’s more, I think up to a third of this book could have been dropped.  Some of it was a repeat of what had happened in a previous book, but some of it  just seemed superfluous.

    I’m glad I read it since I’ve read the other books of the series, and I definitely wanted to get it done before the movie comes out this coming July.  Some people have said the last book, Deathly Hollows, is the best book of the series. 

    From the way this book has ended, Deathly Hollowsat least seems like it will break the endless cycle.  Harry tells Ron and Hermione that he doesn’t plan to return to Hogwarts for his final year because he plans to hunt down and kill Voldemort, and his friends inform him they’ll be right beside him wherever he goes.  But… it’ll be a while before that movie comes out so I needn’t get into too much of a hurry reading the book.

    While Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling  was an easy and comfortable read, it often fell flat and fizzled in places.  I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

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

    The movie looks like it’ll be really good, I thought the others were good, too.

    The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis

    Title:  The Last Battle

    Author:  C. S. Lewis

    Paperback:  767 pages

    Publisher:  HarperCollins

    Publish Date:  2001

    ISBN:  0066238501

    Miscellaneous:  The copy I have read is in a complete book.  There aren’t 767 pages in The Last Battle alone.

     

     

     

    “Look!  What’s that?”

     “What’s what?” said Puzzle.

     “That yellow thing that’s just come down the waterfall.  Look!  There it is again, it’s floating.  We must find out what it is.”

     “Must we?” said Puzzle.

     “Of course we must,” said Shift.  “It may be something useful.  Just hop into the Pool like a good fellow and fish it out.  Then we can have a proper look at it.”

     … He flung it down in front of Shift and stood dripping and shivering and trying to get his breath back.  But the Ape never looked at him or asked him how he felt.  The Ape was too busy going round and round the thing and spreading it out and patting it and smelling it.  Then a wicked gleam came into his eye and he said:  “It is a lion’s skin…. We’ll make this skin into a fine warm winter coat for you.”

     …As soon as he was alone Shift went… into his little house.  He found needle and thread and a big pair of scissors… Then he came down the tree and shambled across to the lion-skin.  He squatted down and got to work…

     Late in the afternoon Puzzle came back.  He was not trotting but only plodding patiently along, the way donkeys do…  “Come and try on your beautiful new lion-skin coat,” said Shift.

     … The skin was very heavy for him to lift, but in the end… he got it on to the donkey… No one who had ever seen a real lion would have been taken in for a moment.  But if someone who had never seen a lion looked at Puzzle in his lion-skin he just might mistake him for a lion…  “If anyone saw you now, they’d think you were Aslan, the Great Lion, himself.”

     

    -The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis, pages 671-673

     

    Thus begins the great deception and the beginning of the end of Narnia.  Shift the Ape manipulates and bullies Puzzle the Donkey into believing that Aslan himself wants them to go to the people of Narnia and claim Puzzle is really the Great Lion, and to rule the land through this pretense.  Puzzle has been used by Shift for so long (under the guise of “friendship,” though “servitude” might better describe the Donkey’s side of the relationship), that he is unable to stand up to the damn, dirty Ape (nod to Heston and “Planet of the Apes” hehe).

    It is through this false-Aslan that Shift enslaves the land of Narnia, using the Animals as slaves and threatening anyone who dares to question his authority with the Wrath of Aslan.  “He is not a tame lion” is repeated over and over to fill their minds with terror, and, even when they know this new “Aslan” is the opposite of everything they’ve always been taught is the nature of the true Aslan, the Narnians are unable to throw off the Ape’s bonds and fight back.

    Even when Shift brings in Calormene soldiers and announces that the Narnian Animals are to be sent to work, and all their wages are to be paid to “Aslan’s” treasury, for only “Aslan” can care for their true needs.  Compounding a lie with a lie, the Calormene Captain and Shift tell the Animals that Tash, the Calormene god to whom men are sacrificed, and Aslan are one in the same; two different names for the same person.  This new god is called “Tashlan,” the meshing of the two names.

    When Tirian, the last King of Narnia, calls on Aslan to rescue his country, the Great Lion is silent, so Tirian, remembering how children from another world had saved Narnia in it’s darkest periods of history, calls on the friends of Narnia to come and save his land.  And, after a vision-dream of the seven legendary Friends sitting down to dinner and seeing the phantom of Tirian among them, he is surprised by the appearance of Jill and Eustace.  Along with Jewel the Unicorn, who is Tirian’s best friend, the two children and a Dwarf named Poggin, the stage is set for the last battle of Narnia.

