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!

★★★★★

 

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The Changeling Sea ★★★★☆

changelingsea (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 Changeling Sea
Series: ———-
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 142
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Peri’s father went to sea in his rowboat and only his boat returned. Her mother has retreated inside herself and Peri is angry at life itself. She leaves her mother’s house and lives in a shack by the sea where an old woman taught her the fine art of hexing. Peri creates as many hexes as she can think of and one day throws them all into the sea and hexes the sea for stealing her father.

The King of the Island and his son Kir come into their summer residence and Peri meets Kir one night on the beach. He confesses that he has found out he is a changeling and part sea creature. He desires to go to the sea but can’t find the way. Peri is interested against her will. Then a monstrous sea creature is seen with a golden chain around its neck. The villagers hire a magician, Lyo, to tame the sea monster and take the golden chain for them. Lyo gets Peri to help him and accidentally turns the golden chain into a rain of periwinkle flowers. Nobody is very happy with Lyo, who disappears.

The next night Peri is at her shack when she sees the sea monster approaching the shore. It comes onto the shore and turns into a young man, very like Kir in appearance but golden where Kir is dark. This young man can only repeat words he has heard and so Peri begins to teach him words. But each night before the sun rises this golden prince returns to the sea and his monstrous form. Peri is bewildered and Lyo reveals himself to her. They figure out that the golden boy is the prince by the King’s dead wife who was taken by the Queen of the Sea, who was the lover of the King. She substituted her own son, Kir. Now each son is yearning to return to their native element but neither can figure out how.

Peri, with help from Lyo, solves the mystery. Her hex worked and it was so powerful that it hexed the whole sea. Peri unhexes the sea and that allows them to commune with the Sea Queen and Kir can return to the sea while the golden prince can return to the land. Peri realizes how powerful she is and Lyo says he’ll stick around to help her out.

 

My Thoughts:

Very enjoyable, very short and one of the most “romance’y” of McKillip’s books. While not Harlequin Romance or even most Paranormal Romance level, this was on the edge of what I’d be willing to read. That is about the only caveat I have for this book.

The shortness of this book really struck me this time. I started it one evening during the week and I was done the next night. It was kind of nice actually. I felt like I had gotten a small personal pan pizza instead of some huge buffet. Just enough to get a good taste but not enough to satiate or make you sick of it. Gluttony of words by authors is as much a sin, as far as I’m concerned, as is actual gluttony.

This lacked something, a richness I guess, that I’m used to in McKillip’s writing and that is why I’m only giving it 4 stars. Still, that is a Star upgrade from 2007. If you like McKillip’s other books, you’ll like this. Whether you’ll like it more, less or the same as her other books will depend on your personal tastes.

★★★★☆

 

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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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Kellanved’s Reach (Malaz: Path to Ascendancy #3) ★★★★☆

kellanvedsreach (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: Kellanved’s Reach
Series: Malaz: Path to Ascendancy #3
Author: Ian Esslemont
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 340
Format: Hardcover Edition

 

Synopsis:

Not much of a single plot running through this book. More like the many, diverse threads like you see at the beginning of a very large and complicated weaving process.

Kellanved finds the Throne of Bone and is allowed by the T’lan Imass to “rule” over them. Kellanved and Dancer meet the Crippled God for the first time and it doesn’t go well.

Surly continues to do all the hard work of creating an empire. She also successfully pulls of a coup on her brother, who ousted her in the first place. She is the de facto leader even while making Napan part of the “Malazan Empire”. Her discontent with Kellanved and his methods continue to grow.

The blind girl who can communicate with birds has her journey and she is called to the Northern Wastes to become some people’s shaman (the Jheck perhaps?)

We also follow 2 new characters who long to join the Crimson Guard. One is a mage and the other a battle mage that doesn’t know it. They do a lot of fighting and we get to see how the rift between K’azz and Skinner starts.

Finally, we follow a mercenary general who saves his troops despite their contract holder selling them out. He leads the opposing forces a merry chase and after killing a K’chain Ch’malle (or however it is spelled) is rescued by the Malazans and is introduced as Grey Mane.

 

My Thoughts:

I thoroughly enjoyed this with just a few caveats that kept it from being a 4 1/2star read or higher. First, the lack of a plot running through the book was distracting. The previous 2 books had their own little in book plots and this one should have too. Second, Kellanved finding and using the Throne of Bone was very underwhelming. It was rushed through to make room for everything else. Thirdly, too many various things were happening for such a short book. Finally, this felt “simple” in comparison to Esslemont’s Empire of Malaz series and almost childish in comparison to Erikson’s Book of the Fallen. Mind you, I didn’t want reams of empty philosophy but the dexterous storytelling I am used to from both authors just wasn’t there. This was like Glen Cook in one of his better Black Company books.

I realize that sounds like a lot, but while I complain a lot about Erikson and by extension Esslemont, I still expect some seriously well written stuff from them.

