Fellowship of the Ring (Lord of the Rings #1) ★★★★☆

fellowshipofthering (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Fellowship of the Ring
Series: Lord of the Rings #1
Author: John Tolkien
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 432
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Bilbo, after the events from The Hobbit, has settled down to a nice slightly eccentric life. He adopts one of his nephews, Frodo, as his heir and begins to write his memoirs. On his One Hundred and Eleventieth birthday, Bilbo disappears and leaves everything to Frodo. Only Gandalf knows that Bilbo has gone to Rivendell.

Several decades later Gandalf visits Frodo and reveals that the little gold ring that allowed Bilbo to turn invisible, and that he left to Frodo, is actually a ring of great power, possibly The One Ring that was made by Sauron to control all the other rings of power. Gandalf tells Frodo he needs to go to Rivendell to take counsel and that he, Gandalf, will return in a year to help guide him there.

A year passes and no word of Gandalf. Frodo has been preparing and his cover story is that he is moving to Buckland, another settlement of hobbits. Two of his cousins, Merry and Pippin, along with Frodo’s gardener Sam, have all been helping him move. On the way to Buckland, Frodo runs into a black rider that inspires complete unreasoning terror in his heart. No longer knowing who to trust, Frodo and his companions begin their trek to Rivendell.

Having several adventures, the hobbits meet up with Strider, a human ranger who Gandalf trusted. They all head for Rivendell, doing their best to avoid the attention of the Black Riders, who Strider reveals are Ringwraiths, Sauron’s powerful underlings. The Group makes it to Rivendell and Gandalf shows up. He tells them that the head of the Wizard’s Council, Saruman the White, has been corrupted by a lust for power. Now the world must deal with Sauron and Sarumon, both who want the One Ring for the power it contains. Elrond, the elven lord of Rivendell, tells that the Ring will corrupt any being who uses it and that it must be destroyed. The only way to destroy it is to cast it back into the fiery Mount Doom from which it was created.

A Company is gathered. They set out. Hindered in many ways, they must eventually decide what they are going to do with the Ring. Gandalf perishes defending them from a Balrog, a being almost equal in power to Sauron himself. Eventually, one of the Companions, a human named Boromir, falls under the influence of the Ring and tries to take it from Frodo.

Frodo flees, along with Sam and heads off on his own towards Mt Doom. The book ends with the Fellowship breaking apart and heading their own ways.

 

My Thoughts:

This is going to be a lot shorter of a review than my 2012 one.

I enjoyed this but was not raving about it. A thoroughly good story that is at once personal and cozy and yet epic in scope all at the same time. It is no wonder that this trilogy ended up spawning the Fantasy Genre as we know it today.

The reason this doesn’t get more than 4stars from, and never will, is all the blasted songs and poetry. Sometimes they contained pertinent information to the current story and other times they were simply a history lesson and at others they were just an expression by the character. You never knew which. I ended up just skipping them, plot points be forsaken.

Anyone who reads Fantasy should read this trilogy. Period.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

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Barnaby Rudge ★★★★☆

barnabyrudge (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Barnaby Rudge
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 864
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Barnaby Rudge is a young man who is an idiot. He never grew up past 6 and can’t remember one day from the next. He lives with his widowed mother on a stipend from Mr Haredale, the estate owner that Barnaby’s father worked for before he vanished all those years ago on the night that a murder was committed.

Mr Haredale, a staunch Catholic, has a niece named Emma. Her father was the man murdered all those years ago and now Mr Haredale is her guardian. She is in love with a young man named Edward Chester, the son of Mr Chester. Mr Chester and Mr Haredale are at odds with one another and neither guardian nor father want the match to happen. Emma also has a companion named Dolly Varden.

Dolly Varden lives in London with her father and mother. Her father is a jolly blacksmith while her mother is one of those creatures that only Dickens can bring to the page. Gabriel Varden has an apprentice, one Simon Tappertitt, who is in love with Dolly, hates Gabriel for some reason and thinks he is the most beautiful specimen of manhood to ever exist. Dolly is in love with Joe Willet.

Joe Willet is a young man whose father runs the Maypole, an inn that belongs to Mr Haredale. Joe Willet Sr is constantly treating Joe Jr like a boy and eventually Joe runs away and joins the army.

