Great Expectations ★★★★★

greatexpectations (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: Great Expectations
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 679
Words: 184K

 

Synopsis:

Wikipedia and Me

On Christmas Eve, around 1812,Pip, an orphan about seven years old, unexpectedly meets an escaped prisoner in the village churchyard, while visiting the graves of his parents and siblings. The convict scares Pip into stealing food and tools from Pip’s hot-tempered elder sister and her amiable husband, Joe Gargery, a blacksmith, who have taken the orphan in. On early Christmas morning, Pip returns with a file, a pie, and brandy, though he fears being punished. During Christmas Dinner that evening, at the moment Pip’s theft is about to be discovered, soldiers arrive and ask Joe to mend some shackles. Joe and Pip accompany them as they recapture the convict, who is fighting with another escaped convict. The first convict confesses to stealing food from the smithy, clearing Pip of suspicion

A few years pass. Miss Havisham, a wealthy, reclusive spinster who was jilted at the altar and still wears her old wedding dress lives in the dilapidated Satis House. She asks Mr Pumblechook, a relation of the Gargerys, to find a boy to visit her. Pip visits Miss Havisham and falls in love with Estella, her adopted daughter. Estella remains aloof and hostile to Pip, which Miss Havisham encourages. Pip visits Miss Havisham regularly, until he is old enough to learn a trade.

Joe accompanies Pip for the last visit when she gives the money for Pip to be bound as an apprentice blacksmith. Joe’s surly assistant, Dolge Orlick, is envious of Pip and dislikes Mrs Joe. When Pip and Joe are away from the house, Mrs Joe is brutally attacked, leaving her unable to speak or do her work. Orlick is suspected of the attack. Mrs Joe becomes kind-hearted, but brain-damaged, after the attack. Pip’s former schoolmate Biddy joins the household to help with her care.

Four years into Pip’s apprenticeship, Mr Jaggers, a lawyer, informs him that he has been provided with money from an anonymous patron, allowing him to become a gentleman. Pip is to leave for London, but presuming that Miss Havisham is his benefactress, he first visits her.

Pip sets up house in London at Barnard’s Inn with Herbert Pocket, the son of his tutor, Matthew Pocket, who is a cousin of Miss Havisham. Herbert and Pip have previously met at Satis Hall, where Herbert was rejected as a playmate for Estella. He tells Pip how Miss Havisham was defrauded and deserted by her fiancé. Pip meets fellow pupils, Bentley Drummle, a brute of a man from a wealthy noble family, and Startop, who is agreeable. Jaggers disburses the money Pip needs.

When Joe visits Pip at Barnard’s Inn, Pip is ashamed of him. Joe relays a message from Miss Havisham that Estella will be at Satis House for a visit. Pip returns there to meet Estella and is encouraged by Miss Havisham, but he avoids visiting Joe. He is disquieted to see Orlick now in service to Miss Havisham. He mentions his misgivings to Jaggers, who promises Orlick’s dismissal. Back in London, Pip and Herbert exchange their romantic secrets: Pip adores Estella and Herbert is engaged to Clara. Pip meets Estella when she is sent to Richmond to be introduced into society.

Pip and Herbert build up debts. Mrs Joe dies and Pip returns to his village for the funeral. Pip’s income is fixed at £500 per annum when he comes of age at twenty-one. With the help of Jaggers’ clerk, Wemmick, Pip plans to help advance Herbert’s future prospects by anonymously securing him a position with the shipbroker, Clarriker’s. Pip takes Estella to Satis House. She and Miss Havisham quarrel over Estella’s coldness. In London, Bentley Drummle outrages Pip, by proposing a toast to Estella. Later, at an Assembly Ball in Richmond, Pip witnesses Estella meeting Bentley Drummle and warns her about him; she replies that she has no qualms about entrapping him.

