Dragons and Jetpacks, Top Lists

My Top Ten ‘Dragons & Jetpacks’ Books

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Back in 2012, at the same time that I started blogging, I founded a science fiction and fantasy book group on Goodreads, with two friends from university. After much debate, the group was eventually named ‘Dragons & Jetpacks’. We’ve somehow risen through the ranks of Goodreads groups, going from a very small group to almost 1400 members. We’ve been a featured group many times, and are lucky enough to have some really wonderful people, a core group of highly active members who love to chat about the wonders of SFF.

As a group, we elect one Fantasy and one Science Fiction book each month, and it is up to members whether they read one, both or neither. We also encourage members to organise Buddy Reads – often if a book has narrowly missed becoming Book of the Month, it becomes a Buddy Read. I’ve run three Buddy Reads for the group myself: Throne of Glass, Crown of Midnight and The Fellowship of the Ring – next up is The Two Towers.

Together we have read around 70 books over three and a half years, some of which I probably wouldn’t have even touched with the group’s recommendations. So I thought I’d share my top ten reads, all a result of the wonderful book group that I am proud to call my own. This only includes books that I read with the group, rather than books read previously that were then voted in as Book of the Month.

Vicious by Victoria Schwab Elantris

  • Vicious by V.E. Schwab – I CANNOT BELIEVE HOW LONG IT TOOK ME TO READ THIS. After reading Schwab’s fantastic A Darker Shade of Magic (another one of our picks, but one I read before the group did), I should have known I would love this. Recent reading has lead me to the following conclusion: I bloody love superhero stories.
  • Elantris (Elantris #1) by Brandon Sanderson – Ahh, my introduction to the wonderful writing machine that is Brandon Sanderson. Whilst this was a relatively short novel for fantasy, it felt so packed and huge and just typical Sanderson – so much enchanting detail, that you don’t want the book to ever finish.

The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie Red Rising

  • The Blade Itself (The First Law #1) by Joe Abercrombie – I also read this one really late, but that was due to myself and my copy of the book being in completely different countries. I’d say that was a pretty good excuse. That does not excuse me, however, from not having yet read books two and three.
  • Red Rising (Red Rising #1) by Pierce Brown – THIS BOOK THIS SERIES THIS AUTHOR. I died whilst reading this series. Several times. I had this on my Kindle for AGES, a copy from Netgalley that sat there for far too long – positively criminal. Anyway, after finally sorting things out and actually devouring this book in about two days, I read Golden Son (also a group pick, possibly the quickest voted sequel ever) almost straight after, and Morning Star as soon as I received an ARC. Still smug about that.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson

  • The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicles #1) by Patrick Rothfuss – If you’re looking for a fantasy epic, then you don’t need to look much further than this HUUUUGE book by Patrick Rothfuss. I just love it. Some people say that the books are too slow – we have also read book two in the series as a group, and several members did not like the pace – but I LOVE it. I love all the crazy detail, I have SUCH a good image in my head of how everything looks.
  • The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson – I am an official Sanderson convert, thanks to D&J. In fact I’m reading one of his books right now, and have… five others waiting on my shelf. This man is a GOD. I’m quite surprised we haven’t voted in the rest of the series as Books of the Month to be honest, this one was so loved by everyone.

Locke Lamora The Six Gun Tarot

  • The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard #1) by Scott Lynch – Maybe not QUITE the 5-star read I was expecting/hoping for, but still great. Some wonderful grimdark, also I love tales of thieves/assassins/guilds.
  • The Six Gun Tarot (Golgotha #1) by R.S. Belcher – This one was pretty different: a steampunk Western. It makes me think I really need more of those in my life.

Leviathan Wakes (Expanse #1) by James S.A. Corey The Night Circus

  • Leviathan Wakes (Expanse #1) by James S.A. Corey – I feel like this book was a huge success, not just because the group generally enjoyed it, but because my Dad also enjoyed it. He loves his science fiction but doesn’t read that often – mostly just on holidays. He took this one on holiday with him, finished it super quickly and immediately texted me to ask if I had book two. He’s even re-reading the books now…
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – I think this was the first book we read as a group, and it was really beautiful and enchanting. Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, and I feel like we haven’t read anything quite like it since – a lot of our fantasy has been the heavy epic type. But this was a stunning story, and very visual.

Have you read any of these books? If you’re a member of a book group, has it introduced you to some great reads like mine has?

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: March 2016

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Every first Wednesday of the month, I’ll be posting a roundup of the month just gone, and writing about what’s to come in the next few weeks.

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Last month I read a total of seven books: The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell, Poison Study (Study #1) by Maria V. Snyder, Us by David Nicholls, HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt, The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness,
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien and The Sisters of Versailles (The Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy #1) by Sally Christie.

