Read-a-thon Mini-Challenge: Show It Off!

Hey there, fellow read-a-thon-ers!

Thinking about sneaking a nap in? No way! Grab a cup of tea or coffee (or a Red Bull) because you’re in for the long-haul now. While you’re at it, get out your camera’s for Hour 20 “Show It Off” Mini-challenge.

Here’s what I want you to do: I want you to show off a book (or books) from your library that you are extremely proud of. The unique, signed or simply dear-to-your-heart editions that you’d grab if there were a fire.

Need some examples? Well, how about that signed, personalised edition by your favourite author? Or how about that shelf of painstakingly-collected of every Jane Austen-related book in existence? Perhaps you’ve an extremely dog-eared copy of a book that’s been passed down through your family? Anything goes – just make it something special to you.

Me? I want to show you two very special sets of J.R.R. Tolkien books. The Hobbit belonged to my grandfather and is a 1966 stunning hardcover edition. Then there’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, from 1965, that belongs to my mother (she kindly lets me read them) and that she’s had since she was a girl. These books have followed us across oceans and into several different homes – they’re special and they’re beautiful. They are the representation of Tolkien that I grew up with, and I can’t imagine his writing any other way.

lotr-3 My Antique copy of LOTR
The complete trilogy (left) and The Fellowship of the Ring (right) without its dust-jacket.
The Hobbit with its slipcase.
As you can see, they are well-loved but still in fantastic condition considering they are almost 50 years old! If you can’t tell from the photos, both editions have engravings on them: Dwarvish on The Hobbit, and the Black Speech of Mordor on The Lord of the Rings.
Now, show off yours!
  • Take a picture of a book/books from your library you really want to show off: signed editions, rare editions, obsessively-organized Sherlock Holmes collections – just whatever is special to you!
  • Post your photo on your blog, twitter, facebook, flickr, etc. then add your link below.
  • If your email address is not on your blog/twitter/etc., please post it in the comments with the number of your entry. (i.e. “I’m Sarah, entry #5, my email is…”)
  • One winner will be chosen to receive a $15/£10 gift certificate to Amazon.
  • This challenge will close at 5 am CDT / 12 noon CET.
ETA: CHALLENGE NOW CLOSED! If you missed the deadline but have taken a picture, please share it in the comments! Winner: Kim @ Page after Page!


LotR Readalong: The Two Towers Intro

Lotr MerrySomehow, March has begun without my permission. While that means my exams are looming near, it also means the start of The Two Towers with the Lord of the Rings Readalong! Teresa, over at Shelf Love, has kicked off the month with some opening questions.

Where are you in the trilogy right now? What do you think of the books so far?
I’m afraid I’m still in the Fellowship of the Rings – I was set back by The Hobbit taking a month and a half to finish! I have absolutely loved Tolkien’s descriptive writing – but I’m still not too keen on Frodo yet. He just seems slightly too pompous at the moment, but I think that will change after Rivendell.

I am, however, completely in love with Merry! (And Aragorn, of course, but I have always loved him – even when I only read the first half of FotR when I was 9, I remembered the tortured!rugged!Strider and fell in love.) Merry is just so cheery and smart – a know-it-all with a tongue-in-cheek manner. Totally adorable.

What’s your past experience with The Two Towers?
Does the movie count? Because I have never read a sentence of TTT!

What about the movie? If you’ve seen it, what did you think of it, and how much do you think it will color your experience with the book?
I am looking forward to reading the Tolkien version of Faramir, although I am afraid I will be disappointed. I know a lot of people took issue with Faramir’s portrayal in the film – what with him almost giving in to the ring, and everything – but I loved it. Faramir was such a highlight for me when I first saw TTT, and again when I saw RotK (I still cry every time during that scene)… so I admit that, although I am kind excited to start TTT, I am also a bit nervous!

The films have – I admit – coloured how I read the book.  But in a rather positive way, I think.  If I get to a bit where I prefer the interpretation a-la-Peter Jackson, I just hold on to the thought of the movie while I read.  But if Tolkien describes something that differs to Jackson – and I prefer the Tolkien version – I can pretty easily forget about the film!  It is rather handy, actually.