A week after he turns 23 years old, Pip learns that his benefactor is the convict he encountered in the churchyard, Abel Magwitch, who had been transported to New South Wales after being captured. He has become wealthy after gaining his freedom there but cannot return to England on pain of death. However, he returns to see Pip, who was the motivation for all his success. Pip is shocked, and stops taking money from him. Subsequently, Pip and Herbert Pocket devise a plan for Magwitch to escape from England.

Magwitch shares his past history with Pip, and reveals that the escaped convict whom he fought in the churchyard was Compeyson, the fraudster who had deserted Miss Havisham.

Pip returns to Satis Hall to visit Estella and meets Bentley Drummle, who has also come to see her and now has Orlick as his servant. Pip accuses Miss Havisham of misleading him about his benefactor. She admits to doing so, but says that her plan was to annoy her relatives. Pip declares his love to Estella, who, coldly, tells him that she plans on marrying Drummle. Heartbroken, Pip walks back to London, where Wemmick warns him that Compeyson is seeking him. Pip and Herbert continue preparations for Magwitch’s escape.

At Jaggers’s house for dinner, Wemmick tells Pip how Jaggers acquired his maidservant, Molly, rescuing her from the gallows when she was accused of murder.

Then, full of remorse, Miss Havisham tells Pip how the infant Estella was brought to her by Jaggers and raised by her to be unfeeling and heartless. She knows nothing about Estella’s parentage. She also tells Pip that Estella is now married. She gives Pip money to pay for Herbert Pocket’s position at Clarriker’s, and asks for his forgiveness. As Pip is about to leave, Miss Havisham accidentally sets her dress on fire. Pip saves her, injuring himself in the process. She eventually dies from her injuries, lamenting her manipulation of Estella and Pip. Pip now realises that Estella is the daughter of Molly and Magwitch. When confronted about this, Jaggers discourages Pip from acting on his suspicions.

A few days before Magwitch’s planned escape, Pip is tricked by an anonymous letter into going to a sluice house near his old home, where he is seized by Orlick, who intends to murder him. Orlick freely admits to injuring Pip’s sister. As Pip is about to be struck by a hammer, Herbert Pocket and Startop arrive and save Pip’s life. The three of them pick up Magwitch to row him to the steamboat for Hamburg, but they are met by a police boat carrying Compeyson, who has offered to identify Magwitch. Magwitch seizes Compeyson, and they fight in the river. Seriously injured, Magwitch is taken by the police. Compeyson’s body is found later.

Pip is aware that Magwitch’s fortune will go to the crown after his trial. But Herbert, who is preparing to move to Cairo, Egypt, to manage Clarriker’s office there, offers Pip a position there. Pip always visits Magwitch in the prison hospital as he awaits trial, and on Magwitch’s deathbed tells him that his daughter Estella is alive. After Herbert’s departure for Cairo, Pip falls ill in his rooms, and faces arrest for debt. However, Joe nurses Pip back to health and pays off his debt. When Pip begins to recover, Joe slips away. Pip then returns to propose to Biddy, only to find that she has married Joe. Pip asks Joe’s forgiveness, promises to repay him and leaves for Cairo. There he shares lodgings with Herbert and Clara, and eventually advances to become third in the company. Only then does Herbert learn that Pip paid for his position in the firm.

After working eleven years in Egypt, Pip returns to England and visits Joe, Biddy and their son, Pip Jr. Then in the ruins of Satis House he meets the widowed Estella, who asks Pip to forgive her, assuring him that misfortune has opened her heart. As Pip takes Estella’s hand and they leave the moonlit ruins, he sees “no shadow of another parting from her.

In the original ending, Pip meets Estella, who has married a doctor who took care of her deceased husband. He is a kind man and is helping Estella heal her broken heart. Pip confirms his bachelor days.

 

My Thoughts:

My goodness, what an absolutely excellent book. When I read and reviewed this back in ’08 Pip’s selfishness really bothered me. This time around, I was a lot more charitable towards his weaknesses. I guess I’ve gotten a little more sympathetic in the intervening years.