What I liked the best was how Esslemont shows just how humorous Kellanved really is, in a young/old way that just made me grin. The insecurity of youth coupled with youth’s propensity for brashness allied with an old man’s crotchedyness. It was perfect. Dancer very much played the Straight Man in this comedy duo and I could totally see them going up on stage during an Improv Night and doing horrible amateur comedy. And then killing the entire audience for not laughing loud enough!

While I felt there were too many threads being started here, I did really appreciate just how even a glimpse or two of a character was enough to fill in a ton of back story for them form the Fallen series. I knew Skinner, from the Crimson Guard was a real bastard but here we see how he got his name and how much he relished violence and why that would lead him into eventual conflict with K’azz.

Technically this is a prequel trilogy but I would not recommend reading this at all before the Book of the Fallen or Empire of Malaz series. Too much of the revelations in those series would be spoiled and half the fun would simply disappear. I do highly recommend this trilogy though if you made it through the entire set of series and came out alive.

★★★★☆

 

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In the Forests of Serre ★★★★★

intheforestsofserre (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:
In the Forests of Serre
Series: ———-
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 316
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Prince Ronan, the son of the heartless and one-eyed King Ferus, had his wife and child die several months ago. Now his father has arranged a marriage for him with Princess Sidonie, from a small neighboring kingdom known for its magic. Before Ronan hears of this news though, he accidentally kills a white chicken belonging to the witch Brume, who goes about the forests of Serre in walking house of bones. She curses Ronan and he becomes enamoured of the firebird. He begins to hunt the firebird down only to become as wild as an animal.

Sidonie meets Ronan on her way to the castle only she doesn’t know it is him. She is with a wizard named Gyre who has been sent as a guardian by the powerful wizard Unciel, who fought a battle in The North and barely survived. Once at the castle Sidonie is pretty much held captive under threat of invasion of her home until Ferus can find his son. Gyre pretends to be Ronan but his magical disguise is seen through and Ferus attacks him and drives him into the forests, leaving Sidonie alone.

Gyre runs into Ronan and helps him pay back Brume. Ronan has to give Brume his heart and since it is already broken, he gladly gives it up and returns to the castle. Sidonie realizes something is wrong with Ronan and sneaks out of the castle to find Brume and bargain with her for the return of Ronan’s heart. At the same time Gyre is roaming the forest looking for Brume for the heart of power that makes Serre so mysterious.

While all of this is going on, a nameless, faceless monster appears and begins terrorizing Serre. It would appear that the threat Unciel the great Wizard defeated is not truly defeated.

Turns out that Gyre stole the dead monsters heart and so it doesn’t know it is dead. Sidonie gets Ronan’s heart back, Ronan falls in love with Sidonie and Brume, the firebird and Gyre all figure out what is going on and destroy the monster’s heart, which was Gyre’s heart which merely needed to transform from a jewel into a real human heart.

I think.

 

My Thoughts:

This was confusing and weird and perfectly delicious. It was definitely one of the most fairytale’ish and straight forward of McKillip’s tales, as there was NO misapprehension with what was going on with Brume or Ronan or Sidonie. Where things were confusing was all with Gyre, Unciel and the nameless terror. I think the firebird’s egg was involved somehow, but I really didn’t catch it all. I was too busy enjoying the parts I could easily understand.

It has been almost 14 years exactly since I last read this and I have to say, it has only gotten better. Despite my not understanding the nameless terror, or maybe because of it really, I am going to be adding the “Best Book of the Year” tag and put this in the running for the end of the year. Something in this book just resonated with me and while not making me jump up and down with glee, so thoroughly satisfied me that I felt like a fat little buddha statue full of literary satiation.

So far, my re-reads of McKillip have only enhanced my enjoyment of her storytelling and of her writing skill. It saddens me that more people don’t love these books as much as I do and at the same time I realize that I’m not exactly a focal point for what is hot. I do hope that McKillip’s books stand the test of time and survive where other fantasies simply dissolve back into the morass from which they came.

The cover is once again an amazing one by Kinuko Craft. I’ll be including the full size piece of art in clickable linkiness so you can peruse as you wish. I can already tell you that this cover is probably going to win April’s Cover Love hands down at the end of the month.

★★★★★

 

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The Crippled God (Malazan Book of the Fallen #10) ★☆☆☆☆

crippledgod (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 Crippled God
Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen #10
Author: Steven Erikson
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 934
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Adjunct Tavore and the Bonehunters separate from their erstwhile allies as they make a 3 pronged attack on the heart of the recently arisen Forkrul Assail empire, which holds the Crippled God’s heart. Along with gods, various elder races and even the dead, all conspire to set the Crippled God free to return him to his own world and thus begin the healing of their own world. The Perish Grey Helms turn traitor and massive amounts of people die.

At the same time an Ototaral Dragon is resurrected and set free. She is the opposite to all the other Eleint, dragons, who are at heart forces of chaos while she is a force of utter negation. The embodiment of Chaos, known as Tiam begins to manifest but the Ototarol Dragon is chained thus setting the Eleint free from their own frenzy, which dissolves Tiam’s hold over them and dissipates her own Manifesting.