I’m also listening to the extended soundtrack while reading – it is glorious and sends me straight to Middle Earth!  I really need to press on with FotR – I hope to finish it by the end of the week, and start immediately on TTT.

LotR Readalong: The Fellowship of the Ring Check-in

February is Fellowship month!

Lotr art

Illustration by Alan Lee.

Not that you’d know it, from looking around here – but it’s true. This month I’m reading Fellowship of the Ring as part of the LotR Readalong challenge. This month has been hosted by The Literary Omnivore!

Alas, I was only able to begin it this week – just in time really, as March will mean the start of Two Towers. I really must make a move-on!

The Hobbit vs. The Lord of the Rings?

I’ll be honest and admit that when I first read the Fellowship… I was not a huge fan. This was before the film came out, and I must have been 9-ish. I had loved The Hobbit, and when I found out there was a sequel, I really did try my best to read it. It wasn’t that I disliked FotR, but it bored me.

I tried again after the film came out but did not get very far that time either. Although I was a huge fan of the films – and gosh, am I still ever a fan – I never actually managed to read the trilogy! *shakes head in shame* I had thought that perhaps because Tolkien was such a genius at everything, it only made sense that he wasn’t the most engaging of writers. After all, nobody’s perfect.

Well, I was wrong! And I am very, very glad about it.

pacing… pacing… p a..c i n..g…

I am absolutely loving every minute of The Fellowship of the Ring – and can’t wait for the “real” action to get going. Admittedly, Book One does drag on slightly – but I really appreciate the history and descriptions of the Shire. Knowing what Frodo is to face, it only makes me want to savour the environment even more.

In fact, I found the prologue was very much a part of the book you could only appreciate if you already knew the characters! Tolkien writes about Merry, Pippin, Frodo and Sam as though he were writing at the end of the book – and not the beginning. But still, reading that Merry had written a book concerning herbs weed really made me smile.

Lotr Frodo

Illustration by Alan Lee.

In fact, I am very much in love with Merry for some reason. Probably because he really is as clever as I had thought him. I particularly enjoyed the wonderful scene where Merry reveals to Frodo that he and Pippin already knew all about the Ring. What is the spying version of a kleptomaniac? A sneak-o-maniac? Well, whatever it is – that’d be Merry. Clever and slightly devious!

Illustrated edition

As I mentioned in my Hobbit posts, I purchased the lovely illustrated (by Alan Lee) editions of the books. Although the artwork has been stunning so far, I can’t help wishing this edition was more similar to its Hobbit counterpart. The Hobbit had several lovely black and white illustrations included on the pages with the text. It was a lovely way of picturing some of the smaller scenes. Alas, The Fellowship of the Ring does not have any of these! Probably because it is not considered a “children’s book” – hmph!

LotR Readalong: The Hobbit Wrap-up

Illustration by Alan Lee.

Illustration by Alan Lee.

Since I have only just finished The Hobbit – I can not believe it took me so long! – the time has now come for a wrap-up post.  Thank you to the lovely Eva over at A Striped Armchair for hosting the Hobbit discussion.

My experience of reading The Hobbit was vastly different from my original reading as a child, but it has not detracted from the memory. When I read it all those years ago, I was utterly engrossed by the adventure. I was reading for that childhood bedtime story appeal – all the “what comes next” as opposed to the “why”.

What did you think of the ending? Well, for much of The Hobbit, the adventure seemed, well, rather superficial. They were on a quest for gold and diamonds – and that was all. It bothered me slightly, but what I ended up loving was how it turned out that the whole quest did have a nobler purpose in the end. Bilbo and co. ended up freeing an entire group of men from the tyranny they had suffered from the Master of Lake town and the Dragon Smaug.