I tore through this. I think I started it on a friday night and was done by monday evening?

I have come to the realization that Dickens simply isn’t for everyone but that I really, really, really click with his writing. I find it engaging, interesting and intriguing. His characters are all truly characters with names truly worthy of their character. I mean, what kind of stuffed shirt do you imagine when you hear the name “Pumblechook”? The drama and plots, as coincidental and drama’y as they are, never have me rolling my eyes. I like how character driven everything is.

I like Dickens original ending better, as it just fits with the characters better. Yes, it isn’t as happy, but the publisher forced ending has Estella changing too much too quickly for my taste. It just doesn’t fit.

For a book that I enjoyed so much and gave the “best book of the year” tag, I am having a very hard time coming up with stuff to actually write. You’d think it would be easier to praise this with specifics. I guess my highest praise would be that I read this in less than 4 days and loved every minute of it.

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Three Men in a Boat (to say nothing of the dog) ★★★★☆

threemeninaboat (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: Three Men in a Boat (to say nothing of the dog)
Author: Jerome Jerome
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 231
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

J, and his two friends George and Harris, along with J’s dog Montmorency, all decide that they’ve been working too hard and they need a break. So they decide to go on a boating trip up the Thames.

What follows are the antics of 3 urban idiots, a dog who likes to fight and a travelogue. A very peculiar mix.

 

My Thoughts:

I thoroughly enjoyed parts of this. The parts I did not care for, or that bored me really, was where Jerome went into travelogue mode. Travel and I don’t get along real well. Scenery bores me to tears and while I hate cities, I still want to pave the planet and get rid of all that nasty “nature” stuff. So books that are travelogues ♪in disguise♪ don’t do it for me. At all. It is the reason I don’t ever plan on re-reading Dickens’ Pictures from Italy or his American Notes.

Thankfully, those bits were interspersed with the humorous bits. I read a short wiki article on Jerome K. Jerome and it would appear that he was the inspiration for such authors as P.G. Wodehouse. While not quite up to the Bertie Wooster level of helpless obliviousness, J and his companions are doing their best to achieve it. Part of it is that they are not independently wealthy and while they are pretty pathetic at their jobs (one of the friends works at a bank and pretty much sleeps all day there), at least they have jobs. They are the idle middle class as opposed to the idle rich. If you’ve ever read Wodehouse and like or dislike his brand of humor, then I can safely say you’ll feel the same way about Jerome.

Probably not a book that I’ll ever re-read but I am glad to have read it for the first time and to expand my knowledge base. I suspect I’ll be flashing back to this book whenever I read something by Wodehouse in the future.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

The Two Towers (Lord of the Rings #2) ★★★★★

twotowers (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 Two Towers
Series: Lord of the Rings #2
Author: John Tolkien
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 436
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The Fellowship is broken. Gandalf and Boromir are dead, Frodo and Sam have slipped off on their own to find their way into Mordor to destroy the Ring, Merry and Pippin have been captured by Orcs and Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli must decide which set of hobbits to follow and support.

The first quarter of the book follows Merry and Pippin as they have their various adventures. Merry and Pippin are captured by the orcs and are on their way to Orthanc, Saruman’s stronghold. Saruman knows that a hobbit holds the One Ring, but he doesn’t know which one. The Orc band, however, is ambushed by the riders of Rohan and destroyed. One of the orcs from Sauron had taken the hobbits outside the orc camp to find for himself what Saruman wanted and this kept the hobbits alive during the attack. They proceed into the forest of Fangorn. There they meet the Ent Treebeard and help convince him and the other Ents that Saruman is a real threat and must be dealt with. Their part of the book ends with the Ents and their herds of trees marching off to Orthanc.