March was a bit of a slower reading month, occupied mostly by my re-read of The Fellowship of the Ring. Being one of my favourite books of all time, this was of course the stand-out book of the month… but in terms of new reads, I would have to say the best book of the month was HEX. I’ll be taking part in the blog tour for it this month, so look out for that along with my review. The Bone Clocks was one of Dragons & Jetpacks Books of the Month, but it was seriously disappointing.

 

Challenge progress:

  • I read seven books towards the DC vs Marvel Challenge – every book read this month counted, and I also managed to defeat the villain, Poison Ivy. April’s villain is very apt, being the White Rabbit.
  • I have currently read 33 books towards my Goodreads goal.

 

Currently reading:

Powers
How was March for you?

Buddy Read

March into Middle-earth: The Fellowship of the Ring Buddy Read, Part Four

March Into Middle-earth

Alas, it is time for the fourth and final part of my reread/buddy read of The Fellowship of the Ring! If you’ve missed the previous discussions, you can find Chapters I – V here, Chapters VI – XI here and Chapters XII – XVI here. The buddy read is also taking place on my Goodreads book group, Dragons & Jetpacks if you’re interested in joining over there.

This discussion will cover Chapters XVII– XXII of The Fellowship of the Ring, and will contain spoilers for the book.

  • Only now can I link the Ori in The Hobbit with the Ori who kept histories in Moria. I think the films have helped me to remember more of the dwarves names.
  • It is stated that Oin was killed by the Watcher. Poor Oin. And Ori is that dusty old skeleton in Balin’s tomb, clutching the huge book that Gandalf picks up…
  • ori gif

  • GANDALF’S LAMENT NO NO NO. Even though I know he doesn’t die, I know he is reborn as Gandalf the White, the reaction of the Fellowship to his death is heartbreaking. And then the elves mourn Mithrandir – which was beautifully done in the film I must say, every time I hear that song I want to cry.
  • THE DWARF BREATHED SO LOUD WE COULD HAVE SHOT HIM IN THE DARK. Okay, it’s not written in quite the same way, but I liked how the film used a similar line and altered it into one that everyone remembers.
  • haldir gif

  • There is a seriously awkward moment where Gimli basically hits on Galadriel in front of Celeborn, and then there is a long silence:
  • “[Gimli] rose clumsily and bowed in dwarf fashion, saying: ‘Yet more fair is the living land of Lorien, and the Lady Galadriel is above all the jewels that lie beneath the earth!’

    There was a silence.”

  • Gimli again proves himself to be prime comic relief material by gobbling down an entire lembas bread in one go – which is pretty much three days worth of meals. How the boat didn’t sink after that, I don’t know.
  • Boromir. Oh Boromir. You break my heart. The moment when he realises what he has done after trying to take the Ring from Frodo just absolutely tears at my heart strings, even though I know it’s coming.

Thank you to everyone who took part in this read-along, or followed and commented on these posts!

lotr gif

Misc.

March into Middle-earth: The One Where Rinn and Claire Fangirl, Part Three

March Into Middle-earth

And we’re onto Part Three of the fangirl session! If you missed the previous posts, you can find Part One here and Part Two here. This is part of a series of posts of the two of us discussing Tolkien and all things Middle-earth. Although we are asking each other the questions, we’d love to know your answers to them too – leave your responses in the comments! I ended the last post with the following question for Claire:

Rinn: Now my next question for you: the musical score for the films, composed by Howard Shore, was such an important part of creating the right atmosphere. To me, it is perfect and completely sets the mood. Are there any other songs or pieces of music that remind you of Middle-earth or The Lord of the Rings?

Claire: I agree with you, in everything that you say (and you say it so eloquently as well!). I’d love the idea of that kind of magic, or that world as you say. The magic is in the earth and ground and how we read it and survive and live with it is key. Being from the Caribbean, an especially rocky, almost treeless place I can imagine our own version of this Middle-earth. We wouldn’t have forests or volcanoes or horse masters, but I can image island fiefdoms and oceans filled with magic. We’d have talking dolphin guides and yes- mermaids even!

But to get back on track, to answer your question: I loved the Lord of the Rings series soundtrack. I am a huge fan of movie soundtracks in general, I am planning to see Hans Zimmer in concert soon (April!) and would love to see something by Howard Shore as well. The soundtrack was a big influence for me in how much I loved the film series because it set that mood, it made that place so real and tangible to me. I have always been a fan for choirs, violins and dramatic drums and Shore totally uses them to his advantage here- especially in battle scenes!

This one always makes me cry. I get such goosebumps.

I’ve also been a lifelong Enya fan (I grew up with her music) and I thought she was the perfect choice for May It Be! Any Enya song will always remind me of this world- its potential and love of country. So whenever I hear a violin, piano or harp I have to imagine an Elf in a wood or Hobbits laughing in a country side. I don’t know a lot of songs like this but I’d love it if you shared any that inspired you or made you think of Lord of the Rings and Middle-earth!