The main story is about how all of these characters interact through the 5 years leading up to the riots in 1780 in London, where a mob ran riot for several days in protest against Catholics and Catholicism. Barnaby is dragged into it, not knowing any better. Joe has returned from America (where he fought against American Independence, boo hiss!) and Edward Chester has returned from the Continent after having learned to make his living. Simon Tappertitt kidnaps Dolly and Emma during the riots, gets his just desserts and becomes a legless beggar by the end of the story. Mr Haredale and Mr Chester have a duel in which Chester dies. Mr Haredale gives his blessing and fortune to Emma and Edward. Joe Jr returns with an arm missing and his father starts treating him like an adult. Joe Jr and Dolly get married and run the Maypole together. Barnaby goes to jail for participating in the riots and is about to be hung when he gets a pardon because Joe Jr and Edward Chester work like the dickens (ha!) to get him free.

 

My Thoughts:

This was not plot oriented at all. Given, most of Dickens’ books center around his characters, but this one more so. The Riot of ’80 was the event that tied this all together.

I enjoyed this but it took me over 2 weeks to work my way through. I’d read a chapter and then put the book down for the rest of the day. Given, Mrs B was away for a family visit and I was dealing with job interviews and thinking about the future, so I was obviously distracted but still, I had to concentrate to pick this up.

I really don’t know what else to say. If you enjoy Dickens, you’ll enjoy this. This is probably not the book to start a Dickens Journey of Discovery though. This wasn’t quite as organic as some of Dickens other books and it shows. That is why I kept this at 4stars like last time.

I can say that one needs uninterrupted time, without stress or pressure, to fully appreciate Dickens. If one is harried, distracted and busy, it takes away from the experience.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

The Hobbit (The Lord of the Rings Prequel) ★★★★★

hobbit (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Hobbit
Series: The Lord of the Rings Prequel
Author: J.R.R. Tolkien
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 235
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit. Who ends up with a wizard and 13 dwarves for dinner. And somehow gets finagled into going on an adventure to recover the dwarves lost treasure, that is guarded by the dragon Smaug.

Along the way Bilbo meets elves, runs away from goblins, plays a riddle game in the dark with Gollum for his life, finds a ring of invisibility, flies on eagles’ wings, fights giant spiders and is almost eaten by 3 trolls.

Eventually he and the dwarves reach the Lonely Mountain and Laketown. They rouse the dragon and Bard of Laketown kills Smaug and then elves, humans and dwarves prepare to fight over the treasure. Until a huge goblin army shows up and everybody fights them. The good guys win, the treasure is shared and Bilbo returns home a better, wiser and more eccentric hobbit than ever.

 

My Thoughts:

What a book. I’ve read this enough times that nothing is a surprise. And yet… I am still in awe at how Tolkien weaves such a children’s tale so as to keep me intrigued, for the umpteenth time.

What do I say? A simple tale of adventure that is the prequel to one of the worlds most renowned fantasy series? A tale of bravery, generosity and kindness overcoming perils, greed and hatred? A stout heart being greater than a dragon? I just don’t know what to say beyond the fact that I enjoyed the heck out of this just like I have all the previous times and I don’t have any issues with it.

Well, except maybe all the singing. I wouldn’t have minded if there hadn’t been any singing. In regards to the singing though, the only thing I can say positively about the horrific movie trilogy is that the song by the dwarves in Bilbo’s house is absolutely haunting and enchanting. Who knows how long this link will exist, but here’s a youtube link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8ymgFyzbDo

If only the Silmarillion had been this interesting. Well, at least I’ve got the rest of the Trilogy to look forward too!

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Our Mutual Friend ★★★★½

Ourmutualfriend (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Our Mutual Friend
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 1021
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

A rich dust collector dies and in his will he leaves his inheritance to his son (who he drove away years ago) and to his two faithful servants. A stipulation of the will reads that the son, John Harmon, must marry a young woman by the name of Bella Wilfer, or the entire inheritance will fall to the two servants, Mr and Mrs Boffin.

A body is fished from the harbor by a man who does such things and the while disfigured and sea eaten, the clothes and papers match the description of John Harmon. This leaves the entire fortune to the Boffins. This fisherman, a Mr Hexan, is accused by an associate of doing the deed and while no charges are brought, it brings a stain on Mr Hexan’s two children, Lizze and Charlie.

