The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

What can I possibly say about The Hobbit that hasn’t already been said a thousand times before?  Literally, nothing except that this little ditty gets my full praise and highest recommendation.  If you’ve been on the fence, hop off onto the side of reading Tolkien’s classic adventure before the movie hits theaters December 14!  Hobbits will be your new best friends.

I’m fairly certain this book needs no synopsis or introduction.  Pretty much a rather ordinary hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, gets sucked into helping some dwarfs steal back their treasure from a dragon named Smaug.  On the way to face the deadly fire breather, many adventures, fantastical creatures, and unexpected heroes are met and made.

Forced to read The Hobbit in high school, I never really fancied re-reading until recently.  While I didn’t hate Bilbo and his hero’s journey, neither was I enamored.  Only recently have I found myself really craving well written high fantasy and The Hobbit began to seem like an obvious choice.  I ordered the Annotated edition which I can’t recommend strongly enough and thoroughly enjoyed learning about Tolkien and his writing process.  Understanding how many literary sources he drew from and where his ideas and inspirations originated was like being at school but way more fun.  I was shocked to learn Tolkien’s first vision of Gandalf came from seeing a postcard depiction of an old man in a red cape.

The Hobbit’s story unfolds at a very naturally swift pace.  You never feel like you can’t keep up or that you might fall asleep – hidden dangers lurk around every tree.  Bilbo can be frustrating at times with his sour attitude and his wishes of being back at home, but wouldn’t we all be a bit reluctant to fight trolls on the first night of a road trip?  Watching his character grow from uncertain follower to unexpected hero is delightful and could be the literary definition of character growth.  You’ll also find yourself absolutely in love with the dwarfs – they kick the Snow White dwarfs’ asses!

Tolkien’s novel is also perfect to share with your children or as a family.  Especially during this holiday season, just cuddle up together around the fireplace and take turns reading aloud.  I know kids can be squirmy, but the trolls, goblins, giant spiders, and elves should have them mesmerized!  Plus, there are pictures.

I’m awaiting the film release with barely bated breath.  Martin Freeman promises to be the best Bilbo and my lovely dwarfs look perfectly cast and costumed.  For further immersion into Middle Earth, I bought the Lord of the Rings films during the Black Friday sales and watched them back-to-back-to-back this weekend.  I’d NEVER seen them before and still haven’t read the books, but wanted to get an idea of Tolkien’s bigger picture before seeing The Hobbit in theaters.  Loved the movies and thought they were properly made epics showcasing so much talent from all the creators involved.

Off to the Shire you go!

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Another book knocked off my Classics Club list!

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A Sword of Storms Journal – Part 2 (SPOILERS)

The story is moving so much quicker than the previous two books or maybe it’s just better told.  Loving it so far.  I think these journal entries will be posted every Friday for the next 15-16 weeks.

This journal includes 5 chapters and covers pages 62-119.  Let’s jump right in!

Sansa:

As we all know, Sansa’s been pushed aside as Joffrey’s bride – replaced with Margaery Tyrell, Renly’s widow.  She receives an invitation to sup with Margaery and her family as a pre-wedding celebration and doesn’t know what to make of it.  She’s pretty much frightened of her own shadow at this point and can you blame her?

When the supper day arrives, Loras Tyrell shows up at her door to escort her to the feast.  He seems pleasant enough until Sansa mentions some men he had the misfortune to recently slay and he gets a bit moody.  Luckily, they reach the feast and Sansa is handed over to Margaery who seems quite friendly.

Sansa is introduced to the other Tyrell women present – most importantly Lady Olenna, Margaery’s grandmother.  She’s nicknamed the Queen of Thorns – could be a good thing or a bad thing – not sure.  She’s a hoot and a half.  What transpires during supper is an invitation for Sansa to visit Highgarden and marry the oldest Tyrell boy, Willas, who Margaery swears is kind and gentle.  He is, however, a cripple.  And how much can Sansa really trust these people?  She agrees to head to Highgarden if Lady Olenna can convince Cersei.

I’m not sure what to make of the Tyrells and Lady Olenna – are they good or bad?  They seemed honorable.  They asked Sansa about Joffrey’s true nature and made sure that no spiders in their little webs could hear her answer.  Obviously, they are on their own side at the end of the day – but they seem to want to ally themselves with the Stark family.  Or maybe they just want Sansa removed?  Not sure.  A bit worried.  But a great scene and one I hope to see in the show.

Perhaps Sansa will choose to escape with Dontos instead?  Can he be trusted?  Oh dear.

Jon:

Jon is my favorite character.  I now consider him my husband beyond the wall.  That’s right, don’t judge me.  Anyway, so excited for his story line.

Jon is now playing double agent amongst the Wildling forces.  They have almost arrived at Mance Rayder’s camp.  Jon is doing his best to watch and observe these strange people.  He notes that they really do seem to be free.  While they have leaders, they are free to voice their opinions, talk back, and do as they please for the most part.  He also notices that they camp very loosely – without a lot of protection.  He decides they lack  military discipline which leaves them extremely vulnerable and easy pickings in battle.  Or do they just have scary Others protecting their ass, Jon?  Be careful my pretty one.

