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.

★★★★☆

 

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Od Magic ★★★★★

odmagic (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: Od Magic
Series: ———-
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 328
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Brenden Vetch saved most of his village from the plague but he couldn’t save his parents. He learned the magic of plants all on his own and now he wanders, listening to what the plants tell him. One day a woman named Od appears before him and tells him to go to her school in the big city, as she needs a gardener. He’ll know the entrance by the sign with the boot on it. Sick at heart and ready for a change, Brenden goes and finds the door. He enters, meets a wizard and finds out that only very special people ever find the door with the boot on it. All the other students enter through the front gate.

The King of the city, and his ancestors, started the school in honor of Od when she saved the kingdom hundreds of years ago. Slowly they have usurped its powers and decreed that only magic they control is allowed.

A wandering magician enters the city, only to entertain. But circumstances set the king off so he sets his own wizards on the trail of the magician to either control him or remove him and his troupe (said magician performs magics of illusions for the crowds) from the city.

At the same time the princess is to be married off to the head wizard, a man who is controlled completely by the rules of magic that the kings have set up. When she realizes this wizard will never allow her her own small magics taught her by her grandmother, she runs away to find the wandering magician to learn outside magic and to gain her freedom. This sets the King off even more.

At the same time Brenden accidentally shows what he is capable of to the head wizard. Realizing what he has done, Brenden runs away. The Head Wizard chases after him.

Everybody ends up in the North Country where there are 8 Stumps, which are beings of immeasurable power but who are afraid of humanity. Turns out Od is their representative to Humanity so they can all co-exist. Brenden must help the human magicians look beyond the limits they’ve set for themselves so that they won’t be afraid of unknown magic.

 

My Thoughts:

This hit the spot. I really needed a good book after the stinkers I had last week. I slid right into the rhythm of the story like sliding into silk pajamas. My mind and senses felt caressed by the writing. It was just plain soothing.

There was a LOT going on. Brenden’s story, the wandering Magician, the Princess, the Stumps, Od herself, and all of the side characters swept along by each of the main characters. In a good way, it was easy to lose myself in the story. But I never felt like McKillip lost a thread or made a mistep there. Each character was balanced within the overarching plot and at no time did I ever feel like a particular point of view was too long or too short. It just flowed together perfectly.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, every sentence of it. I had no issues with anything, well except maybe for wishing it was slightly longer, but I feel that way about every McKillip book. Of course, she writes just the right amount for the story she is telling.

If you haven’t started to read McKillip’s body of work by now, then nothing I can say will galvanize you. You won’t get any contempt from me, just pity. And trust me, getting pitied by me means you’re pretty low on the totem pole…

★★★★★

 

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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.

★★★★☆

 

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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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