Now, something I’d like to know (besides your LOTR music loves) is what you think of the art this series inspired. Artists have always been captivated by Tolkien’s world and I, myself, discovered many an artist through their LOTR pieces. There are some classically known artists like Alan Lee who illustrated the covers for an edition as well as doing the storyline art for the films and covers in the special extended editions. I AM A HUGE ALAN LEE FAN, but are there other artists or pieces inspired by Lord of the Rings that you like?

Rinn: First of all, SUPER jealous that you’re seeing Hans Zimmer! I’m a big fan of his, and film soundtracks in general, like you.

GANDALF FALLS NO NO NO. Now that I’m listening to it, I can perfectly picture that scene just after the Fellowship leave Moria, where it’s all in slow motion and we see Merry and Pippin sobbing, and Frodo turns slowly to the camera with a single tear rolling down his cheek. IT HURTS. Even though, obviously, we known Gandalf is fine. It was a beautifully acted, scored and shot scene.

My absolute favourite piece of music from the series is Concerning Hobbits, to me that is the ULTIMATE Lord of the Rings piece and just sums everything up. It’s gorgeous and peaceful and so wonderful. I also love any of the vocals, like when Pippin sings to Denethor, or others in the background – for example, the ‘Houses of Healing’ song is sung by Liv Tyler, who played Arwen, and of course Aragorn/Viggo Mortensen sings too. I like that the cast were involved in the music as well, it ties it all together nicely. And like you say, May It Be is gorgeous, as is Gollum’s Song and Into the West, the end title songs for The Two Towers and The Return of the King respectively. And if we’re venturing into other territory, all of The Hobbit end songs are awesome too – especially the final song of the trilogy, The Last Goodbye, which just makes me want to cry because it means it’s all over. Goodbye to various characters, goodbye to Middle-earth.

Frodo understands my feels.
Frodo understands my feels.

In terms of your question – I actually own a book entitled ‘The Art of Tolkien’ which shows just how much he has inspired artists all over the world. Some of my favourite pieces (apart from the great, great Alan Lee) include those by Dutch artist Cor Blok. The style is just so unique and all the characters look adorable. And on doing some more research, I have discovered that he actually lectured at my alma mater, the University of Leiden! I wish I’d known that when I was there. That just goes to show though, you can find links to Tolkien just about anywhere. Here is Blok’s illustration of the Mumakil:

Mumakil Cor Blok

And his version of Gollum is like a little duck, look!

image07

Aren’t they interesting and unusual? (Also Claire, this Gollum is less creepy 😉 ) But I have to say, Tolkien’s very own illustrations are just magnificent. That classic image of Smaug, that beautiful anniversary edition of The Hobbit – those are both his works. This means we get to see scenes exactly as Tolkien imagined them, which is not something you often get with epic fantasies. In fact the Bodleian Library sells postcards and posters with Tolkien’s illustrations on, and I really need to buy some…

My next question for you is: is there a moment in any of the books that feels completely pivotal to you? Perhaps it revealed a character’s true self, it changed the course of things, or was completely unexpected.

Claire will answer the next question in Part Four of our fangirling! If you want to answer any of the questions in this post, let us know your responses in the comments 🙂

Buddy Read

March into Middle-earth: The Fellowship of the Ring Buddy Read, Part Three

March Into Middle-earth

Welcome to the third part of my re-read/buddy read of The Fellowship of the Ring! If you’ve missed the previous discussions, you can find Chapters I – V here and Chapters VI – XI here. The buddy read is also taking place on my Goodreads book group, Dragons & Jetpacks if you’re interested in joining over there.

This discussion will cover Chapters XII – XVI of The Fellowship of the Ring, and will contain spoilers for the book.

  • I don’t fault Peter Jackson’s decision to add more urgency and speed up time, for example during ‘Flight to the Ford’. What is about 17 days in the book seems like less than 1 in the film, and it adds more excitement and peril – there’s not that much sense of Frodo’s life being in any particular danger otherwise.
  • I never noticed this before, perhaps because it only appears once and in passing – but Tolkien mentions that there are werewolves in Middle-earth. Are they linked to Beornings, the men who can turn into bears?
  • I forgot that Gloin was at Rivendell! It’s fun finding all the links between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. There are others too, like mentions of Bard the Bowman and Beorn.
  • It’s also funny to imagine the father-son dynamic between Gloin and Gimli. Gimli as the teenage son who is dragged, reluctantly, onto this road trip… and comes out of it as one of the Fellowship, as well as with a beautiful friendship.
  • tumblr_nhijatoHCf1t53etdo1_500

