The Coziest Fantasy Novels When You’re Snowed In.

The snow is falling, it’s too early to shovel, and you’re stuck in the house. The perfect time to go to a whole other world. I mean, that’s what fantasy novels are for, right?

Maybe you’re cold, tucked under layers of clothes and blankets, and sitting around your heater. You’re in that state that comes with blizzards, halfway between wakefulness and cozy relaxation. You’re awake but if you laid down now it might be the best nap you’ve ever taken.

Perhaps you’re not in the mood for the bleakness of certain fantasy novels such as George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire or Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law series. Fantasy’s not known for its coziness but it has its moments.

Before it becomes darker in the later volumes, Harry Potter’s first three books The Philosopher’s Stone (or The Sorcerer’s Stone), The Chamber of Secrets, and The Prisoner of Azkaban lean more towards children’s novels then the latter. Before Harry discovers the dark side of the Wizarding World and his past he gets to see the light side like a cup of warm hot chocolate.

But you’re all grown up, and you’ve already read through those enough times that you need something new. While Brandon Sandersons’s Mistborn and Stormlight Archives are much more intense, his debut novel Elantris unravels the mystery of its world more slowly. The story crecendos with the right amount of action perfect for reading with a single lamp with a blanket wraped around you.

Neil Gaiman’s American Gods seems like it was written for getting snowed in. It’s a road trip across America and across the mytholigical landscape of the past. With Norse mythology involved you know they’ll be snow.

Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind can be harsh, but not intense the same way grimdark novels can be. It’s more melancholic than grim. There’s a sadness to it that you can appreciate sitting down at your kitchen table after shedding your snow boots and warm your hands back to normal temperature.

Maybe you want a bit more adventure and a lot more snark. After shovelling your driveway you can laugh at Sam Sykes’ characters constant quips. The pacing is slow, but the story never bores you. It’s part of what’s great about Sam Sykes’ style of writing, he takes in time developing his plot and letting his characters breathe like real people.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings always felt like the perfect for books to read during a snow storm.  It has that feel of a classic novel or of a story being read to you by a parent.

Then when you’re done, if you’re shivering in your home, then you can pick up A Game of Thrones and start reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Love “Game of Thrones?” Thank “unfashionable” Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, who went against the grain and conquered pop culture (via Instapaper.)

“The Inklings were different. They clung by their fingernails to the past, to old languages and old books and old-school habits and values. They could be cranky geezers — beer drinkers who wore tweed, refused to admit women to their ranks and recited Anglo-Saxon poetry for fun. They expected to be ever-more marginalized and sneered at, although they did fight like hell to keep Oxford from updating its syllabus to included such new-fangled entertainments as Victorian novels. Still, they assumed that they’d lose eventually. They were so unfashionable! So how did they end up taking over popular culture?”

“Yet Tolkien, and to a lesser degree Lewis, arguably have a bigger foothold in the early 21st-century imagination than Carroll, Wilde or some fictional police inspector. Why should that be? Surely one of the best explanations so far has been advanced by the academic and Tolkien scholar T.A. Shippey, who believes that Tolkien drew forth the long-submerged mythic past of the Anglophone world by means of his deep, historical knowledge of the English language.”

“The standard sophisticated take on this fantasy is that it’s childish and escapist, that it posits a past that never existed. And that’s true — Tolkien, who regarded the modern, industrialized world as a hellscape ravened by soulless machines (he hated cars), happily copped to the escapism bit. “Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home?” he retorted.”

“Is it any wonder, then, that it isn’t the modernists, those poets of disintegration and speed and fleeting solitary experience, that readers keep returning to, but these fusty holdouts and abstainers, the guys who said, “We’d prefer not to”? Being Christian was just one of their ways of putting on the brakes, and it’s far from obligatory — let alone the central secret to their appeal. None of us gets to live in the Shire, but we haven’t lost our appetite for the kind to stories that are told there. Those stories are still the ones that feel the most like home.”

Love “Game of Thrones?” Thank “unfashionable” Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, who went against the grain and conquered pop culture

May 31, 2015 at 04:08PM

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First Impressions of The Hobbit: Battle of (the) Five Armies.

Right off the bat you are going to be entering spoiler country for the movie which premiered last night / today.

Last chance before spoilers.

Last chance before spoilers.

The biggest complaint everyone has had about the Hobbit movies in general has been either 1) It’s bloated 2) It’s different from the book 3) Too much CGI and 4) It’s not The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I don’t have any of these problems with the movie. I don’t think it’s bloated because I left this movie wanting more. I don’t care that it’s different from the book, I already own the book. The CGI is a bit much, I’ll agree with that but ultimately hasn’t stopped me from enjoying the movie. Lastly, I don’t think The Lord of the Rings trilogy is perfect either. In fact, there are some things I like better than in the original.

That’s the movies as a whole but the subject of this post is the third movie. I refuse to add that extra the before Five Armies so please excuse me. I’m going to use a system of what I liked, what was so-so and what I didn’t like.