A young man by the name of John Rokesmith approaches Mr Boffin and offers to be his secretary. Having no need of a secretary, Mr Boffin kindly rebuffs his offer but invites him over for lunch. Mr Boffin then gets rich, becomes overwhelmed by everything, is amazed when Rokesmith deals with every in a matter of minutes and hires him on the spot. The Boffins have also taken on Bella Wilfer since they feel bad that she didn’t get any of the money and that her potential husband died. They bring her out to Society with them, where Bella claims she’ll be mercenary and only marry for money.

Members of Society have their own things going on that while not directly affecting the Boffins, do impact them through Bella. Mr Boffin starts to turn miserly and upon learning that John Rokesmith made an offer of marriage to Bella, turns him out of the house. Bella is ashamed at Mr Boffin’s behavior and begins to realize what a loyal man Rokesmith was to the Boffins and to her. She gives up all claim their money and goes back to her family. Rokesmith makes her an offer of marriage again and this time she accepts.

It turns out in the end that John Rokesmith is actually John Harmon and he and Bella inherit everything and are fabulously wealthy. The miserly Mr Boffin reveals it was all an act on his part to prove to Bella that money really isn’t everything. The man who tried to murder Rokesmith/Harmon is found out but gets his just desserts through another agency.

There are approximately 3 other side storylines going on through it all and they tangentially touch on Rokesmith/Harmon. Maybe I’ll go over them in another decade or so. Or perhaps not.

 

My Thoughts:

I had not realized that I hadn’t read this since 2001. I was sure I had read it just before 2010 but nope, didn’t happen. Second, while all the editions on Librarything show this as around the 500-600 page mark, my kindle showed it as just over 1000 pages and when I checked my hardcover copy, it was divided into 2 volumes. So this was a big book.

And that is probably my only complaint and the reason I gave this 4.5 stars instead of 5. There was at least twice that I just said out loud “Come on Dickens, get to the point!”. Anyone who complains about bloat in this book is fully justified and I certainly won’t argue with them. This was a 19 part serial and it shows.

Other than that issue, I enjoyed this tremendously. I have come to realize that I simply like Dickens’ work. I enjoy his plots, I enjoy his characters, I even enjoy (in a limited sense) his meandering and descriptions. It all adds atmosphere and when I’m reading it I can’t accidentally think I’m reading something by somebody elese. Dickens is Dickens. His books are shaped in such a way that they slot right into the space I have.

A lot of this book is about Deception, both justified and not. Dickens preaches at the society of his time unabashedly, especially about the Poor Laws and rips away the mask of what some levels of Society are telling themselves. It’s a good reminder for me to not sit too smugly in my own little chair and cast stones indiscriminately.

There was a side story about a Jew and I was surprised at how graciously Dickens treated him as a character. He was kind and loving and not a Shylock. I think part of it is that Dickens had enough scorn to heap upon his own fellows without searching about for others to castigate.

To end, I really enjoyed this and wish I could write more about it but me and longer reviews just don’t mix.

★★★★½

 

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Howard’s End ★★★☆½

howardsend (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Howard’s End
Series: ———-
Author: E.M. Forster
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 334
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Helen falls in love with a young man but he has overcommitted and secretly breaks it off. Helen’s Aunt goes to straighten things up and ends up making an enemy of the oldest son Henry. Helen’s older sister Margaret smooths things over and becomes friends with Mrs Wilcox, the mother of the young fool. This all happens at a country house of the Wilcox’s called Howard’s End.

Mrs Wilcox dies from cancer and Margaret ends up marring Mr Wilcox. Mr Wilcox and Helen can’t stand each other, as one is a businessman and the other an impractical dreamer with an independent fortune to succor her. Helen has an affair, gets pregnant and when Henry Wilcox finds out, he hunts down the man and ends up accidentally killing him. He goes to jail and Mr Wilcox suffers several business setbacks.

Margaret smooths things over and Helen and baby live with her and Mr Wilcox at Howard’s End. Mr Wilcox leaves Howard’s End to Margaret in his will and everything else goes to his 3 children.

The End.

 

My Thoughts:

This was a finely written soap opera of absolutely zero import. It didn’t help that the introduction by whoever Barnes & Noble (this was a Barnes & Noble classic from their Classics Line) hired pissed me off. Talking about literary devices and creating motives wholesale out of 2 word choices is idiotic and useless. Huh, kind of like Helen in the story. If all one does is write papers swanning on about other papers and books, then you might be feeding the soul of the world but in my books you are useless lump and do more harm to this world than any 1950’s Cadillac Eldorado ever will. Go dig some ditches you useless waste of resources.