  • There’s also a mention of Bombur… and how he is now so fat that it takes six dwarves to lift him!
  • There was a bit of foreshadowing of what was yet to come in Moria, when it is mentioned that the dwarves do not know what has happened to Balin, Ori and Oin.
  • It was mentioned that Aragorn was not at the feast in Rivendell. My immediate thought was that he was… ‘catching up’ with Arwen, but it is later explained that he was in fact receiving news from Elladan and Elrohir, the sons of Elrond. Oh well.
  • There is a mention of Celebrimbor, one of the forgers of the One Ring, who is also a playable character in the video game Shadow of Mordor – one I’ve recently been playing. It’s quite fun to link the game into the book a bit more, rather than just the setting of Mordor and presence of orcs.
  • I remember skipping the chapter ‘The Council of Elrond’ on some read-throughs, and I now I remember why. It does drag quite a bit, and is packed full of exposition.
  • One of the bits that really made me laugh – the Council talk of how lucky it is that Gollum is safely locked away in Mirkwood, and then Legolas is like ‘Oh yeah by the way guys, he escaped! Whoops, lol’. Oh Legolas…
  • Probably what he was doing instead of sharing the important news.
    Probably what he was doing instead of sharing the important news.

  • Once again, time goes super slow and the Fellowship actually spend TWO WHOLE MONTHS in Rivendell.
  • One bit that completely disappear from my memory – the Fellowship fighting Wargs just before entering Moria! I remember this happening in the film of The Hobbit, but can’t think if it’s in the book. Was it lifted over?

How are you enjoying the book so far? Are there any parts within these chapters that you really loved?

Misc.

March into Middle-earth: The One Where Rinn and Claire Fangirl, Part Two

March Into Middle-earth

Time for Part Two of Rinn and Claire’s Mega Tolkien Fangirl Session! If you missed Part One, you can check it out here. This is part of a series of posts of the two of us discussing Tolkien and all things Middle-earth. Although we are asking each other the questions, we’d love to know your answers to them too – leave your responses in the comments! Claire ended the last post with the following question for me:

Claire: Do you see yourself in a character or especially fond of one? Also, do you have a fave. magical “creature” in that series?

Rinn: I actually get a little sad whenever I go past The Eagle and Child… it’s now owned by a chain and it’s not the same! 😦 It still looks awesome inside and out though, there’s loads of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis inspired art, but it doesn’t have that cosy pub feel to it that it would have had for them. Not that you could get away with smoking a Gandalf-style pipe in there anyway…

Okay, so I heartily agree here with #TeamSamwiseGamgee. He was the unsung hero of the whole thing, and I love how The Return of the King closed with him. Sam is just adorable, a typical Hobbit and not at all the kind of person you would expect for such a mission.

But at the same time, even though people go on about him whining, Frodo Baggins was damn brave. He didn’t have to do anything. He volunteered to take the Ring to Mordor, not even knowing where Mordor was or what it meant. Despite the Ring warping him and turning him against his friends, he still completed his quest – although of course, not without his Sam. You really can’t have one without the other. Frodo started it off, began the quest to get to Mount Doom, and Sam finished it by carrying Frodo up the mountain.

I pretty much have a soft spot for every member of the Fellowship, for various reasons. The dynamic between Gimli and Legolas is just something wonderful, the Hobbits add fantastic comic relief and ‘ground’ the story a little more, Aragorn is so noble without even trying and Boromir… oh, Boromir. My heart absolutely breaks when, after trying to take the Ring from Frodo, he realises what he has done. Sean Bean caught that moment so beautifully – the crack in his voice, the look on his face – and the fact that he dies less than a chapter later hurts so much.

THIS SCENE KILLS ME EVERYTIME. But not as much as Boromir. Hahaha- *sobs uncontrollably*
THIS SCENE KILLS ME EVERYTIME. But not as much as Boromir. Hahaha- *sobs uncontrollably*

As for a magical creature… the Eagles kind of felt a bit like a deus ex machina, plus they’re like super snobby in the book. Can I say my favourite creature is Bill the Pony? He may not be magical, but he was loyal and helped out the Fellowship – until he probably became a snack for the Watcher after being released just in front of the Mines of Moria. *sobs again*

What about locations – is there a place you’d love to visit? Or even live?

Claire:TEAM BILL THE PONY! TEAM BILL! YES! I totally agree with that! I actually like Smaug in all of his haughty dragon-ness. Trolls are funny because they are complete… well they’re absolute idiots.

I luff you, Bill.
I luff you, Bill.

I agree with you about Frodo actually, he won’t come to mind immediately me for a hero because it is so obvious that he is one. He did so much and wasn’t asked to do it, he had no obligation to take the ring and he did it out of pure love for his people and the Shire. I think that is amazing as well, and like you said Samwise and Frodo are the dynamic duo. They needed each other- Samwise needed to be prodded I think, he is a bit of a settler and Frodo needed someone to remind him of the light of the world. They worked well.

