Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Fellowship Of the Ring - J.R.R. Tolkien

The Fellowship of the Ring
J.R.R. Tolkien
Unwin Paperbacks
Copyright: 1954 (reprint 1990)

The Product Description:
In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, the Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell into the hands of Bilbo Baggins, as told in THE HOBBIT. In a sleepy village in the Shire, young Frodo Baggins finds himself faced with an immense task, as his elderly cousin Bilbo entrusts the Ring to his care. Frodo must leave his home and make a perilous journey across Middle-earth to the Cracks of Doom, there to destroy the Ring and foil the Dark Lord in his evil purpose.
Despite the fact that this is part one of my favourite book, The Lord of the Rings, I'm finding it incredibly hard to review. Maybe I just know The Fellowship of the Ring far too well? Anyway, I'll give it my best attempt.

The Fellowship of the Ring is the first part of the Lord of the Rings, which, when it was first published, was split into three volumes for various reasons. But, it's all the one book. Which, I'm finding makes it harder to review just this first part. And, it's a book where every time you read it, you're likely to notice some new detail about either the writing or about Middle-Earth. There's just so much there to see.

J.R.R. Tolkien really was a master of words - every word in the text was carefully chosen, and even the Elvish and Dwarvish languages were carefully structured to work like a real language of our world. The years of work he put into their invention shows, as does the years it took to write the Lord of the Rings.

I'm beginning to think though, that it's either a book you're going to love or not - there seems to be very little in between. I'm most definitely in the first camp. There's no way I can even guess at how many times I've re-read the book. I've worn out several copies, and in fact, The Fellowship of the Ring is the first book I read to the point where pages actually fell out. That was most of the Council of Elrond, if my memory's not playing tricks on me.

One thing I've noticed that was rather amusing (for me at least) on this read was that I kept hearing the voices from the BBC Radio Play version of The Lord of the Rings. Especially the voices of Frodo (played by Ian Holm), Gandalf (Michael Hordern) and Aragorn (Robert Stevenson). A large part of that is, I think because the radio play uses so much of Tolkien's dialogue unaltered.

Yes, the books are long, but there's so much to the story and the description that the length is well merited - the story doesn't feel long at all, if that makes any sense.

One other little thing that was rather amusing was that I was reading part of The Fellowship of the Ring while camping and the complaints from both Sam and Pippin about the Midgewater Marshes really resounded with me, though it was mosquitoes rather than midges where I was. The quote in question:
"I am being eaten alive," cried Pippin. "Midgewater! There are more midges than water!"
"What do they live on when they can't get hobbit?" asked Sam, scratching his neck.
(The Fellowship of the Ring. A Knife In The Dark)
Honestly, the whole Lord of the Rings is a book I don't think I will ever get tired of.

Friday, July 29, 2011

What Would You Recommend? - Survival Novels

This is a question I get asked all the time working in the bookstore: "What would you recommend for somebody who loved "_________"? (fill in the blank)" Usually I can come up with something, but that something can be a bit of a wild guess if it's not a book or genre I normally read. This is where you helpful people come in. If you have a suggestion, I'd love to hear it.

I've recently gotten hooked on watching Man Vs Wild, which has started me on wanting to re-read some of the old Children's/Teen classic books I know of  for survival in the wild stories - namely the Hatchet series by Gary Paulsen and My Side of the Mountain (and sequels).

Aside from those books, does anyone know of any other good novels on the subject? And they don't have to be childrens/teen books. Those are just the ones I already know of and have access to of sorts. A couple of nice solid novels would be good - or  a biography or two.

What would you recommend?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hammond & Scull Review Tolkien And Wales

In their most recent blog post at Too Many Books and Never Enough, Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull review in depth the new book by Carl Phelpstead, Tolkien and Wales.

Their review looks at so many of the potential concerns readers (including me) might have had about the book. I know that Tolkien And Wales is now a book I need to get.

Overall, their blog is one that's worth following too, if you're a Tolkien fan.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Teaser Tuseday - July 26 (The Fellowship of the Ring

Teaser Tuesdays are hosted each week by MizB of Should Be Reading. The rules are:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
My teasers are:
I want a full account; and most of all I want to know what was the matter with old Maggot, and why he spoke to me like that. He sounded almost as if he was scared, if that is possible.