Ok, with that out of the way…..

I did enjoy this. Reading about ordinary life of small people is a nice break from Epic Fantasy or galaxy spanning plots with aliens waiting to suck our brains out. Forster, whatever you may think of the filthy pervert, could write and deserves his place in literary canon. I am sure a useless waste of resources could spend their useless life mining his stuff for “meaning” but for people who actually “do” something with their life, Forster writes in such a way as to draw you in to the story and make the people real and sympathetic. I mean, who doesn’t know that relative that is well meaning but bungles things up, or that friend who is trying to be something more without even knowing what they want to be “more of” or that in-law that you just shut your mouth around to keep the peace? Forster knew people and wrote people and he did a fantastic job.

Between this and A Room with a View, I am quite impressed with Forster as an author. Knowing about him as a person however, I’ll probably leave my reading of him with these 2 books and call it good. Better to leave with a good impression than to keep on and end up face down in the mud.

★★★☆½

 

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Hard Times ★★★★½

hardtimes (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Hard Times
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 368
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Louisa and her younger brother Tom have been raised by their father to think only of “facts”. If it can’t be quantified and tabulated on a report, then in the School of Mr Gradgrind, it simply doesn’t exist. A circus girl, Cecilia, comes to their school and her father abandons her. Cecilia is taken on by Mr and Mrs Gradgrind, first as a student and then a servingmaid.

Louisa has turned all of her stunted feelings towards helping her brother, who has been employed by a friend of his father, a Josiah Bounderby. Bounderby is a self-made man who dragged himself up from the gutters after his mother abandoned him and has become one of the most successful businessmen in the town. He also is the kind of man who is always telling everyone how he dragged himself up by his bootstraps. He has watched Louisa grow up and likes the idea of a wife who is only concerned with facts. He proposes marriage and her father asks her. She realizes it will help her brother and so says “why not”.

We also meet a working man by the name of Stephen Blackpool. He married unwisely years ago and his wife has destroyed their life with her drinking. She now wanders the countryside prostituting herself out for money for more drink. Stephen asks Bounderby, who owns the company that he works for, if there is any way he could get a divorce, since he has heard of such things happening for rich folk. Bounderby replies in his usual bombastic tone and tells the man to get out of his sight. The men of the company are trying to unionize and Blackpool doesn’t agree with it. As such, he is kicked out of the social sphere and ostracized. Between that and the antipathy of his employer, he is forced to leave the town and seek work elsewhere. Right before he leaves though, he is accosted by Tom Gradgrind who asks him to hang around the bank where Tom works each evening, just in case Tom wants to send some messages. No messages are sent and Blackpool leaves the town.

Tom has been living beyond his means and gambling away what he has earned, as once he was released from his father’s school of thought he went in the exact opposite direction. He comes into contact with James Harthouse, a rich younger son who is “trying out” being a businessman. James meets Louisa and begins trying to seduce her, just for a lark and because he hates Bounderby. He also leads on Tom in his extravagant lifestyle. This leads Tom to robbing the bank he works for and that Bounderby runs. He implicates Stephen Blackpool who isn’t around to clear his name.

Eventually Harthouse asks Louisa to have an affair with him and meet him. She agrees but only to get rid of him, as her husband Bounderby pretty much leaves her to her own devices, and runs off to her father for protection. Mr Gradgrind is stunned by the news and by Louisa’s revelation that she wants love as much as “facts”.

On top of this news Stephen Blackpool is found dying in a pit and he reveals that Tom Gradgrind asked him to visit the bank before Stephen left town. Tom hoofs it with Cecilia’s help and takes cover at the circus she used to work for. Mr Gradgrind and Louisa meet Cecilia there and plan to smuggle Tom to the Continent (Africa) or South America so he can escape justice. He is found out but the circus people help out the Gradgrinds because they took Cecilia in.

Tom escapes, Louisa lives with her father and mother until her death, Bounderby is revealed as a fraud when his mother comes forth and shows she is the sweetest and most loving woman alive and only Cecilia lives happily ever after.

 

My Thoughts:

This was one of Dickens’ shorter books and as such his characters and situations weren’t quite as fleshed out as I’m used to but I still found this eminently enjoyable. The only downside was Stephen Blackpool when he talked. Dickens used some sort of “working man slang” that made it almost impossible to figure out what he was actually saying. That is the only bad thing I can say about this book.

