challenge

Review: The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

Title: The Hobbit (Goodreads)
Author:  J.R.R. Tolkien

Rating: ★★★★★

Bilbo Baggins is a reasonably typical hobbit: fond of sleeping, eating, drinking, parties and presents.

However, it is his destiny to travel to the dwarflands in the east, to help slay the dragon Smaug.

His quest takes him through enchanted forests, spiders’ lairs, and under the Misty Mountains, where he comes across the vile Gollum, and tricks him out of his ‘Precious’ – a ring that makes its bearer invisible, and wields a terrible power of its own.

Details

Series: Stand-alone (but a prequel of sorts to Lord of the Rings)
Genre: Children’s fantasy
Published: First published by Allen & Unwin, 1937. My edition by Unwin paperbacks, 1981.
Pages: 285

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository
E-copies: Amazon.com  Amazon.co.uk  Barnes & Noble • Bookworld (epub)

Review

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

The Hobbit was many people’s starting point into fantasy as a child – in fact my father read it to me and my siblings when we were small. It was originally written by J.R.R Tolkien for his own children, but don’t be fooled – this is Epic Fantasy disguised as a children’s book.

Included in this tale are many favourite characters and creatures – hobbits, dwarves, elves and men, as well as Gandalf the wizard and Gollum. Creatures such as goblins, spiders, trolls and the great dragon Smaug round out the cast, and all are characterised and described in great detail.

The journey of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins and the twelve dwarves is no walk in the park – the party have a rough time of it, getting into trouble time and time again as they pass the Misty Mountains, through the dark and dangerous Mirkwood and to the Lonely Mountain, where the dragon has made his lair. They are constantly grumpy and complain of lack of food and comfort, are miserable most of the time and Bilbo even gets a bad cold at one point – all rather realistic reactions for a journey of such length and hardships! They do find some comfort along the way though – in Rivendell with the elves, with the great skin-changer Beorn, and with the men of Lake-town.

Even with all the trials faced by the company along the way, The Hobbit is told in a more light-hearted tone than the often grim The Lord of the Rings. There are several songs and jokes, and even the section where Bilbo is trading riddles with Gollum in the darkness is not as dark as it could have been.

The tale of the journey itself is fast-paced but still rich with description of each area visited.  I was surprised to find, though, that the story is told almost like a verbal storytelling, with a narrator breaking the fourth wall every now and then with phrases such as: “As you can well imagine.” or “Now we will return to Bilbo and the Dwarves”. It doesn’t interrupt the flow of the story at all, I just thought it unusual in Fantasy – but then this was published well before any conventions were established!

Bilbo is a very unlikely hero, taken unexpectedly from his comfortable home off on an adventure, and although he saves the dwarves multiple times, he isn’t really given the recognition he deserves until the very end of the story when the Elvenking and Gandalf praise him for all his accomplishments.

This re-read has confirmed The Hobbit as one of my favourite books of all time. If you’re looking for a Christmas present for a small (or not-so-small!) person in your life, you really can’t go wrong with a copy of The Hobbit. For a seventy-five year-old story, it stands the test of time remarkably well. Make sure you read (or re-read) the book before seeing the film!

Warnings: Violence and war, but nothing too graphic. Scary creatures (trolls, goblins, giant spiders).

 

The Film

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will be released in cinemas on December 14, 2012. I cannot wait!

There’s word that they have split the story into not two, but three movies. The second part, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is due in December 2013, and the third part, The Hobbit: There and Back Again is due in July 2014 (source). I’ll be interested to see how they flesh the story out – apparently they are using extra material from Tolkien’s appendices to add content, and from the cast list it looks like several characters from LotR are included that don’t actually appear in The Hobbit book at all.

From what I can gather, the movies are geared more towards the adult Middle Earth fans than to children, which is a shame in some ways, but does allow the writers to give the story the full epic fantasy treatment it deserves.

I really enjoyed most aspects of the Lord of the Rings adaptation so I have faith in Mr Peter Jackson – and I just love the Kiwi-Middle-Earth settings. Here’s the trailer – I am sooo excited!

Review: The Forever Girl, Rebecca Hamilton

Title: The Forever Girl (Goodreads)

Author:   Rebecca Hamilton (@InkMuse)

Rating: 

Series: Forever Girl book 1 (of ?)

Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

Published: Immortal Ink Publishing, January 2012

Pages: 354

Paper copies: Amazon.com

E-copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk

Sophia lives in a small town where her Wiccan practices are disapproved of by the local church. Research into her family’s history leads her towards finding out about the voices in her mind, but also leads her into a dark world where the vampiric Cruor rule. Can she trust the mysterious Charles after her friends turn away from her?

Review

I was given this copy of The Forever Girl by the Author herself in a Twitter giveaway. Paranormal romance isn’t usually my favourite but I was so glad I went ahead and read it. This story is dark yet gripping – I had a hard time putting it down.

Early on in the story I couldn’t help but compare it to Twilight a little: Girl meets mysterious, gorgeous boy who says “You shouldn’t get attached to me, it’s too dangerous”, she says “OMG, get me some of that” and he protects her from the Vampire powers-that-be (I don’t mean that as a slight on Twilight, by the way. I rather enjoyed the books when I read them – up until Breaking Dawn, anyway).

As the story moved forward, twists and turns made sure that I never knew what to expect next. The story was fast-paced and exciting and the Wiccan rituals and history of the Cruor and other elementals were fascinating.