And don’t start me with Boromir, he was absolutely brilliant. When I read his chapter in the book I cried and cried, of all the characters to do I wish it hadn’t been him! I guess that there is some purpose to it, that it means something deeper and metaphorical but Boromir was the epitome of human: terrified, pressured and remorseful. In the end he died brave and he died repenting for his “sins” but ugh, all the feels.

But to answer your question about living: Shire hands down. Always the Shire. It’s near a forest which would be nice to pop into every now and then, I’m totally obsessed with Tom Bombadil and his darn yellow creme, honey and fresh white bread. Dammit, every time I read that passage I get so hungry. I think maybe that instead of living in Hobbiton in the shire, I’d also like to live closer to the Brandywine, with the Tooks and Brandybucks. It sounded like fertile land but also beautiful and being near the water, there is always fish/swimming to be had. Yes.

I would never, ever, ever live in a mountain. I dislike stone and dark and not being able to see the sun quickly. It is for that same reason I’d want to avoid being in a forest as well, as so many of the Elves seem fond of. Trees can choke out light and I’d rather be by them and not in them. No Bree, no Gondor. Nope, nope! No city of men, Dwarf or Elf for me. I’d visit the cities of Elves but never stay long.

This is a bit of a philosophical question, but with The Lord of the Rings, it seems a bit of a mythic or origin style story for the UK, again it just seems it in my eyes, but say Middle Earth was real but that our current present and lifestyles were also real, how would magic survive in your opinion? Where would it show? Or would it fade completely? Would any Elves be left? Dwarves? Would there be the Wizards? Hobbits? Would anything of that magic and fantasy exist?

Rinn: #AlwaysTheShire too. I just read the first chapter of FotR last night and it makes me so happy. All those jolly Hobbits in their beautiful Shire, with their cosy lifestyles. Gimme! So you’d be one of those unusual Hobbits that swims, eh? 😉

Actually I’d pretty much give exactly the same answer as you. No no NO to a mountain or cave, no dark enclosed spaces, thank you. And I’d like to be by a forest, but not constantly inside it. Although Lothlorien’s flets are pretty awesome. HOWEVER my second choice of a place to live would be Rohan, because of that Viking-inspired architecture, and the whole society built around horsemanship. Edoras is gorgeous, rising up out of the flat plains with Meduseld at the very top. Love love love it.

As for your question – the thing is, the magic is Middle-earth is not always obvious. We don’t actually see that much of it. Sure, there’s the One Ring. But the only other obvious sources are Gandalf and Saruman, who we don’t actually see using it very much, and perhaps Galadriel. I guess it’s more about the magic within objects than people.

If it were in our world, I think we wouldn’t see it in built up areas and cities – just like the lack of obvious magic in somewhere like Bree or Rohan. Or maybe there’d be an underground following – a secret magical London or whatever. I could see it definitely surviving in the countryside. My home county is actually one of the ones that inspired Tolkien when creating the Shire, and to me it is a truly magical place. That’s why I could definitely see magic surviving in the countryside, where it could be hidden away, where all these beautiful places are just around the corner and you don’t even know.

As for all the different races, I love the idea of them all living in our world. I’m not sure all of them would cope but… imagine a business meeting with a variety of besuited Hobbits, Elves and Dwarves! Elves as park rangers, Dwarves as miners or caving instructors, Hobbits as chefs or pub owners… Or if the story took place in our world, something like this…

image01

Or, you know, this every day scenario…

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Now my next question for you: the musical score for the films, composed by Howard Shore, was such an important part of creating the right atmosphere. To me, it is perfect and completely sets the mood. Are there any other songs or pieces of music that remind you of Middle-earth or The Lord of the Rings?

Claire will answer the next question and continue our chat in the next part of the post, same time next week! 🙂 Let us know your responses to any of the questions in the comments.

Buddy Read

March into Middle-earth: The Fellowship of the Ring Buddy Read, Part Two

March Into Middle-earth

Welcome to the second part of my re-read/buddy read of The Fellowship of the Ring! I discussed Chapters I – V last week. The buddy read is also taking place on my Goodreads book group, Dragons & Jetpacks if you’re interested in joining over there.

This discussion will cover Chapters VI – XI of The Fellowship of the Ring, and will contain spoilers for the book.