What I Liked

Martin Freeman’s Bilbo, who is revealed to have taken the Arkenstone during his confrontation with Smaug, steals every scene. He’s the voice of reason where Gandalf fails to be and as the hobbit of the Hobbit he brings the everyman perspective to this giant world of lords and kings.

The final fight between Azog and Thorin on the ice. They did a good job of amping up the threat of Azog from the first movie and mostly absent appearance in the second movie. The two felt evenly matched to me where I thought it was going to be rather one sided.

The purpose of why Sauron wants the Lonely Mountain and his hope of returning the kingdom of Angmar to power. I don’t know if it’s accurate to the geography of Middle-Earth but I did find it really interesting. In addition to this, the appearance of the nine men who received rings of power was fantastic. As minions of Sauron to have armor that was like his but suited to each individual one was a thrill to watch.

In the same scene, from Galadriel’s use of her ring of power to watching Saruman and Elrond take on the nine ringwraiths was one of those “We never get to see this, I am so glad we’re seeing this” moments.

I was also joyfully surprised how much of the siege of Erebor and Bilbo’s involvement with manipulating Thorin for peace wasn’t change all that much.

Bard too was a breath of fresh air, much more of a leader and doomsayer akin to his book version than I believe he was in Desolation of Smaug.

Lastly, a part of the movie I swore was going to be cut, the auctioning of Bag End made it into the movie with a cameo by Lobelia Sackville-Baggins and the company Grubb, Grubb, and Burrows.

What Was So-So

The opening scene that led to Smaug’s defeat at the heads of Bard the Bowman was great but I felt like it should have been the ending of the last movie rather than the beginning of this one. I understand why they put it at the beginning of this one but the ending of the second wouldn’t of felt so abrupt.

Also, the death of the Master. Why was Stephen Fry killed off so quickly? Seemed kind of a waste to me.

What I Didn’t Like

Not enough Bilbo and this is in part due to the ending. Far too abrupt for my taste, which I am sure they did in response tot he complaints of Return of the King’s ending. There was no Bilbo being named Elf-friend after returning those jewels to Thranduil. There was no return visit to Beorn’s house. There was no return to Rivendell, where Bilbo would have Sting’s elf runes inscribed on it.

That weird transformation Galadriel went through in fighting back Sauron looked awful. I liked what she was doing but not how she did it. Also, why did Galadriel become suddenly weak but Elrond and Saruman were fine? Don’t say because she used up her power to heal Gandalf because Sauron clearly says to her that she was losing power before that. Thirdly, I was really hoping Galadriel was going to come in with badass armor. She knows how to fight, she isn’t just this wafting faerie with superpowers. When she finally starts acting badass they just screwed it up by giving her this weird dark aesthetic. It did not work for me at all.

One thing everyone can agree on, why did the character of Alfred get so much screen time? If anything he should of been killed by Smaug and his character replaced by the Master. That would of been more in line with the book and Stephen Fry is a very talented actor who would of made a much better comic relief than whoever Alfred was played by.

I didn’t completely hate the Dragon sickness, it is a part of the book I had hoped they would explore but it took up too much screen time. I liked the choice of Thorin starting to sound like Smaug but that scene, and the one where he finally snaps out of it went on for too long in my taste.

A realization that I had during this film about Azog, Bolg and the orcs in this trilogy is that I don’t like the choice to have them only talk in black speech at all. Orcs from Mordor spoke in Westernesse (English or whatever language you’re reading the book in) why do these orcs only speak in another language? I understand why, I just don’t think it was a good choice for all three movies.

Again, I said this in my Desolation of Smaug review but while most people feel tacking on Tauriel was unnecessary I feel Legolas is the part that should be cut. A lot of it was either bad or worthy of being cut in my eyes. The drama with his dad, the information about his mother, the fight with Blog all would of been parts of the movie that I edited out.

In fact, I think Tauriel character serves as a far better foil to Thranduil than his son does. She’s a lower class elf, in the elf king’s eyes, who could of shown him the error of his ways. Instead, Legolas just buts in to prevent her death. The only part I enjoyed with the character was his shooting the orcs in Thorin’s path from the tower, and him giving Orcrist to Thorin to save his life.

Lastly, and this harkens to the ending again, there’s no resolution for so many characters. What happens to Saruman when he says “leave Sauron to me”? Are we just supposed to assume he does something? So Radagast was on top of the eagles, and that’s all we get? No explanation to why he isn’t in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. We don’t get to see the burial of Thorin, Kili, and Fili. We get no resolution with Tauriel. Everyone’s already complaining about the movies feeling bloated, that’s never stopped Peter Jackson before. Now suddenly, he’s had a change of heart and tried to make the ending as brief as possible leaving the ending very unsatisfying as far as my opinion is concerned.

Hobbit sized editions of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

Yesterday I received in the mail my pocket sized copies of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings pictured here:

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Also here:

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The outside feels like this faux leather that bends easily like rubber but seems like it could take a lot of abuse.

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Since they are pocket sized of course the writing is small but the type is equal to any hardcover or paperback edition. In fact, it looks almost exactly the same like they were originally larger and went through a shrink ray.