The Fellowship of the Ring, A Conspiracy Unmasked, page 143.
I give the chapter as well in this case just because there are so many different editions of these books.

Mailbox Surprise - Dreams of Joy

I guess it's now yesterday that this arrived for me, seeing that it's now after midnight. Either way, it was a really nice surprise, though I now have to read Shanghai Girls before I can read Dreams of Joy. To top it off, the book is a signed copy! I'm looking forward to reading it, just based on how much I loved reading Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.

Dreams of Joy
Lisa See
Random House
Copyright Date: May 2011

The product description:
In her beloved New York Times bestsellers Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Peony in Love, and, most recently, Shanghai Girls, Lisa See has brilliantly illuminated the potent bonds of mother love, romantic love, and love of country. Now, in her most powerful novel yet, she returns to these timeless themes, continuing the story of sisters Pearl and May from Shanghai Girls, and Pearl’s strong-willed nineteen-year-old daughter, Joy.

Reeling from newly uncovered family secrets, and anger at her mother and aunt for keeping them from her, Joy runs away to Shanghai in early 1957 to find her birth father—the artist Z.G. Li, with whom both May and Pearl were once in love. Dazzled by him, and blinded by idealism and defiance, Joy throws herself into the New Society of Red China, heedless of the dangers in the communist regime.

Devastated by Joy’s flight and terrified for her safety, Pearl is determined to save her daughter, no matter the personal cost. From the crowded city to remote villages, Pearl confronts old demons and almost insurmountable challenges as she follows Joy, hoping for reconciliation. Yet even as Joy’s and Pearl’s separate journeys converge, one of the most tragic episodes in China’s history threatens their very lives.

Acclaimed for her richly drawn characters and vivid storytelling, Lisa See once again renders a family challenged by tragedy and time, yet ultimately united by the resilience of love.

Monday, July 25, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - July 25

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted each week by Sheila over at One Person's Journey Through A World Of Books.

I haven't been able to participate for the last couple of weeks, so this time I'm going to gather up what few books I managed to read in that period.

Books I've read:
The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley. A teen fantasy novel that I've loved for years. A great read if you love horse stories and fantasy.

Stealing Fire by Jo Graham. Fantasy fiction. Read for Royal Reviews.

Books I'm Reading:
In A Unicorn's Garden by Judyth A. McLeod. Non-fiction about medieval gardens. Includes sections on how to create your own medieval style gardens.

The Fellowship Of The Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien. Fantasy, and part of my all time favourite book: The Lord of the Rings.

Books I Intend To Read (or at least a selection of them, from which I'll try to get one or two read):
The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien. The second part of the Lord of the Rings

The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien. The conclusion to The Lord of the Rings.

The Annotated Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Annotated by Douglas A. Anderson. The story that started it all. Definitely time for a re-read of the story.

My Side of the Mountain by Jean George. A classic kids story I have the desire to re-read. Will require a trip to the library.

The Far Side of the Mountain by Jean George. The sequel to My Side of the Mountain.

Frightful's Mountain by Jean George. The third book in the series. This one I have never read, in fact I didn't even know it existed until just recently. As with the other two books, I'll have to go to the library.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

What Would You Recommend? - Alexander The Great

This is a question I get asked all the time working in the bookstore: "What would you recommend for somebody who loved "_________"? (fill in the blank)" Usually I can come up with something, but that something can be a bit of a wild guess if it's not a book or genre I normally read. This is where you helpful people come in. If you have a suggestion, I'd love to hear it.

Last night I watched the DVD Alexander, which I've had in my collection for at least a couple of years. While watching it, I found myself remembering the recent re-read of Stealing Fire by Jo Graham and some other novels on Alexander the Great that I've read (I think they were by Mary Renault, but I can't remember). At the same time, I was thinking of the various primary sources on the subject and trying to remember what they were, aside from Arrian.

In terms of history books, I know about the one by Robin Lane Fox, and the book by Michael Woods. I can't forget the new biography in stores now either. And then, there's Cartledges' books, which I've heard mixed things about.

For the history buffs,  what do you recommend? and for the fans of historical fiction, what are your recommendations? I'm asking this one for myself because I want to read up on the subject just a bit (and go beyond the entry in the Oxford Classical Dictionary).