Ghost is not winning over many friends.

Ygritte puts her hand a little too highly on Jon’s thigh.  In Season 2, the show really played up the flirting between Jon and Ygritte – well, more like her baiting and goading him with his virginity, but it was cute.  The book hasn’t much done that yet.  I mean, I thought Ygritte was old and scary while first meeting her in the books.  When I saw her in the show, I wondered if I had actually missed the description and signs of their impending ‘sexcapades’.  That hand on his thigh might indicate that I was a lousy reader.

Finally, they take dear Jon to Mance’s kingly tent where he meets the ‘court’ so to speak.  He mistakes an earless warrior for Mance which makes everyone chuckle.  Manse is actually the skinny dude singing the little song that Jon completely ignored.  Fascinating.

Mance and Jon sit down and share some stories.  I love Mance already.  I want to be a Wildling now.  I get the sense that Jon likes him too, but knows this man would kill his family in a heartbeat so he works hard to convince Mance of his turncoating ways.  Mance reveals that he’s met Jon twice!!!  Didn’t see that one coming.  First, when he was just a little boy and Mance was a young Watchman.  Then when King Robert visited Winterfell to ask Ned to be Hand.  WHAT?  Mance blended in with the King’s men, ate the Stark food, drank their mead, and had a jolly good time of it.  He wanted to scope everyone out.  Well played, Mance.

After swapping desertion stories (Jon claims to be deserting because of how he was treated as a bastard), Mance welcomes him with a handshake.  I am terrified for Jon.  I cannot wait for Season 3.

Other bits – Mance has a Wildling love named Dalla who is pregnant with his child.  The Night’s Watch have a much closer relationship with the Wildlings than they’ve previously let on.

Daenerys:

In A Game of Thrones, Dany was a favorite, but fell from grace a bit in A Clash of Kings.  Her story just kind of fell flat.  To be honest, I preferred the very different events of her escapades in Qarth from the tv show.  In fact, I’m pretty fuzzy on the details from the book.  I’m hoping she gets a better treatment this time around.

She’s on Illyrio’s ships, sailing for Pentos with his men.  She’s happy as a clam on the water and loves watching her dragons grow.  Jorah is not so happy.  He smells danger from Illyrio’s men.  But Dany just giggles and ignores him.  Finally Jorah beseechers her to test their faith by switching course, sailing for the slaver islands, and buying an army of Unsoiled that will be loyal to her.  He plays Dany like a fiddle and she immediately agrees.  Dany is quick to trust and too open to persuasion by others.  I’m still not sure how trustworthy Jorah is.

Then, of course, Dany is all naked and gets up to dress in front of Jorah.  He grabs her and takes advantage of her.  I mean, it was just a kiss, but she was half naked!  She enjoyed it, but felt it was not correct behavior for an exile knight towards his Queen.  Not sure what will be come of this.  I don’t want her with Jorah.

Interested to see how much the dragons are in season 3.  Will the CGI budget increase?  I hope so, HBO.  I missed those little guys.  Also, what will the writers/producers do about her handmaids?  They were killed off on the show, but not in the books.  At least, not yet.  Will she get new maids?  I want her to have female companions.  We shall see.

Bran:

Bran’s another one of those characters I’m not feeling too much at the moment.  Nothing seems to be happening with him whatsoever.  At the beginning of his chapter he’s inside Summer battling a pack of wolves for their spoils.  Hodor begins to wake him up, but he doesn’t want to leave Summer’s skin.

But awake he does and we discover that he’s taken refuge in an out of the way Tower’s vault.  It’s a relatively safe place with plenty of game to catch and eat.  Jojen wants to keep moving north so that they can find the three-eyed crow and Bran can continue his education – his mystical education, that is.  Bran whines like a little boy for a while, but then carefully considers his options and agrees to go.

Meera is a great huntswoman.

Looking forward to see how they cast Jojen and Meera in season 3.  Also, I don’t think Rickon and Bran split up on the show.  Wondering how this will play out.  I miss Osha.

Davos:

We rejoin Davos on his journey back to Dragonstone with revenge in his heart.  Upon his arrival, he learns Stannis sees no one and stays shut up with the sorceress Melisandre.  Davos cannot wait to cut out her heart, but he is oh-so-weak with a deathly cough.  I don’t think Davos is long for this world.

Determined, he heads to the castle’s gates and demands entry.  While he’s awaiting welcome, he is run into (literally) by Edric Storm, Robert’s bastard son.  Davos sees another contender for the crown in the young lad and his fear grows for Stannis’ future.

The Queen’s men (those who follow the red priestess) appear and arrest Davos claiming they know he has arrived to kill the lady (I’m going to assume they mean Melisandre).  Poor Davos.  At least he knows his son Devan lives.

Why is Stannis, a military legend, so loyal to this evil, mystical bitch?  Is she evil?  I don’t like her and it bugs the shit out of me that a smart man like Stannis would fall under her spell.  Could he actually be under a spell?

I want the Onion Knight to survive!

Stay tuned for Part 3 next Friday!