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In fact, I was surprised to find The Return of the King still included the appendices and the index.

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As far as fitting into my pocket is concerned, it fits about as well as an iPhone 6+. They’re definitely not meant for small pockets or tight jeans but fit nicely in the pockets of my coats, sports coats and blazers.

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They’re a nice edition to my collection and I plan on annotating them to death. If you’re buying these books for the first time though I don’t suggest them.

A Word on the Desolation of Smaug – Extended Edition Trailer

The blu-ray for the extended edition of The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug comes out November 4th in the United States. My copy will hopefully arrive that day but in the meantime here’s a trailer that offer two major bits that got axed from the theatrical edition.

First of all, though he looks a little tall to me in the trailer, that is Thráin, Thorin’s father, confronting Gandalf in Dol Goldur and shouting that Thorin must never enter Erebor. Finally, after getting a name drop in the extended edition of An Unexpected Journey perhaps what has happened to the last dwarven ring of power will be explained. Also, with the jumbling of time Jackson has done I can’t wait to see how he explains Gandalf getting the key and map from Thorin’s father before they’ve actually met in Dol Goldur, that being originally how he got it in the books.

Second, there’s Beorn, barely even in the theatrical release it seem, and this is just my guess, most of what was cut from the film involves Beorn. Before the release of the film there was talks of Beorn hunting down orcs at night to corroborate Thorin and Gandalf’s story. The other part seen in this trailer involving Beorn is in his garden with him chopping wood, possibly for a scene of exposition between Gandalf and Beorn or perhaps the introduction of the dwarves and the telling of what has happened to them so far just as in the books. Also, it looks like a scene in the forest involving Beorn and Gandalf is included as well. It could be possible that Beorn escorts Gandalf part of the way to Dol Goldur considering that the wizard has one of his horses.

Also in the trailer, besides reiterating what was in the theatrical release are scenes involving a conversation between Thorin and Bilbo upon arriving in Laketown and one between the Master of Laketown and Alfred of what Thorin’s quest means to him.

Not included in the trailer but released earlier this summer is extended Mirkwood scene mirroring the one in the book where they have to cross the river and poor Bombur falls into the enchanted water and the company is forced to carry him. You can see most of that scene here:

In interview, Richard Armitage mentions Bilbo and Thorin seeing the white stag, just like in the books, but this stag is projection of Thranduil into the forest. Thorin will try to kill it of course, because dwarf king no like elf king.

It’ll be interesting to see what else was cut that are scenes from the book and what Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh made up for their version of The Hobbit.

In Praise of The Hobbit Illustrated by Jemima Catlin.

Recently, I purchased a new edition of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit illustrated by Jemima Catlin thinking hey, this might be a great version to read to my nephew in the future or my kids if I decide to have any. I was taken aback when my copy arrived in the mail on Saturday.

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The Illustrated Hobbit

 

You can’t discern it from the photo but this edition is heavy. Not heavy like a big leather bound version of The Lord of the Rings but more like a children’s book that would endure the abuse of being carried around by a child.

To claim our long forgotten goldddddddd.

The cover is flecked with gold bit that shine in the light.

Not just in the title but in the tree Bilbo is leaning and and the animals on the right is bits of gold that really makes the cover stand out. The outside of the cover feels like felt, soft like a stuffed animal.

The Green Door of Bag End.

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.

Each chapter begins with an illustration like this. I must admit this is one of my favorite illustrations of the green door of Bag End.

"Who spilled ale on the map, who was it? huh?"

Let’s have no more argument. I have chosen Mr. Baggins and that ought to be enough for all of you.

Larger illustrations like this are sprinkled throughout the chapters. What I enjoy about, and this is no way a jab at Peter Jackson or Alan Lee (who a lot of Peter Jackson’s designs and looks are based on) but I am glad all the characters don’t just look like imitations of the movie versions.

Take that, words!

Considering The Hobbit, or There and Back Again as Bilbo names it, is actually written about Bilbo some people believe the stone giants were in fact made up by him.

Then in pages like this, with the battle of the stone giants, it spreads over the pages as if the words of the book are in the story itself. This similarly happens in the scene with Gandalf lighting the pinecones and throwing them at the wargs.

Beorn to be wild.

So soon they were all seated at Beorn’s table, and the hall had not seen such a gathering for many a year.

Then full page illustrations like this are done for big moments in the books like say, meeting a sleeping dragon. I’m not going to spoil that here as it is a nice surprise when you see it.

This isn’t a review of The Hobbit. I mean, the text is exactly the same as it is in any other volume of The Hobbit, except maybe The Annotated Hobbit. Where this volume stand out is the illustrations. If I were a teacher, this would be the volume I’d read to my kids to introduce them to the world of Middle-Earth and fantasy fiction. If I were a parent of a young reader this would be the volume I’d give them for Christmas or their birthday.

The binding is quality material, beautiful yet durable. The illustrations are beautiful yet still approachable for children and the story is of course a brilliant faerie (in the traditional sense of the realm of the fays) tale.