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Booking Through Thursday - Repeats

Booking Through Thursday is an interesting subject this week - and one I'm going to have a lot of trouble answering:
What’s the first book that you ever read more than once? (I’m assuming there’s at least one.)
What book have you read the most times? And–how many? 
Thinking back on it, I have to say, I really don't know. As far as I can remember, I've always been a re-reader, so there's a lot of kids books that could be the answer to the first question. Maybe one of the Enid Blyton books such as The Wishing Chair? Or, maybe to go with the answer to the second question, I should say the answer is The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. I know I was seven or eight when I first read that book.

As for the second question, "Which book have you read the most times?" that's the easiest question to answer. No holds barred, the answer is The Lord of the Rings. It's my favourite all-time novel, and one I don't think I'll ever get tired of re-reading. Every time, I notice some new little detail. There's just so much that Tolkien has packed into the story.

The third question, that of how many times I have read it, is also impossible to answer with any accuracy. Suffice it to say, I'm on my third or fourth reading copy, having worn out the previous ones. I remember the Council of Elrond falling out of my first set of the books years and years ago.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Blue Sword - Robin McKinley

The Blue Sword
Robin McKinley
Ace Fantasy
Copyright: 1982
Ace edition 1987

According to the back of the book:

This is the story of Corlath, golden-eyed king of the Free Hillfolk, son of the sons of the Lady Aerin.

And this is the story of Harry Crewe, the Homelander orphan girl who became Harimad-sol, King's Rider, and heir to the Blue Sword, Gonturan, that no woman had wielded since the Lady Aerin herself bore it into battle.

And this is the song of the kelar of the Hillfolk, the magic of the blood, the weaver of destinies...

The Blue Sword
The one line description of The Blue Sword that I use a lot is "British India, set in the desert." There's a lot more to the story than that, but it describes the set-up pretty well. This is one of my favourite fantasy novels, and for the longest time I thought it was a regular fantasy novel. Now, though I know it's actually a teen novel, and one that was a Newberry Honor book in 1983. Not that that changes my opinion of the story in any way.

I've loved nearly every single one of Robin McKinley's books that I've read - but this one remains my favourite. The Blue Sword is a book which you can read, and then turn around and start to read again, right after finishing the last page of the book. I've done that at least twice now. I've also reviewed The Blue Sword one other time, a couple of years ago. That review is here, and it's still one of my favourites.

A perfect book for anyone who loves both fantasy novels and horse stories. I have to say that I wish I could see some of the Hill horses, though I don't think I'd do very well riding them. I need my stirrups and reins too much. Not only that, but it's been more than ten years since I really did any riding. Still, I love the descriptions so much. Sungold is an incredible horse.

I said it before, and I'll say it again this time: There's so much to the book - it's a bit like Tolkien in the sense that there's a lot of stories left untold and history that's barely referenced at all. And, the main character, Angarahad Crewe, or Harry, as she prefers to be called is very real feeling. I can't help but sympathize with her so much.

A favourite novel that I know I'm going to love over and over again. Perfect for everyone from teens on up into adults of all ages. As always with this book, if I were rating books with stars here, I'd give The Blue Sword a five star rating. Thanks again for a wonderful read, Robin.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Book Rambling: Books You Just Can't Review

Have you ever had a book you just can't review properly?

I don't mean books you can't read or finish, but a book that you just can't review, or can't review properly, even though you love reading it. There are a gazillion reasons for it to happen too. Perhaps it's book number ten or so in the series? Or, maybe it's a favourite book, one you've read too many times to count but never get tired of? This is what's happening for me now. I'm re-reading the Lord of the Rings, slowly (currently just started The Shadow of the Past, in The Fellowship of the Ring). Sometimes I just get a book which I've enjoyed reading, but I'm having trouble articulating just why I liked it.

So, what do you do with books like these? Struggle on and review them anyway? Or, do you make a note that the book was read, and not reviewed?

