Saturday, September 14, 2019

SO. EXCITED!!!

Perhaps it's because my books have been so uninspiring this year. Or perhaps it's just because I adore his books. But I just found out today that Philip Pullman's second Book of Dust is coming out on October 3.

The Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth.

Lyra is 20 years old. 

The couple reviews I saw all said it's amazing.

I made my coworker who orders fiction order it right away so I could put it on hold. I cannot wait for this book to fall into my hands. I'm so, so, SO excited! Now to muscle my way through my current reads.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien


Title: The Two Towers
Author: J. R. R. Tolkien
Pages: 398
Finished: September 10, 2019

First Sentence: Aragorn sped on up the hill

Summary: Beginning right where Fellowship left off, the story follows the various splits in the party. Merry and Pippin, kidnapped by Saruman's orcs manage to escape into the Fangorn Forest. Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas follow their trail in hopes of finding their companions. Frodo and Sam ally with Gollum in order to attempt to get into Mordor. And a mysterious white rider shows his face.

Thoughts: Due to the way the chronology works, I've already dipped into Return of the King, so I'll try to keep my thoughts focused on this book and its form.

First, the book is formatted in two parts. Part 1 is the story of Merry, Pippin, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli. Part 2 is the story of Frodo and Sam.

I was very wrapped up in the first six chapters of the story. I enjoyed seeing Merry and Pippin try to solve their issues. I love Treebeard and the Ents so much. I really like the Rohirrim. But then the Battle of Helms Deep happened... Good Lord was that dull. Once that was over, things picked up. I enjoyed the reunion of the hobbits with the "big folk." I will say, I was a bit sad for them that the hobbits were split again due to Pippin's curiosity. But go Pippin for being fairly strong.

The Frodo/Sam chapters were not quite as thrilling. The most exciting would be the bit where they meet up with Faramir. Faramir is lovely. And strong. I love Faramir. But the rest of it is really frustrating. There's nothing like seeing One person get totally snowed by someone and not listening to their friend. I found myself super frustrated with Frodo.

Still, I do love Sam and how loyal he is to his master.

Overall, Two Towers suffers from the fact that it's the middle of the story. Things have to stay in a weird stasis so they can be wrapped up in the conclusion.


Thursday, August 29, 2019

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan


Title: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
Author: Robin Sloan
Pages: 288
Finished: August 20, 2019

First Sentence: Lost in the shadows of the shelves, I almost fall off the ladder.

Summary: A millennial suffering from the Great Recession of '08 finds himself working for an eccentric old man in his eccentric used bookstore. Soon, our protagonist, Clay, discovers that this store is more than it seems. Clay, with the help of his friends and a computer uncovers a seeming cult.

Thoughts: First of all, I liked this. We read it for my family book discussion and my parents (as well as many other people in reviews) were fairly down on this book. It's an easy read. Easier than I usually choose for adult books. The story was simplistic and fairly predictable. Many people said it felt unrealistic, but to me it seemed like a typical adventure story. You have to suspend some of your disbelief for it to work. I was able to do that.

Many people complained that the protagonists friends had all the necessary skills needed to do what needed to be done. Again, that didn't bug me because I happen to know people who seem to "know people" who help them with shit. I figured Clay was one of those people who happens to be good at picking acquaintences with specialized skillsets.

Also, I like reading books about books. I know that's silly. I don't own a lot of books, and I get really annoyed at the reverential treatment of books, but I still really like books. So that was a bonus for me.

I guess the fact that I don't have much to say about this book would turn people off. Like I said before, it was a really nice break from what I've been reading. Easy, pleasant, quick... Fun. I wouldn't call it great reading by any account, but it wasn't bad.

Lastly, one of the biggest complaints I saw was that it's billed as an adult book but people felt like it was more of a YA book. It honestly felt like a weird in between. The main character is about my age. So almost like a "New Adult" or "Post-College" or even "Millennial" book. I don't know. Definitely worked for me.

Regarding the rest of my reading, this month has been largely taken up by the LoTR project and Daniel Deronda. It looks like, if I keep reading at the pace I'm working on, Deronda should be finished by end of September and LoTR by end of November. I'm also working my way through Emma at the moment which I hope to have done by first week of September. I'm excited about the rest of my books for this year. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Lord of the Rings August Check-In

Wow! Hard to believe I've read another 145ish pages in this challenge. This month took me through all but two chapters in The Two Towers and one chapter in Return of the King. There was a short stint in the Unfinished Tales as well, but nothing that added much to the story.

In the Two Towers we learned of the aftermath of Helm's Deep. Merry and Pippin reunite with Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn as well as Gandalf at Isengard. Sadly, Pippin's curiosity gets the better of him. He looks into the seeing stone thrown down from the Tower by Wormtongue. Gandalf takes him and rushes to Minis Tirith.

Here the point of view switches to Sam and Frodo. We learn they are not very good at navigating mountains, and so are forced to capture and use Gollum as their guide. The journey is long and Frodo seems to be suffering much. Luckily, the fall in with Faramir, brother to Boromir, in Ithelien. After some rest, and some food and drink, they're off to the route that Gollum wishes to take them. Faramir is unhappy about it, but Frodo says he has no choice. While there's more to the story, according to the chronology I'm following, I then switched to Return of the King.

Upon switching, we bring up Pippin and Gandalf. I'm going to be straight here. I was super disappointed that the beacons of Gondor were mentioned in about two lines. Out of all the scenes in The Lord of the Rings movies, the lighting of the beacons is my absolute favorite.