  • OH GOD NOT THE OLD FOREST. It brings back horrible memories of trying to navigate that place on Lord of the Rings Online. It’s a horrible, horrible maze that you get lost it and can never leave.
  • That eternal question – who is Tom Bombadil, really? He knows EVERYTHING, he says he was there long before the elves, the Ring has absolutely no effect on him when worn and he does not seem to be tempted by it. I know there is a theory that he is one of the gods of Middle-earth, and the Lord of the Rings Wiki has other theories too, but whatever he is, he’s certainly interesting. If he is a god, I’m glad he doesn’t interfere with the quest any further than making sure the Hobbits manage to get past the Old Forest and Barrow Downs. It’s interesting to note that his Sindarin name was Iarwain Ben-adar, which means ‘Oldest and Fatherless’.
  • I was actually considering the fact that there is something odd about Tom Bombadil, and not necessarily a good kind of odd. Then I found this theory that says he could in fact be the most evil force in Middle-earth. What do you think?
  • The Barrow Downs would have been pretty wonderful to see in the films, and ever so creepy, but they would have required the character of Tom Bombadil to be included. I think the reason he was left out is because no-one knows who he truly is, and those who just watched the films and had not read the books might not have understood this, and thought it was something to exclude those who had skipped reading the books. In addition to some of those scenes perhaps not being entirely necessary, and the need to cut down a large book into a 2 1/2 hour film.
  • prancing pony gif

  • It takes the Hobbits around three chapters, or fifty pages, to reach Bree from the Shire. This feels slow when you consider how much the film condensed this time down. But it also makes a lot of sense, because the journey needed to feel urgent and perilous. The book gives us more time to ‘explore’ Middle-earth through the hobbits’ eyes, and hear some of their travelling songs. I love it, but I understand why it was reduced.
  • Oh, Barliman Butterbur. You lovable idiot.
  • We don’t even meet Strider/Aragorn until Chapter IX. And of course, the rest of the Fellowship later on.
  • ‘No, I don’t think any harm of old Butterbur. Only he does not altogether like mysterious vagabonds of my sort.’ Frodo gave him a puzzled look. ‘Well, I have a rather rascally look, have I not?’ said Strider with a curl of his lip and a queer gleam in his eye.

  • Look at the quote above, AKA Aragorn knowing that he rocks the scruffy look. What a man.
  • Alright, no need to get cocky.
    Alright, no need to get cocky.

  • All the geography of Middle-earth is so familiar from playing Lord of the Rings Online. All of these areas that are mentioned perhaps once in the books, are ones that you can actually visit in the game. It’s so wonderful reading about them and being able to picture them in my head.

How are you enjoying the book so far? Are there any parts within these chapters that you really loved?

Misc.

March into Middle-earth: The One Where Rinn and Claire Fangirl, Part One

March Into Middle-earth

I’m so, so excited to host a wonderful guest on the blog today… my lovely friend Claire from Bitches with Books! The two of us pretty much clicked instantly when we discovered we were both museum geeks, and we’ve met up several times in real life, and plan another meeting soon. I decided Claire would be the perfect person to geek out over Tolkien with, so over the course of March, I’ll be sharing posts of the two of us discussing Tolkien and all things Middle-earth.

Rinn: Claire, thank you so much for joining me for this! I’m so excited to discuss Tolkien with a good friend and fellow lover of all things Middle-earth. So my first question is… what initially drew you to Tolkien’s works?

Claire: Well hallllooooo there Rinn, this is so exciting! Y’all wouldn’t believe the squeal I let out when Rinn asked me to do this, but to answer your first question- what did draw me to Tolkien’s works? I’d have to say my mother actually. I’ve always been very bookish and when my mother noticed I loved reading she bought me a set of classics, which I unfortunately couldn’t stand (I really tried to like them but just couldn’t!). When I was a teen I was haunting the fantasy section at the Barnes and Nobles during a holiday (after developing a solid addiction to fantasy because of Harry Potter and Eragon), and my mother came by and saw me looking at Lord of the Rings and she made a very sour face. Of all the classics, she didn’t like Tolkien’s works. So what does a teenager do? I went and bought the series and fell in love. I’ve not had a proper reread of it and I’m just doing so now- it’s so good to read them again! It feels like coming home. Oh, I will also admit that after I read the books and the films came out, I was extra-addicted. The adaptations might not be faithful, but they are good.

What I want to know is, how did you get into Tolkien, Rinn, and do you think his works have had an impact on your life? Beyond the literary as well I wonder.

If you say you 'don't need to read the book because you've seen the film', this WILL happen.
If you say you ‘don’t need to read the book because you’ve seen the film’, this WILL happen.