Sophia was a great character – she was so strong and determined, but I felt so sorry for her by the end! She tries her hardest and faces each new challenge in a very believeable and engaging way. Charles, on the other hand, I did not connect well with. Apart from seeming a little too perfect, he drove me (and Sophia) mad with his hot/cold attitude – one minute telling her to stay away and acting all stand-offish and the next moment, whispering sweet nothings in her ear. I wanted to slap him! The romantic scenes were well put together though and fit in well with the events in the story.

I really enjoyed reading The Forever Girl. It’s a fantastic debut from Rebecca Hamilton, and I’ll look forward to the release of book two, Her Sweetest Downfall, later this year.

Read this book to your little ‘uns? Not if you don’t want them to have nasty nightmares! Also, language and adult content.

Challenges: I read this book as part of the Immortal Reading Challenge – Vampires.

Challenges for 2012

Book bloggers love to sign up for Challenges – I’ve noticed this as I’ve visited a load of new blogs lately, and seems like a brilliant way to expand your usual reading habits to include new genres and types of story you might enjoy.

Thanks must go to Hannah –  her post reminded me I needed to get into this!

I’ve looked at so many different challenges, but I think the ones I will aim for this year include the following:

  1. The Eclectic Reader Challenge (Book’d Out)
  2. Steampunk Reading Challenge (Dark Faery Tales)
  3. Immortal Reading Challenge (Under The Covers)
  4. My own Year of the Dragon challenge

I’ll be keeping up a list of my progress on my Challenges page.

The Eclectic Reader Challenge

Hosted by Book’d Out, this challenge aims to push you outside your comfort zone and read books from twelve different genres throughout the year. The genres are (plus potential books I am thinking of including):

  1. Literary Fiction – The Help, Kathryn Stockett
  2. Crime/Mystery Fiction – ?
  3. Romantic Fiction – Sleeping with Paris – Juliette Sobanet
  4. Historical Fiction – Daughters of Iraq, Revital Shiri-Horowitz
  5. Young Adult – Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor
  6. Fantasy – A Storm of Swords, George R R Martin
  7. Science Fiction – Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
  8. Non Fiction – ?
  9. Horror – The Complete Works of H.P. Lovecraft
  10. Thriller /Suspense – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larson
  11. Classic – The Three Musketeers, Alexandre Dumas
  12. Your favourite genre – (will be a fantasy book) ?

Steampunk Reading Challenge

Welcome to the world of STEAMPUNK, a fascinating subgenre of the fantasy world. Meet strong Victorian men and women and explore fantastic airships, crafts and other incredible inventions.

(from Dark Faerie Tales)

This challenge is hosted at Dark Faerie Tales. I’ve always thought that Steampunk sounded like an interesting sub-genre, but I’ve never really managed to read much of it. Here’s a chance to change that! I’ll only be going for the Gaslight level – 6 books, unless I discover I have more to read than I thought!

  1. Dead Iron, Devon Monk
  2. Wicked As They Come, Delilah S Dawson
  3. The Map Of Time, Felix J Palma
  4. Phoenix Rising, Pip Ballantine
  5. Steampunk! Anthology
  6. Viridis, Calista Taylor

Immortal Reading Challenge

Vampires, angels, demons, werewolves and fae. If you can’t pick a favourite, then that’s okay!

(From Under the Covers)

Twelve books involving immortal races – let’s see. These may change, but these are what I’m thinking of (some are in my TBR pile already):

Vampires

Angels and Demons

Fae

Shifters/Werewolves

Year of the Dragon

My own challenge is to simply read five books involving dragons. There will most likely be more!

In total, that’s 45 books. I’d better get cracking.

Year of the Dragon Reading

It seems that 2012 is an auspicious time to be starting a blog about fantasy books – not only is it the Australian National Year of Reading, but it is also the lunar year of the Dragon!

National Year of Reading

2012 is the National Year of Reading in Australia, focusing on teaching children to read and love reading, and also to allow keen readers to find new inspiration. Events are planned all over the country in libraries, bookshops and schools, so if you’re in Australia make sure you check out the Love2Read website at http://www.love2read.org.au to see what’s on near you and how you can get involved.

 

Year of the Dragon

This year is the Lunar year of the Dragon, considered the luckiest year in the Chinese zodiac. Those born in the year of the Dragon are fierce, ambitious and ready to take risks.

What better way to celebrate the year of the Dragon than by reading a stack of Dragon-related stories? My Year of the Dragon challenge is this: read five books related to Dragons in some way then come back and let me know what you read! Take a button for your site if you wish as well.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Any of the Pern books by Anne McCaffrey (Amazon.com • Book Depository)
    • Even though the first Pern book, Dragonflight, was first published way back in 1969, they remain fantastic stories. The world and characters will stay with you long after reading them!
  • The Inheritance series, Christopher Paolini (Amazon.com • Book Depository)
    • Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr, Inheritance – Eragon and Saphira’s story is an epic one, and I’ve only read the first two so far. Definitely on my list.
  • How to Train Your Dragon, Cressida Cowell (Amazon.com • Book Depository)
    • There are seven books for young readers about Hiccup and the dragons of Berk. The dragons of the books are quite different from those in the movie – they’re worth a read to get the real story, even if I do like the movie-version Toothless better.
  • The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien (Amazon.com • Book Depository)
    • The classic tale of thirteen Dwarves and one Hobbit’s epic adventure to relieve a dragon of his treasure is timeless and should be re-read on a regular basis. Read it to your little ones before the movie is released in December.

 

Do you have any other recommendations of Dragon books to read?

 

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