I'm starting to see the end to this giant undertaking, and it's quite exciting. I find myself enjoying the character interactions far more than the battle scenes. I know last month, I mentioned Helm's Deep just about made me quit. I'm concerned there will be a ton of battle scenes in Return of the King as well which might slow the whole process down. But all the character bits are quite fun. 

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie


Title: And Then There Were None
Author: Agatha Christie
Pages: 247
Finished: August 11, 2019

First Sentence: In the corner of a first-class smoking carriage, Mr. Justice Wargrave, lately retired from the bench, puffed at a cigar and ran an interested eye through the political news in The Times

Summary: Ten strangers accept an invitation to stay at a house on Soldier Island. Upon reacing the island, they are informed, by recording, that they have all committed grievous murders and will suffer retribution. As each guest reacts to said information, people start dying. It quickly becomes apparent the murderer is one of the guests.

Thoughts: My first experience with this story was in it's theatrical form. My high school put on "10 Little Indians" in the early Aughts. I'm happy to see the title has been changed to "And Then There Were None." I picked up the novel now because my husband and I will be seeing the play again this upcoming Friday.

In general, I found there was really only one character I remembered. I don't know if characters were changed in the play or if that one just really stuck out to me. The character "stung by a bee," was the one I remembered.

I'm not much of a mystery reader, but I'll admit I couldn't put this down. I read it in the car as we road tripped up to a wedding. Suffered beastly motion sickness as a result, but it was worth it. The red herring completely caught me and tripped me up.

I liked the addition of the rhyme. I kept trying to figure out how that would play in (the bear in particular being a tricky one) to the deaths. And most of those I actually did have correct from what I remembered from the play.

Out of the two Agatha Christie books I've read, I prefer this one to Orient Express. I'm also really looking forward to the play on Friday! 

Revised Reading Goals

First and foremost, I have two book reviews that need to be written up. Likely they'll happen by the end of this week, possibly even today.

This year, I've been super uninspired by most of my books this year. I don't know if it's due to the order I decided to read them in or something else, but I've made little progress on most of my reading goals. Instead of saying, "Welp. Guess I'm going to fail and that's that." or buckling down and doing nothing but reading, I've decided to look at said goals and revise them for something that will make the back half of the year more fun for me reading wise.

  1. Read 45 Books - I've decreased this number by seven. Likely I'll hit 52, but I don't want to be so beholden to the number.
  2. Finish my Lord of the Rings in Chronological Order project - Keeping this as is. I'm enjoying my LOTR reading every month. It's what I tend to start the month with. Also, once I finish this challenge, I can declutter some books that I don't need (we currently have two copies of the Hobbit and the Trilogy. For this specific project, I've kept them because there are things written in the margin but I don't need them later.)
  3. Back to the Classics - I'm going to change my goal to reading 9 books off this list rather than all 12. I've managed 6 and have three more from my original list that I'm excited about. The other three are books that I want to read, but I keep putting them off for one reason or another.
  4. To Be Read Challenge - I'm changing my goal to reading only 3 books from this list. Like Back to the Classics, I want to read the books I've chosen, but they're getting pushed down for other books I want to read more. And I don't want to end my year with books I didn't want to read!
  5. Newford Part 1 - Keeping this the same. I've been enjoying these books. 
  6. Austen Challenge - Keeping the same. 
  7. Year of Wonder - Deleting entirely. I love listening to the music, but there's been some other mental health tracks I've been listening to instead during the time I'd be doing this. I still listen to the music when I have the time, but I'm more focused on the other tracks. 
I've already gone through my various lists and decided what books I'm going to focus on. That comes out to 17 books between now and the end of December. On top of that, I have plenty of other books from said lists so that if I now end up whipping through these, I have more to read as I want. 

Monday, July 29, 2019

LOTR July Update

I got through chapter 9 and am now back on track with this challenge!

I mentioned in my Fellowship Review that I didn't make it through reading these last time I tried. Two Towers is where I failed last time. More specifically, Chapter 7: Helm's Deep is where I quit last time. How do I know? I almost quit this time too. So much battle and I just don't care. 

Chapters 1 - 6 were really entertaining though. I particularly enjoyed the bits with the Ents. Don't be hasty. I whipped through those so quickly... and then Helm's Deep... 

And then I finished chapters 8 and 9 fairly quickly.

I did appreciate the banter between Gimli and Legolas. I thought the kill counts were made up for the movies and was pleasantly surprised to find them in the text!

On another note, I've started playing Dungeons and Dragons again. (Last I played I was in high school. Now I'm the DM.) I can really see how much these books influenced Gary Gyrax when he developed the system. I'm still at the point where I read the Players Handbook over and over and over to try and keep the ideas in my head. The other day I had just read an Aragorn heavy passage in the Two Towers. That night, I was reading up on Rangers in the Players Handbook and realized that all the feats and skills etc are exactly the things Aragorn was doing in the book. The Woodelves are clearly Legolas. The best example was in our game, one of my players, a dwarf, was busy talking about rocks. Waxing poetical about rocks in such a way that he failed a perception check. A couple nights later, I read about Gimli waxing poetical about rocks. 

I only spent a little time in Unfinished Tales of Middle Earth this time. They were mainly more information on the battles at the Fords of Isen that happen between Theodred and the Orcs of Saruman. Might be nice for the one who really wants to know everything, but not necessary for me.