Rinn: Well as you know, I’ve always been a huuuge fan of fantasy fiction. I remember my mum buying me a graphic novel version of The Hobbit when I was perhaps 8 or 9, and I really liked it. Then a few years later I heard that they were turning The Lord of the Rings into a film, so I took it upon myself to read the books first – I was 10, and that’s pretty much when my Tolkien obsession began. I devoured the books, loved the films so much, bought ALL the merchandise I could find (I even had one of those massive cardboard cutouts they have in cinemas of The Two Towers on display in my bedroom). And then I was known all throughout secondary school for being obsessed with The Lord of the Rings. I’ve always been a big reader (duh) but LotR made me feel something I’d never felt before. It got me through those awkward teenage years, something familiar to come back to, it helped me through depression and not being able to cope with various changes to my life. I have previously written a post on why it is ‘my precious’ which I think explains it pretty well. I’ve now read it (almost) every year since I was 10, apart from the past two years – hence why I’m doing my re-read and making a big deal out of it this month! So, to summarise: MAJOR HUGE IMPORTANT LIFE CHANGING EVENT when I first picked up LotR. Such a massive impact on my teenage years and who I was as a person, as well as my reading/film etc tastes.

Also I’d just like to add that I WALKED PAST TOLKIEN’S OLD HOUSE TODAY. Bonus of living in Oxford. I may have freaked out a little bit when I noticed, but had to restrain myself because I was with a colleague. I’ll go back on my own one day…

So now my next question for you… is there a character from Tolkien’s works that you really love, or who you could compare yourself to?

Claire: When I first went to The Eagle and Child – the pub he’d converse with his fellow Inklings with, I freaked out. I felt like it was such a pilgrimage and such a beautiful thing, I almost got a bit weepy! If anyone is ever in Oxford you have to go to The Eagle and Child, you have to!

To answer your question, I don’t think that there is a character that I can compare myself to (it’s not one of those novels for me for some reason). I do like the race of Hobbits, I like their lifestyle- I am overly fond of food, sort and a tad hairy myself so I think I’d fit right in. I love forests and gardens as well. I also see a bit of Gimli in me, the sheer stubbornness of it all but to dwell in the dark and dry of a deep mountain, I could never do that. I will say that when it comes to loving a character, I have a strong fondness for Samwise Gamgee, I think he’s the real Original Gangster of the entire Lord of the Rings series. Why?

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  1. He did so much and hardly ever-in fact never- asked for anything in return. He got told to go on this journey and out of sheer loyalty went along with it. If Gandalf told me to go with Frodo I’d have laughed and sprinted right back out that door. Nope and nope and nope.
  2. He was uncommonly brave. He doesn’t have “bravado” or “machismo” but he never ran from a fight, he stayed his ground even though he was terrified, he never left Mr. Frodo’s side.
  3. He was also plenty darn smart. Again, not the loud or obvious kind, he was never GREAT at anything but good at so much and he had so much common sense. #TeamSamwiseGamgee

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Funny enough, I’m not a big fan of Tolkien’s elves, they are a tad cruel in my opinion and removed from everything in Middle Earth which I know is part of the point but that pisses me off. Why live in a place if you don’t involve yourself (as in 100% fully commit and I know not all elves were like that, just some)? Meh.

What about you, Rinn? Do you see yourself in a character or especially fond of one? Also, do you have a fave. magical “creature” in that series?

The next question will be answered in our next post, where our conversation and fangirling will continue! Let us know your answers to any of these questions in the comments 🙂

Buddy Read

March into Middle-earth: The Fellowship of the Ring Buddy Read, Part One

March Into Middle-earth

Welcome to the first part of my re-read/buddy read of The Fellowship of the Ring! This series of posts will most likely consist of four parts, split into two posts covering five chapters, and two posts covering six. The buddy read is also taking place on my Goodreads book group, Dragons & Jetpacks if you’re interested in joining over there.

This discussion will cover Chapters I – V of The Fellowship of the Ring, and will contain spoilers for the book.

  • Words cannot describe just how happy I was to re-read this book. From the very first chapter, I felt like I was at home. I have re-read the series almost every year since the age of 10, so it is so familiar – but I never get bored.
  • The opening with the Shire is just so perfect, instantly setting Hobbits up as country bumpkin folk, with a comfy, cosy lifestyle. A lifestyle that I WANT PLEASE AND THANK YOU.
  • One thing that got me thinking, and that I discussed a little with Claire over Facebook, is how do Hobbits make money? Obviously there are richer families, such as the Bagginses and the Brandybucks who seem to be the known, wealthy families of the Shire. But there are others like the Gamgees, who are clearly poorer. Sam and his father, the Gaffer, are both gardeners. In the first chapter we also see that there are Hobbit farmers, millers, barmen/maids, postmen and, later on, a mayor. I get the impression that a lot of Hobbits sustain themselves through farming and gardening, but they must have other sources of income.
  • I never really thought about the Mathom-house, as mentioned in the first chapter, but apparently it’s basically a museum of old and unwanted Hobbit gifts and items. Now that is one museum I’d definitely like to visit, just to learn more about Hobbit history and culture.
  • Some dwarves turn up before Bilbo’s party. Are they previous members of the Company? Obviously not those who died in The Hobbit, and perhaps not Balin, whose tomb the Fellowship visits later on in Moria (although there is quite a gap between the party and the Fellowship entering Moria, so he could be there), but are they old friends visiting? Or just delivering the dwarven-made birthday gifts?
  • Hobbits are in their ‘tweens’ between their 20s and the age of 33. That would make me a Hobbit tween!
  • One of the many reasons I'd be happy with a Hobbit lifestyle.
    One of the many reasons I’d be happy with a Hobbit lifestyle.