I'm rather curious.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Weekly Geeks - Blogger Playlist

This week's Weekly Geeks post is a neat one:
This week, I thought we could share blogging-inspired playlists. The idea of this one is to choose song titles that sound like they have something to do with reading or blogging. Songs that reflect how you feel about blogging in general. This has more to do with the titles themselves than the actual genres or styles of the songs. So you might include on your blogger playlist songs that you'd never actually put together on a playlist.
My playlist:
  1. Is There Something I Should Know? - Duran Duran
  2. Fairytale - Enya
  3. Book of Days - Enya
  4. The Enchantress - Greg Joy
  5. Express Yourself - Madonna
  6. Open Sesame - Kool and the Gang
  7. I'm Going Slightly Mad - Queen
  8. Don't Stop Me Now - Queen
  9. Time Stand Still - Rush
  10. Words - The Bee Gees
  11. Empty Pages - Air Supply
  12. Workin' Day And Night - Michael Jackson

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Star Wars - Return of the Jedi Variants?

I know this is a place mostly for book reviews - it's my own blog after all, but I couldn't think of another place to ask. I was watching Star Wars: Return of the Jedi last week on TV and I could have sworn that the ending was different to the previous version I'd seen. Now, it's been a while since I watched my VHS tapes of the movies, and there was one difference I saw - the young Anakin Skywalker in that last scene.

What I'm wondering about is the rest of the montage. Are there actually some new scenes in that montage? I can't remember that Roman-looking building with the green roof for example.

I would just pull out the tapes and check, except I don't own a vcr anymore. So, I'm sure there are some Star Wars fans out there who do know every single change to the movies.

By my count, this makes for three different versions of Return of the Jedi: The original, then the original Special Edition, and now this one. What's the version on the DVD's for sale?

Monday, July 4, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - July 4

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted each week by Sheila over at One Person's Journey Through A World Of Books. Thanks for keeping us all on track with our reading.

Last week I got two books read:
The Tiger by John Vaillant. Non Fiction. Incredible and a book I couldn't put down, combining the story of one tiger with the history of the Amur tiger in Russia.

Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail by Caitlin Kelly. Non Fiction, biography. A book I'm sure a lot of us can relate to.

I'm currently reading:
Stealing Fire by Jo Graham. Fiction, fantasy. I've read the book before and loved it. This time though, the review isn't going to be here right away. I'm reading it this time for Royal Reviews.

In A Unicorn's Garden by Judyth A. McLeod. Non Fiction, gardening and history book.

I don't know what I'm planning to read next after those two though.

Malled - Caitlin Kelly

Malled: My Unintentional Career In Retail
Caitlin Kelly
Portfolio Hardcover
Copyright: April 2011

The product description:
One woman's midcareer misadventures in the absurd world of American retail.

After losing her job as a journalist and the security of a good salary, Caitlin Kelly was hard up for cash. When she saw that The North Face-an upscale outdoor clothing company-was hiring at her local mall, she went for an interview almost on a whim.

Suddenly she found herself, middle-aged and mid-career, thrown headfirst into the bizarre alternate reality of the American mall: a world of low-wage workers selling overpriced goods to well-to-do customers. At first, Kelly found her part-time job fun and reaffirming, a way to maintain her sanity and sense of self-worth. But she describes how the unexpected physical pressures, the unreasonable dictates of a remote corporate bureaucracy, and the dead-end career path eventually took their toll. As she struggled through more than two years at the mall, despite surgeries, customer abuse, and corporate inanity, Kelly gained a deeper understanding of the plight of the retail worker.

In the tradition of Nickel and Dimed, Malled challenges our assumptions about the world of retail, documenting one woman's struggle to find meaningful work in a broken system. 
 Sometimes those newspaper reviews work. I saw an article about Malled in my local paper and thought it looked really interesting. I have to admit though, that a good part of that is because I wanted to see what the author thought of retail work, and to see how her experiences tallied with mine.

I just kept nodding my head as I read, going "yep", "been there", but also, "I'm's not like that here". Some of those customers she had are just beyond belief. There's more to the book than just the author's experiences though. She's also included some general statistics about retail - job numbers, average wages etc, which I found to be really interesting - although they're geared to the USA. For example, I knew that employee turn-over was pretty high, but a hundred percent on average?

For all the negative aspects of the work that she describes, Caitlin Kelly keeps the book light, and full of laughter, making sure that it remains a very enjoyable read. Malled is a book that a lot of people should be able to relate to - given how many of us have had at least temporary jobs on the other side of the cash register.


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