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review 2017-12-12 04:35
Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit (Audiobook)
Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit" - Corey Olsen

Corey Olsen is the Tolkien Professor and has a great podcast where he discusses all things Middle-Earth. It was his podcasts for The Hobbit that first got my attention several years ago. It was slow going, about one or two a month, but it's not that long of a book, right? Well, then he got sidetracked. :D No harm, I got to listen to his brilliant lectures on The Silmarillion and hear some great live discussions about LOTR. Over the years, I lost track of him, but I'd think about his The Hobbit series from time to time. So when I saw that he'd compiled all his The Hobbit podcasts into one audiobook, I had to snatch it up. I originally intended to listen to his analysis instead of rereading the books - as I mentioned, it's not my favorite of Tolkien's works, but I still love the world and the mythology related to it, and somewhere buried under the narrative style is a great work of fiction. I just need someone as enthusiastic about it as Professor Olsen to help me see it. 

 

He does one analysis per chapter, following along with Bilbo's development over the course of the book and his various adventures, dissecting the songs and riddles, and highlighting all the themes and narrative devices. He also goes into the development of the dwarves, the elves and the various other characters they come into contact with. He mostly sticks to The Hobbit, but he ties it in with Tolkien's other works where appropriate. He breaks down each chapter into sections and subjects, and I think that even if you haven't read The Hobbit it'll be easy to follow along.

 

The only downside to this audiobook are the technical blips. None of the analysis is lost of skipped over, but there are quite a few instances of repeated lines. This could've used an extra pass through quality check. If you can overlook that - the repeated lines are very brief - then I would still recommend giving this a listen. It's great for those who love The Hobbit or, like me, love the world of Middle-Earth and enjoy discussing the events within the book even though the writing style and POV isn't quite to my liking.

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text 2017-12-12 04:16
Reading progress update: I've read 206 out of 356 pages.
The Ship Beyond Time - Heidi Heilig

I am really enjoying this book and the series as a whole, but OMG. How many nautical metaphors do you really need to cram into one paragraph?

 

. . . [tears] flooded in, too fast to bail.

. . . I shuddered like the ship in a storm.

. . . sobs struggled up through my chest like bubbles from a rift in the floor of the sea.

. . . I clung to her as though she were a raft.

. . . fragmented thoughts popped up like flotsam from a wreck.

 

And as a bonus, because in reading the three short non-nautical-themed sentences that close out the paragraph you might have forgotten the MC was raised on a sailing vessel, the first sentence of the next paragraph starts thusly:

 

Finally, the tide of my own tears ebbed

 

I don't know, people. I think Heilig could've crammed more in there. I mean, there were three whole sentences in the paragraph with no nautical metaphors. Maybe something about barnacles or lampreys or ocean currents or sea turtles. What do you think?

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text 2017-12-11 23:22
Reading progress update: I've read 391 out of 766 pages.
The Dragonbone Chair - Tad Williams

Tiny bits of memory come back to me as I'm reading this, though it's been at least 20 years, maybe 25 or more.

 

I spent the morning cleaning in the studio, scavenging many a quaint and curious scrap of half-forgotten fabric.  The place is still a complete disaster, but some frail bit of progress has been made.

 

Then I rewarded myself with a couple of hours of reading.  Uninterrupted. Unbothered.

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review 2017-12-11 22:36
Deadly Sting / Jennifer Estep
Deadly Sting - Jennifer Estep

Most people shy away from blood, but for an assassin like me— Gin Blanco, aka the Spider—it’s just part of the job. Still, it would be nice to get a night off, especially when I’m attending the biggest gala event of the summer at Briartop, Ashland’s fanciest art museum. But it’s just not meant to be. For this exhibition of my late nemesis’s priceless possessions is not only the place to be seen, but the place to be robbed and taken hostage at gunpoint as well. No sooner did I get my champagne than a bunch of the unluckiest thieves ever burst into the museum and started looting the place.

Unlucky why? Because I brought along a couple of knives in addition to my killer dress. Add these to my Ice and Stone magic, and nothing makes me happier than showing the bad guys why red really is my color.

 

I couldn’t resist another installment of Elemental Assassin—I need a regular supply of urban fantasy if I’m to be happy these days!

Estep continues to provide action-filled plots, consistent with the world of Ashland that she has created for our reading pleasure. Nevertheless, it’s the action between Gin and Owen that rivets the attention in book 8, as we wonder if these two star-crossed lovers will find their way back together again.

This time around, we see Gin doing the patient Griselda routine, while Owen tries to sort himself out. She’s not happy about it, particularly as it seems that Owen and his sister Eva seem to continually need her assistance to get out or stay out of the clutches of Ashland’s underworld. Owen is willing to accept the assistance, but not necessarily Gin.

Gin actually gets some self-reflection time in this book—time to realize that she does make very pragmatic, unromantic decisions mostly and that this may be hard for those closest to her to live with. But she certainly proves that she is a strong, independent woman—Owen may be “needing some space,” but she continues to run her restaurant, take courses, spend time with her friends, and defend herself from all the opportunistic villains who want to take her down!

With her sister Bria and her pals, Jo-Jo and Sophia Deveraux and Roslyn Phillips, we are definitely getting into Bechdel test territory. Certainly they do discuss the men in their lives, but plenty more besides that. That’s what I like to see—a woman realistically surrounded by supportive women friends who are there to listen, support, and help when they can! More of this, please, Ms. Estep.

P.S. All the Southern cooking got to me--I ended up making Cornmeal Cheese muffins half way through the book so that I could concentrate on reading again!

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review 2017-12-11 22:33
Magic's Promise / Mercedes Lackey
Magic's Promise - Mercedes Lackey

The wild magic is taking its toll on the land, and even Vanyel, the most powerful Herald-Mage to ever walk the world, is almost at the end of his strength. But when his Companion, Yfandes, receives a call for help from neighboring Lineas, both Herald-Mage and Companion are drawn into a holocaust of dark magic that could be the end of them both.

 

How wonderful to have a more mature and thoughtful Vanyel to narrate the second volume of this series. Not there is no angst, but it is dealt with in a much more adult way.

A depleted & exhausted Vanyel returns from the battle front, only to discover that his family insist on his presence at home—not the most restful place for the young man. His father is having difficulty accepting Vanyel’s sexual orientation and his mother frankly refuses to believe him, proceeding to push any and every attractive young woman at him. If that wasn’t enough, he has to deal with his former master-at-arms and the local priest, both of whom made his younger life miserable.

However, Vanyel is now a hero, his exploits sung about by the bards, and he & his companion, Yfandes, are called to rescue another young man & Companion during their visit. Demonstrating his magic, skill, bravery, and good judgement, Vanyel is able to start the healing journey for his family relationships.

Book number 268 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.

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