The second quarter of the book follows Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli as they try to rescue Merry and Pippin. After the breaking of the Fellowship, Aragorn is torn between following Frodo and Sam or rescuing Merry and Pippin. He chooses to rescue Merry and Pippin as he realizes that Frodo and Sam CHOSE to go off on their own. The three friends begin a tracking expedition and start running after the orcs. They find signs that the Hobbits are alive. They then run into the Riders of Rohan who destroyed the orc band. The Riders didn’t see any signs of the Hobbits but the three friends are convinced that the Hobbits are still alive. The three friends find signs that the Hobbits survived the ambush and begin tracking them into the forest of Fangorn. There they meet an old man who they take for Saruman but is revealed as Gandalf returned from the dead. Gandalf lets them know that the Hobbits are safe with the Ents and they (Gandalf and the 3 friends) must begin rousing allies against both Saruman AND Sauron. They all head over to Rohan to get Theoden ready. They find him under the influence of Wormtongue, an ally of Saruman. Gandalf drives Wormtongue out and Theoden rallies his riders. Scouts bring news that Saruman’s entire orc army has marched on Rohan and is destroying everything they find. Everyone heads to Helm’s Deep, a fortress where the Rohirrim make their last stand. Things are looking very bad for them until a whole forest of living trees and a band of riders led by Gandalf and Theoden’s nephew show up. The riders break the siege and the Forest deals with the orcs. Everyone goes to Orthanc. The Ents have destroyed Isengard (the city built around the tower of Orthanc) but Saruman has taken refuge in Orthanc. Gandalf confronts Saruman and casts him out of the Council of the Wise. Wormtongue throws a stone at them that turns out to be a Palantir, a device that allows the user to see around the world and to communicate with other Palantirs.

The final half of the book deals with Frodo and Sam and Gollum as they make their way towards Mordor. Frodo extracts a promise from Gollum to help them. Gollum leads them Mordor but they can’t get in. Gollum reveals that he knows a secret way in through a tunnel in one of the mountains. On the way there the Hobbits meet Faramir, Boromir’s younger brother. Faramir finds out the secret of the Ring but shows he’s a better man than Boromir by not even trying to take the Ring. The Hobbits continue their journey and Gollum leads them to the secret passage. There he disappears and the Hobbits must make their way through the tunnel on their own. They are ambushed by a giant spider named Shelob, who is an evil power on her own. Gollum is her vassal and plans on taking the Ring from the corpses of Frodo and Sam once she has eaten them. With the Phial of Galadriel and Sting, Sam destroys Shelob but not before she stings Frodo. Frodo enters a deathlike state and Sam is convinced he is dead. Sam takes the Ring and realizes the burden to destroy it is now his. Some orcs come along and Sam finds out that Frodo isn’t actually dead. The orcs take Frodo to their base and the book ends with Sam using the Ring to follow them so he can rescue Frodo.

 

My Thoughts:

For a 400+ page book, this felt incredibly short. Things just happen bam, bam, bam! It was great to be honest. Lean, sparse and yet fully fleshed out, the writing here wasn’t like some of the stuff we get today, ie, “world building”. Man, save me from “world building” for world building’s sake. Tolkien reveals a LOT about his world but it never becomes the point of the story and it always is secondary to the plot. It was masterfully done in my opinion.

Another thing I appreciated, that annoys me with more modern stuff, is that we stuck with one group POV for ¼, ¼ and then ½ of the book. We don’t follow a character for one chapter and then skip to another. My literary feet were firmly grounded in each POV instead of jumping and whirling and generally giving me motion sickness (I’m looking at you, John Gwynne and your horrible, terrible, no-good Valor). It was also written in such a way that I wasn’t thinking about the other characters not on page. I was fully invested in each group as I read about them.