I loved how Tolkien began to incorporate the idea of corruption in men with the Master, and at the name time the nobility of men with Bard. The burning of Laketown was really kinda, well, beautiful – in a terrible way, of course – because it showed these characteristics so clearly.  I was reminded of the scene in Return of the King where Denethor tells his army to abandon their posts. Not sure if that actually happens in the book, and look forward to finding out!  (I included the wonderful Alan Lee illustration of Smaug’s death/flight from Laketown – really recommend you get the illustrated edition!)

I probably enjoyed the second half of the book more than the first – although, Gollum, how he made me cry –    as Tolkien threw in some unexpected wrenches.  I was stunned when Thorin sent Bilbo away after everything Bilbo had done for him and his party.  And for what?  A pretty stone?  While I understood that he was basically overwhelmed by his lust for gold, it was an excellent twist I had not considered.

What delighted you most? I absolutely loved the character of Beorn the shape-shifter.  First of all, there is hilarity of how Gandalf went about introducing himself and the rest of the dwarves… I don’t think I have laughed that hard it a while!  I reminded my mother about it, and even though she hadn’t read the book in a few decades, she remembered it clear as day.  Secondly, there was his connection with animals.  Because he could communicate with them, and could even become one, he also couldn’t eat them.  As a vegetarian, I really appreciated his inclusion.

Are you planning on continuing on to The Fellowship of the Ring?  Most definitely!  I already have my illustrated by Alan Lee editions and am looking forward to reading it as an adult.  I did read Fellowship when I was younger, and just remember it being rather tedious.  I now have more appreciation for Tolkien’s world-building, and think I will enjoy the descriptions much more this time round.

Well, that’s Bilbo sorted.  I’ll be checking in with Frodo over at The Literary Omnivore this month!

LotR Readalong Update (1): The Hobbit

lotr readalongIt’s January, 2010… which means The Lord of the Rings Readalong has begun!

In January, the readalong is being hosted over a A Striped Armchair.  Eva has posted some great opening questions to get the discussion going.  I have tried to answer them all to the best of my ability!

I can’t remember a time when I hadn’t heard of The Hobbit. My mother is a big fantasy/science fiction fan and I remember her pushing me to read the books. It was never too overt, but I had them on my one-day-when-I-am-nine TBR list. Then I was stuck in a rather hideous class unfortunately called “library” and was asked to either sit in silence or read. I fortunately spotted the school’s copy of The Hobbit lying unread in a dusty cover – so I opted for the latter. I must have been nine or ten – I honestly don’t remember.

What I do remember was devouring the entire book in 3 days. It consumed my every thought. After reading it, I felt compelled to do something to further my experience… so I wrote my first real book review. It was a whopper – maybe 5 pages long, complete with illustrations of Middle Earth. Needless to say, my “library” “teacher” was stunned to see me hand it in, especially as it was completely unprompted!

Immediately after I started to read The Lord of the Rings… but that is – unfortunately – a rather short story for another month!

Illustration by Alan Lee.

Illustration by Alan Lee.

As for the fantasy of Tolkien’s world – I’m afraid to say I fell out of love with the genre in my teens. I had been an avid sci-fi/fantasy fan before I hit 12… but I got distracted by fandom. When I went off to uni, I tended to read rather literary fiction… and stayed rather far from the fantasy shelves. Over the past two years I have been re-kindling my love for all the genres, but have not yet made it back to Tolkien!

My plan for reading The Hobbit and, subsequently, The Lord of the Rings is to buy new copies. We have my grandfather’s hardbacks from the 50s sitting on the shelf – and while they are well-loved from years of browsing – I want a copy I can lose without crying! (BTW – remind me to share pictures of them as they are beautiful books!)

So I have ordered illustrated (paperback) editions of the four books.  I considered buying them in hardback because of my love for Alan Lee’s illustrations (isn’t his watercolour of Smaug amazing?)… but then thought about lugging them around town with me! So, instead I plan on getting a book of his art to satisfy my longing for Middle Earth.  As soon as my copy of The Hobbit arrives, I plan on setting aside an entire Saturday to devote to it.

If you haven’t signed up for the readalong, there is still time!  Add you name to the LotR Mr. Linky to begin – or revisit – your own journey through Middle Earth.