  • I forgot how beautiful the songs and poems that Tolkien added to the story are. I’m so glad they incorporated some of them into the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, even if they’re not always used in the same context.
  • This is something I picked up just by circumstance: the other day, I was walking between campuses at work, and went down Northmoor Road. I noticed a blue plaque on one of the houses, took a closer look – and it was Tolkien’s house! I was pretty excited to find that, maybe I’ll go back one day and take a picture. But it made me wonder if he named the North Moors, which only appear once or maybe a few times in passing, after the street he lived on.
  • The fact that Tolkien made up so many different languages, and went into so much detail about each one, always astounds me. His grasp of linguistics was seriously impressive.
  • I did notice that Tolkien often ignores that literary device of ‘showing, not telling’, and frequently has his characters narrate stories for the benefit of the reader and the other characters. I guess the problem here is that there is so much back story, that if he kept breaking off to narrate the history of Middle-earth and the One Ring, it might not work so well.
  • And another reason: SO GREEN AND BEAUTIFUL!
    And another reason: SO GREEN AND BEAUTIFUL!

  • With every line that was taken directly from the book and used in the film, I read in the voice of that character in my head, which was pretty fun!
  • This is hard to describe but LotR feels so easy to understand – I don’t know if it’s because it’s super familiar and I’ve read it so many times, or I’ve just read more ‘complicated’ fantasies lately. By complicated, I mean those with difficult names and an alternate word for EVERYTHING, where you basically need a glossary so you can double-check everything.
  • One thing I noticed was that, within the first few chapters, Sam said ‘Lor bless me!’ twice. This sounds like a very Christian saying, and kind of stood out in a book that is set in a world with its own, non-Christian deities.
  • If you’ve seen the film of The Return of the King, you might remember Pippin singing to Denethor as Faramir gallops into battle. The haunting song, called ‘Edge of Night’, is beautiful, but actually comes from Chapter IV of the book, and is in fact part of a walking song that the Hobbits sing as they make their way to Bucklebury Ferry.
  • I’m actually pretty glad that the Nazgul don’t speak in the same way in the film that they do in the book. They’re somehow scarier when they just utter a few words…

Phew! That feels like a lot of notes for just five chapters! What do you think of the beginning of the book?

Prose & Pixels

Prose & Pixels #13: Following the Fellowship, Part 2

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Prose & Pixels is a feature that combines two of my loves: books and video games. Here I’ll discuss all sorts of things to do with the two, whether it’s recommendations, influences or just a good old chat.

This particular topic is going to become a sort of sub-feature of Prose & Pixels. It is based on a Tumblr account I ran a few years ago, which is now closed. I want to show just how detailed The Lord of the Rings Online is, by illustrating excerpts from the book with screenshots from the game. I’ve previously spoken about how much detail the developers have added, including so many tiny features that you wouldn’t notice unless you looked closely, or other things that may only be familiar to the biggest fans. You can view Part 1 here.

The Party Tree

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“One morning the hobbits woke to find the large field, south of Bilbo’s front door, covered with ropes and poles for tents and pavilions…There was a specially large pavilion, so big that the tree that grew in the field was right inside it, and stood proudly near one end, at the head of the chief table. Lanterns were hung on all its branches.” — Chapter I: A Long Expected Party, The Fellowship of the Ring

The Party Tree is, as Tolkien wrote, just south of Bag End. Although there is no giant tent, the tree is decorated with lanterns and ribbons, as well as many smaller tents around it. And plenty of benches, food and drink, as well as hobbits eating, drinking, dancing and completely passed out from the excess… There’s even a small stage for players to use, as you can see in the last screenshot – with my hobbit Isolde dancing for the crowd. 😉

The Green Dragon

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“One summer’s evening an astonishing piece of news reached the Ivy Bush and the Green Dragon. Giants and other portents on the borders of the Shire were forgotten for more important matters: Mr. Frodo was selling Bag End, indeed he had already sold it – to the Sackville-Bagginses!”

The Green Dragon is the popular inn at Bywater that is mentioned several times in the book – it is clearly a popular place amongst hobbits. It is shown and mentioned in the films too – Pippin and Merry sing a song about the ale from the Green Dragon whilst dancing on a table. Players can sample the Green Dragon ale for themselves, although it can muddle your wits!

Have you ever played Lord of the Rings Online? Are there any particular locations you’d like me to find in the game?