I mentioned how short this felt. Not only that but the story itself sped by. If I hadn’t been reading carefully, so many things are mentioned by a character that aren’t fully written out, I would have missed a lot. Tolkien doesn’t pad out anything and he expects his readers to be paying attention and not need everything spoon fed to them. As a grumpy “get your YA off my lawn!” man, I appreciate that. It also lends itself towards re-reads, as you will miss some things on each read or not fully grasp the import of a sentence until you’ve read it again years later.

All of that being said, this does feel very much like the Grandfather of Fantasy. What I expect today and what I am used to (even if I am not fully behind it, like 1000 page tomes) is very different and that colors my perception of this.

Overall, this was a great read and a fantastic way to end the month.

 

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Bleak House ★★★★★

bleak house (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: Bleak House
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 1047
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Shamelessly Stolen from Wikipedia

Sir Leicester Dedlock and his wife Honoria live on his estate at Chesney Wold. Unknown to Sir Leicester, before she married, Lady Dedlock had a lover, Captain Hawdon, and had a daughter by him. Lady Dedlock believes her daughter is dead.

The daughter, Esther, is in fact alive and being raised by Miss Barbary, Lady Dedlock’s sister. Esther does not know Miss Barbary is her aunt. After Miss Barbary dies, John Jarndyce becomes Esther’s guardian and assigns the Chancery lawyer “Conversation” Kenge to take charge of her future. After attending school for six years, Esther moves in with him at Bleak House.

Jarndyce simultaneously assumes custody of two other wards, Richard Carstone and Ada Clare (who are both his and one another’s distant cousins). They are beneficiaries in one of the wills at issue in Jarndyce and Jarndyce; their guardian is a beneficiary under another will, and the two wills conflict. Richard and Ada soon fall in love, but though Mr Jarndyce does not oppose the match, he stipulates that Richard must first choose a profession. Richard first tries a career in medicine, and Esther meets Allan Woodcourt, a physician, at the house of Richard’s tutor. When Richard mentions the prospect of gaining from the resolution of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, John Jarndyce beseeches him never to put faith in what he calls “the family curse”.

Meanwhile, Lady Dedlock is also a beneficiary under one of the wills. Early in the book, while listening to the reading of an affidavit by the family solicitor, Mr Tulkinghorn, she recognises the handwriting on the copy. The sight affects her so much she almost faints, which Tulkinghorn notices and investigates. He traces the copyist, a pauper known only as “Nemo”, in London. Nemo has recently died, and the only person to identify him is a street-sweeper, a poor homeless boy named Jo, who lives in a particularly grim and poverty-stricken part of the city known as Tom-All-Alone’s (“Nemo” is Latin for “nobody”).

Lady Dedlock is also investigating, disguised as her maid, Mademoiselle Hortense. Lady Dedlock pays Jo to take her to Nemo’s grave. Meanwhile, Tulkinghorn is concerned Lady Dedlock’s secret could threaten the interests of Sir Leicester and watches her constantly, even enlisting her maid to spy on her. He also enlists Inspector Bucket to run Jo out of town, to eliminate any loose ends that might connect Nemo to the Dedlocks.

Esther sees Lady Dedlock at church and talks with her later at Chesney Wold – though neither woman recognises their connection. Later, Lady Dedlock does discover that Esther is her child. However, Esther has become sick (possibly with smallpox, since it severely disfigures her) after nursing the homeless boy Jo. Lady Dedlock waits until Esther has recovered before telling her the truth. Though Esther and Lady Dedlock are happy to be reunited, Lady Dedlock tells Esther they must never acknowledge their connection again.

Upon her recovery, Esther finds that Richard, having failed at several professions, has disobeyed his guardian and is trying to push Jarndyce and Jarndyce to conclusion in his and Ada’s favour. In the process, Richard loses all his money and declines in health. He and Ada have secretly married, and Ada is pregnant. Esther has her own romance when Mr Woodcourt returns to England, having survived a shipwreck, and continues to seek her company despite her disfigurement. Unfortunately, Esther has already agreed to marry her guardian, John Jarndyce.