Lots of other things happen.

Tavore and the Malazans and their allies are able to free the Crippled God and he returns to his own world. Shadowthrone and Cotillion hint at each other that everything has been part of an even bigger plan but mention zero details or anything concrete.

As good an ending as one can hope for with the author’s known penchant for deliberate obfuscation and outright misdirection.

 

My Thoughts:

I read over my review from 2011. Eight years later, not one single thing has changed in my mind about this book. It is remains a piece of trash where the author masterbates to his own supposed cleverness with words and is nothing but a dung heap of rubbish pseudo-philosophy.

I finished this and all I could think was “Why did Erikson even bother writing this?” The battle scenes were incredible and show that the skill in writing the first book was no fluke. Which makes my question even more pertinent, as it means he wrote such pointless reams of words on purpose. FOR NO PURPOSE.

What a killjoy way to end a series that started out so promising 2 years ago. And this re-read did not change my mind about the series overall, as I was hoping it would. Well, it does reinforce that I’ll not read another book by Erikson, no matter what. He wrote this book and ended the series this way, he doesn’t deserve any more of my money, time or attention. I almost feel like I’m doing a disservice to book bloggers everywhere by even bringing attention to his name now. Bleh.

★☆☆☆☆

 

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Fool’s Run ★★★★☆

foolsrun (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: Fool’s Run
Series: ———-
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 221
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Seven years ago Terra Viridian turned a laser array on her own location at a military base in the desert, killing 1500 people. Afterwards, she was found alive and babbling about the dark and visions. She was sentenced to life in the Underworld, a high security, solitary confinement prison on the moon.

Aaron Fisher’s pregnant wife was just about to get out of the military seven years ago. She was one of the victim’s of Terra. Aaron has been working on hunting down Terra’s twin sister Michele to find out from her why Terra suddenly snapped and destroyed Aaron’s world. So far, Aaron has had no luck.

Aaron is friends with Sidney Halleck, the owner of a bar where musicians play. One of these musicians, Roger Restak, known as The Magician, has the disturbing ability to get lost in his music and to ignore literally everything around him while playing. He and Aaron have become unlikely friends. A world weary cop and a genius musician.

A Dr. Fiore wants to study Terra and her “visions” that she has continued to talk about. He brings up a new machine to the Underworld that can visualize what Terra is thinking. What he finds is baffling and incomprehensible. He asks the Warden of the Underworld, Jason Klyos if he can bring up a band to see how music affects Terra. He hopes that by understanding how her visuals change in regards to the music that he can begin unraveling what the images of her “visions” means.

Sidney is contacted and puts The Magician up for nomination. The Magician assembles a band, only to find out that his “cuber” not only can’t stand heights, but can’t travel off the ground without becoming deathly ill. The Magician is at a loss until a former friend, the Queen of Hearts comes back into his life and she volunteers. Aaron and the Queen of Hearts strike it off immediately. Even though Aaron knows she is going to the Underworld and then a tour of the solar system, he opens his heart to her.

The Band makes it to the Underworld, where The Magician meets Terra and while everyone else is looking at the machine where her “visions” come out, The Magician is given a glimpse directly into her mind. This somehow transfers the vision to him. It is also revealed that the Queen of Hearts is Michele Viridian, Terra’s twin sister. The Warden calls up Aaron, as he’s suspicious of everything going on.

Terra breaks loose and with help from The Magician, flees the Underworld. The Magician takes his own band hostage, locks down the Underworld and begins seeing visions himself. Aaron and the Warden give chase in the only available ship, only to find that Terra has hidden away and has a laser rifle trained on them. They are in contact with the Magician and he must convince them that he and Terra are not crazy. It turns out that both The Magician and Terra were psychic and picking up the emanations of an alien being born. It is born and Terra dies. The Warden pulls his weight and convinces everyone that The Magician was not a criminal terrorist intent on breaking Terra free. The band goes free, Aaron lets go of his hate and hooks up with The Queen of Hearts.

The book ends with The Magician telling both Aaron and Sidney that the alien is now here and watching them.

 

My Thoughts:

This has got to be the weirdest book I’ve ever read. When I read it in ’07 I was pretty mesmerized by the use of poetic language that McKillip is so good with, but this time, I was just weirded out the entire time. If my time had been a Smallville episode, Allison Mack would definitely have this on her Wall of Weird.

I gave this 4 stars instead of 5 because every time that The Magician would start to explain what was going on, either Aaron Fisher or Jason Klyos the Warden would interrupt him with exclamations of usually disbelief or anger at the subject, ie, aliens. It was super frustrating to read. Magician was trying to put into words something that he had no words for and these 2 idiots just kept making it harder and harder. Thankfully, they finally did shut up and things moved forward.

My initial reaction when I finished this was to simply read it again to make sure I had read what I thought I had read. If I could have written this review and use the word “weird” and nothing but that, I think that would capture the essence.

Quite enjoyable for the trippy experience but unless you’re a hardcore McKillip fan, I wouldn’t recommend this.

★★★★☆

 

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