Sunday Post #15: Wuthering, Wuthering Heights

Sunday PostWhat has been happening this week? It’s been crazy busy. I haven’t had a ton of time to read, so I sat down and read most of today (with the exception of doing a little bit of work and washing the dishes). I have been spending most of the day wandering the moors, reading The Annotated Wuthering Heights. What a great addition to my library. I am truly enjoying it. Each time I read Wuthering Heights, I notice something I didn’t pick up on last time, and this time, it’s how horrible Nelly Dean is. I mean, I have often thought of her as mostly a reliable narrator, and because of her, I have really disliked Catherine. Heathcliff is just plain hard to like, no matter what. As soon as you start feeling sympathy for him, he goes off and kills lapwings for no reason or hangs a dog. Perhaps because I’m reading an annotated version, I am noticing so many more things than I ever have before. All the birds, for one thing; I’m sure I noticed that before, but even though the annotations don’t discuss the birds in a great amount of detail, I think my antennae are up, so to speak, and I’m noticing the symbolism more than I usually do. And there are birds just everywhere in this book. Another thing I am seeing are the close connections to the Romantic poets. The annotations help there, and I am really pleased I chose to read this one for the Literary Movement Reading Challenge. Hope I can finish it in time! Even if I don’t, I definitely want to finish reading this lovely annotated version. I realize a lot of people hate this book, but I think if you peel it apart and and see what makes it work, it is genius. I am especially enjoying the nuances I am noticing in Nelly’s character this time around.

I finished reading Pleasantville by Attica Locke and wrote a review for the TLC Book Tour this week as well. A good read. I am also still working away on Katherine Howe’s Conversion on audio. The reader for that one is really good. I recommended it to a bunch of my students this week when I saw it was one of their choices for a summer read.

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic was top ten favorite authors of all time. You know, I am actually liking the idea of saving these for my Sunday Post instead of doing them on Tuesday. I just have less time to write during the work week. To qualify as a favorite author, I decided that I needed to love multiple books by the same author. So I didn’t count authors who have only written one novel. I also didn’t count authors if I had read only one of their works (even if I loved it). So here is my list:

  1. William Shakespeare
  2. Jane Austen
  3. J. K. Rowling
  4. J. R. R. Tolkien
  5. Diana Gabaldon
  6. Ernest Hemingway
  7. Sharyn McCrumb
  8. Jasper Fforde
  9. Neil Gaiman
  10. Judy Blume

Who would be on your list?

Authors whose work I love, but whom I didn’t count because of my self-imposed rules are Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Harper Lee, and Emily Brontë.

Some links I enjoyed this week:

Here’s a bonus for you:

For the record, I have always believed it really was Catherine’s ghost who disturbed Lockwood early in the novel.

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news, recap the past week on your blog, and showcase books and things we have received. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme.

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Top Ten Best/Worst Book to Movie Adaptations

Top Ten Tuesday adapted from http://www.flickr.com/photos/ceasedesist/4812981497/This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is all about book to movie adaptations. Oh, this is a hard one. I will start with the best ones. Links go to the movies’ IMDb profiles.

  1. Brokeback Mountain the movie is even better than Annie Proulx’s short story. Proulx doesn’t develop the characters as much, and Innis and Jack’s wives are just window dressing. The movie gives the story much more depth and heart. I hardly ever say this kind of thing. The book is usually better. Which brings me to #2.
  2. The Princess Bride is another case where I think the movie is better. The book gets a little lost, but the movie stays focused. Plus the acting is just great. Easily one of the most quotable movies of all time.
  3. To Kill a Mockingbird is a great film. Not as good as the book, but really great. Everyone talks about how wonderful Gregory Peck was as Atticus Finch, and he was, but they always forget that Mary Badham was phenomenal as Scout. She was nominated for an Academy Award. She didn’t win. Probably because of her age. She was only ten years old.
  4. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was famously reviled by Ken Kesey, who didn’t like it that you couldn’t tell the story through the eyes of the schizophrenic Chief Bromden, but the film turned in some stellar performances by some actors often known more for comedy. Great film.
  5. The Color Purple jiggled some things around, but they got the most important stuff right. I love this film all over again every time I see it.
  6. Sense and Sensibility is gorgeously shot and the acting is awesome. I like everyone in it.
  7. Pride and Prejudice, both the version with Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth and the one with Keira Knightley.
  8. The adaptation of Louis Sachar’s novel Holes was awesome. Pretty much just like the book.
  9. I don’t know if it’s cheating to include plays, but I’m gonna. Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet is pretty much the gold standard of Shakespeare in film.
  10. Clueless is a pretty awesome update of Emma. I love that movie.