It is very obvious that Dickens is writing a “message” book here, what with the over the top “Just the fact’s, ma’am” school by Mr Gradgrind and how it ruins Louisa’s life. In many ways it reminded me of those Uncle Arthur Bedtime Stories, which are Christian morality stories at their most stark. By the by, Arthur Maxwell was a 7th Day Adventist. Fun fact for the day. Anyway. Thankfully, Dickens makes it clear where he falls on the “Just the Facts” debates but it never felt like he was preaching to me like a pigheaded Social Justice Warrior. That is because Dickens had class, talent, skill and he was willing to create something, not just tear something else down.

This is my 3rd time reading this and I really debated about giving it 5 stars. In many ways it deserves 5stars, as not only have I now read it 3 times but I already plan on re-reading it again in the future when I read all of Dicken’s stuff again. Not only has it stood the test of time, it has stood the test of Bookstooge. Dickens can rest easy, as there will be no grave desecration and “Unholy” water in his future. However, the dialect of Blackpool was a real stumbling block to me and I skipped almost all of his dying speech. So that is why I really like this book but can’t give it 5stars.

★★★★½

 

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The Scarlet Letter ★☆☆☆☆

scarletletter (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Scarlet Letter
Series: ———-
Author: Nathaniel Hawthorne
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 272
Format: Paperback Edition

 

Synopsis:

Hester Prynne, a widow whose husband is presumed lost at sea, is arrested for adultery when she becomes pregnant. She refuses to name the father and has to stay in a jail until she gives birth. Once she is freed, she is forced to wear a scarlet “A” on her clothing. Hester raises her little daughter Pearl on her own and lives in the outskirts of the village. She sews for her living and does good deeds to both rich and poor. Pearl grows up wild and untamed.

At the same time, an Arthur Dimmesdale, a preacher, is rising up in the ranks of the village. He is overcome by a sickness and an itinerant medicine man stays to help him get better. Turns out the medicine man is Hester’s husband, an old sour man who vows he will find out who Hester committed adultery with and destroy that man. Taking care of the minister gives him the excuse to live in the village. Hester agrees to keep Roger Chillingworth’s secret for her own reasons.

Years go by and Reverend Dimmesdale is getting worse. Roger has figured out it was Dimmesdale who committed the sin with Hester and has been slowly destroying his spirit. Dimmesdale meets Hester in the words and they agree to flee the village and start life together back in the Old World. They are going to escape, with Pearl, on a ship after the new governor is sworn in. Roger discovers their plans and orders a berth on the same ship and lets Hester and Dimmesdale know. Dimmesdale gives a sermon and then confesses his sin and acknowledges his lust for Hester and that Pearl is his daughter. He then dies.

Hester and Pearl sail off and many decades later Hester returns to continue her life of good deeds until she dies.

 

My Thoughts:

My goodness, Hawthorne really hated the Puritans and anything that actually had some moral backbone. Ok, got that out of my system.

This book starts out with some piece of garbage fictional “recollection” from Hawthorne’s working experience (where he had to work a whole 3.5hrs a day, the horror!) which is where he “discovers” the story of the Scarlet Letter. It was boring and rambling and had no impact beyond allowing the author to write long and complicated sentences while still saying nothing.

I don’t know the correct term, but Hawthorne definitely appears to be a Utopian Romanticist. Basically, if it feels good, it is “Good” by definition and therefore the right thing. There are several references to Hester and Arthur’s adultery actually being something from Heaven as their love sanctified their sin. This kind of absolute trash talk is why I didn’t finish the Monstrumologist series. There is nothing holy or sanctified about adultery or other sins. So that was a huge strike against this book.

Then the writing style almost bored me to tears. While I can handle long descriptions from Dickens, what Hawthorne writes is simply convoluted for convoluted’s sake. It became extremely annoying and by the end of the book I was ready to toss this paperback into the garbage. If you want to follow all the permutations of sentence construction then this is the book for you. There are almost no straight lines.

Thankfully, I read this during my lunch breaks at work, so it was broken up over 2 months. If I’d had to sit down and read this in 2 days I would probably have hunted down Hawthorne’s grave, dug him up and urinated all over his corpse. The opposite of Holy Water, as it were.

Needless to say, I won’t be reading anything else by Hawthorne ever again. What a wanker.

★☆☆☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)