Hortense and Tulkinghorn discover the truth about Lady Dedlock’s past. After a confrontation with Tulkinghorn, Lady Dedlock flees her home, leaving a note apologising for her conduct. Tulkinghorn dismisses Hortense, who is no longer of any use to him. Feeling abandoned and betrayed, Hortense kills Tulkinghorn and seeks to frame Lady Dedlock for his murder. Sir Leicester, discovering his lawyer’s death and his wife’s flight, suffers a catastrophic stroke, but he manages to communicate that he forgives his wife and wants her to return.

Inspector Bucket, who has previously investigated several matters related to Jarndyce and Jarndyce, accepts Sir Leicester’s commission to find Lady Dedlock. At first he suspects Lady Dedlock of the murder but is able to clear her of suspicion after discovering Hortense’s guilt, and he requests Esther’s help to find her. Lady Dedlock has no way to know of her husband’s forgiveness or that she has been cleared of suspicion, and she wanders the country in cold weather before dying at the cemetery of her former lover, Captain Hawdon (Nemo). Esther and Bucket find her there.

Progress in Jarndyce and Jarndyce seems to take a turn for the better when a later will is found, which revokes all previous wills and leaves the bulk of the estate to Richard and Ada. Meanwhile, John Jarndyce cancels his engagement to Esther, who becomes engaged to Mr Woodcourt. They go to Chancery to find Richard. On their arrival, they learn that the case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce is finally over, but the costs of litigation have entirely consumed the estate. Richard collapses, and Mr Woodcourt diagnoses him as being in the last stages of tuberculosis. Richard apologises to John Jarndyce and dies. John Jarndyce takes in Ada and her child, a boy whom she names Richard. Esther and Woodcourt marry and live in a Yorkshire house which Jarndyce gives to them. The couple later raise two daughters.

 

My Thoughts:

First off, I started out trying to synopsize this myself and gave up after 3 paragraphs. As you can see by the wiki synopsis, there is a ton of stuff going on and I simply didn’t feel like re-inventing the wheel. I have this feeling I’ll be doing more of that kind of thing for big, complicated books from now on. Besides, beyond me, who really reads those synopses anyway? And even I don’t read them except when I want to refresh my memory of what a book is about. I feel ashamed though, deep inside. Like I’m a school boy cheating on his test or something, hahahahahahaha! Yeah, ok, not really.

This was my 3rd time reading this and I have to say, it does nothing but get better with each reading. There are a wide range of characters, both in age and temperament that I suspect I’ll be able to enjoy at the various seasons of my life. From Richard and Ada as young lovers, to Esther who is guided by duty and rewarded with Love, to George the military man who just wants to do the right thing, to Lady Deadlock who appears cold and haughty even while her heart is breaking, to John Jarndyce, the Guardian and supporter of so many. And that is just to name a few. Dickens brings these people alive and makes them wonderful to read about. And the villains of the story range from the cruel and grasping to the inept and almost bumbling. I LIKED reading about them all.

This was a long book. Previously I’ve read it divided into 2 volumes (as that is what I own) but the ebook I read was one single volume. While it took me most of the month to work my way through this, I didn’t feel like I wished I was reading something else or that I was wasting my time. Reading Dickens is never a waste of my time. I realize that everyone isn’t going to share my particular love of Dickens but I sure wish everyone did. I tend to look at reading Dickens as an investment in myself. I enjoy the story, I enjoy the characters, I enjoy the themes (for the most part except when he gets a bit preachy about some social issue which has no relevance today) and I enjoy the writing style. Honestly, what more can I ask for from an author?

I don’t have any deep insights to offer and I’m not going to write a bunch of bull to sound like some Literati, but if you’ve never tried Dickens, for your own sake, please do. If he’s not for you, he’s not for you, but if he is, my goodness, you’re in for a world of wonder!

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

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)

 

 

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

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

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

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

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

 

bookstooge (Custom)