     

    In the shadow of the trees on the far side of the clearing something was moving.  It was gliding very slowly Northward.  At a first glance you might have mistaken it for smoke, for it was grey and you could see things through it.  But the deathly smell was not the smell of smoke.  Also, this thing kept its shape instead of billowing and curling as smoke would have done.  It was roughly the shape of a man but it had the head of a bird; some bird of prey with a cruel, curved beak.  It had four arms which it held high above its head, stretching them out Northward as if it wanted to snatch all Narnia in its grip; and its fingers – all twenty of them – were curved like its beak and had long, pointed, bird-like claws instead of nails.  It floated on the grass instead of walking, and the grass seemed to wither beneath it…. [They] watched it… until it streamed away… and disappeared.  Then the sun came out again, and the birds once more began to sing….

    “I have seen it once before,” said Tirian. “But that time it was carved in stone and overlaid with gold and had solid diamonds for eyes…. [It was in] the great temple of Tash… carved above the altar.”

    “What was it?” said Eustace in a whisper.

     

    -The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis, page 712

     

     The entrance of the Calormene god Tash takes this final fight into the realm of the supernatural, as it becomes the epic battle of the ultimate good, Aslan, and his antithesis Tash:  Life versus Death.

     The message of The Last Battle, I believe, is this:  We are not always meant to win the good fight, only to FIGHT the good fight.  Early on in the book we know this is a lost cause, the side of evil will prevail, and the heroes’ lives  will be forfeit.  But, even then, Aslan will have the final say.

     In The Last Battle, Lewis also addresses two major questions of Christianity.  First, how can a person who has known the goodness and greatness of Christ turn his or her back on Him, choosing, instead, their own will.  Second, what of those people who have never heard the Gospel and therefore had no chance to believe?  Will He condemn them to Hell?

     Missing for the Friends of Narnia is Susan, and somehow I knew this immediate when I counted eight helpers of Narnia, but only seven Friends of Narnia.  Somehow I knew the missing person was Susan.

     

    “Sire,” said Tirian… “there should be another… Where is Queen Susan?”

    “My sister Susan,” answered Peter shortly and gravely, “is no longer a friend of Narnia.”

    “Yes,” said Eustace, “and whenever you’ve tried to get her to come and talk about Narnia or do anything about Narnia, she says ‘What wonderful memories you have!  Fancy your still thinking about all those funny games we used to play when we were children.”

    “Oh, Susan!”  said Jill.  “She’s interested in nothing nowadays except nylons and lipstick and invitations.  She always was a jolly sight to keen on being grown-up.”

    “Grown-up indeed,” said the Lady Polly.  “I wish she would grow up.  She wasted all her shool time wanting to be the age she is now, and she’ll waste all the rest of her life trying to stay that age.  Her whole idea is to race on to the silliest time of one’s life as quick as she can and then stop there as long as she can.”

     

    -The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis, page 741

     

    Susan turned away from Narnia and Aslan and, instead, made vanity and things of the world her focus.  BUT, Lewis did not say she could not become a Friend of Narnia again.  Further, someone had to survive to tell The Chronicles of Narnia.

     As the Seven plus Tirian go “further up, further in,” they meet a Calormene who tells them of his meeting Aslan:

     

    “Then I fell at his feet and thought, Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honour) will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him.  Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him.  Both the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my fourehead with his tongue and said, ‘Son, thou art welcome.’  But I said, ‘Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash.’  He answered, ‘Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service to me.’ Then by reason of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, ‘Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one?’  The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, “It is false.  Not because4 he and I are one, but because we are opposites – I take to me the service which thou hast done to him.  For I and he are such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him.  Therefore, if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him.  And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted.  Dost thou understand, Child?’  I said, ‘Lord, thou knowest how much I understand.’   But I said also (for the truth constrained me), ‘Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days.’  ‘Beloved,’ said the Glorious One, ‘unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly.  For all find what they truly seek.’

     

    -The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis, page 757

     

     Honestly, it was impossible to review this book without incorporating the religious aspects of it.  That is not to say it can’t be enjoyed without being religious.  It stands alone as the heart-wrenching finale of a much loved and favorite literary classic series.  I couldn’t help but cry at the end; for the beauty, for the Friends, for all who had been were together again… and for Susan, who, by her folly, missed the train (if you’ve read this, or when you do read this, book you’ll get that reference).

     The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis is beyond words, and I sigh with a bittersweet happiness, as I have come to the end of my journey through Narnia.  I leave you with the last paragraph of the last book of Narnia:

     

    “And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them.  And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after.  But for them it was only the beginning of the real story.  All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and title page:  now at last they were beginning Chaper One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read:  which goes on for ever:  in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

     

    -The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis, page 767

     

    5 out of 5 stars.

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