My choices for worst adaptations:

  1. As much as I love the Harry Potter movies, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban hits all the wrong notes from the opening when Harry is practicing spells outside of school in a Muggle house, which everyone knows underage wizards can’t do, to the made up toad chorus and talking shrunken head, to the confusing deletion of the Marauders’ subplot that renders the movie incomprehensible unless you have read the book. And everyone looks scruffy the whole movie long. They don’t have to be as well scrubbed as when Chris Columbus directs, and I don’t mind them looking like normal teenagers, but having parts of your shirt untucked, your tie askew, and your hair mussed in every single scene? Nah. I’m blaming the director for this one because I like the others just fine (except for Michael Gambon’s performance, especially in Goblet of Fire—Dumbledore wouldn’t manhandle Harry like that). It’s a shame because it is easily one of the top books in the series.
  2. Just about every version of Wuthering Heights except this one, though to be fair, I haven’t seen the newest one with Kaya Scodelario. Why on earth people can’t get that book straightened out in film form, I do not get. Some versions cut the Hareton and Cathy part altogether. Others delete Lockwood.
  3. The Scarlet Letter with Demi Moore. What were they thinking? We were discussing the scene when Reverend Dimmesdale reveals the scarlet letter carved into his own chest and dies in one of my classes one day, and I re-read it to the class. One of my students said, “Wow, this would make a great movie.” Yeah, you’d think, but no.
  4. This version of Macbeth is pretty heinous, but I do use two scenes from it when I teach the play. They do some neat camera tilt tricks and use mirrors in a clever way in the scene when Banquo’s ghost shows up, and the opening with the three witches dressed like schoolgirls busting up a graveyard is good.
  5. The Rankin/Bass versions of The Hobbit and The Return of the King and Ralph Bakshi’s version of The Lord of the Rings. Ugh. I much prefer Peter Jackson’s adaptions despite the changes made. He takes the subject matter seriously.
  6. The Black Cauldron was ruined by Disney. I don’t blame you if you didn’t read Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles if you thought they were like that movie. I remember dragging my mom to see it and being so disappointed.
  7. And by that same token, The Seeker adapted from Susan Cooper’s novel The Dark is Rising is heinous. I keep using that word. But it’s so true in this case. Take this one together with The Black Cauldron and there’s a fair chance kids won’t give these wonderful books steeped in Welsh myth and legend a shot at all.
  8. Their Eyes Were Watching God was pretty bad. Oh, you mean you never even knew it it existed? There is a good reason for that. I love that book. I can’t believe the film is so bad.
  9. Beowulf. Oh. My. Gosh. What the heck was that?
  10. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil should have been good. Kevin Spacey is in it. Clint Eastwood directed it. The Lady Chablis played herself. Instead it’s terrible. Don’t watch it.

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The Return of the King, J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert Inglis

The Return of the King (The Lord of the Rings, Book 3)What can one say about J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Return of the King? It’s the long denouement of Tolkien’s epic saga The Lord of the Rings. I hadn’t read it in over 20 years, so I had forgotten just how long the ending is. I think Gollum actually falls into the crack of Mount Doom clutching the Ring, Frodo’s finger still attached, around the middle of the book. The rest of it is setting things to rights and putting a nice bow on the whole story. Of course, my perception may be off because this time I was listening to the books instead of reading the print versions.

As with [amazon_link id=”0788789821″ target=”_blank” ]The Hobbit[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id=”B00BR9WMW2″ target=”_blank” ]The Fellowship of the Ring[/amazon_link], and [amazon_link id=”078878983X” target=”_blank” ]The Two Towers[/amazon_link], Rob Inglis narrated The Return of the Ring superbly. His characterization once again impresses, and he handles the scene between Frodo, Sam, and Gollum at Mount Doom particularly well. I can’t think of a finer reader for the series. Nothing about his reading disappointed me.

I noticed a propensity for Tolkien to tell a little more than show in this volume, and I don’t recall noticing this issue the first time I read the books. In particular, the Battle of Pelennor Fields seems to be related mostly second hand and after the fact, which is a little disappointing. All of the action in this battle is shown in the [amazon_link id=”B0037WTD5G” target=”_blank” ]Peter Jackson film of the same title[/amazon_link], so perhaps that interpretation interfered with my memory.

One of the ways in which I feel Jackson erred with the movies was to give the Shire the short shrift. It’s a lovely country, and Tolkien brings it to vivid life in his books, but Jackson omits the entire section of the novel in which the Scouring of the Shire sets the hobbits free from the yoke of the wizard Saruman and his band of ruffians, and in which Merry, Pippin, and Sam become heroes in the Shire (Frodo’s role in saving Middle Earth is largely overlooked at home—the great ones are never really appreciated at home).

At the end of the film version of The Return of the King, there is a scene which always makes me cry when I watch it. Frodo, Sam, Pippin, and Merry, are bowing to Aragorn, and he says, “My friends, you bow to no one.” And then he bows to them. It’s just such a wonderful acknowledgement of everything they did to save the entire world, and the fact that the king humbles himself before these little folks that people forget about (Treebeard himself needs to add them to the list of the world’s creatures)—it’s just an amazing moment. I didn’t remember it happened in the book, but it does (sort of, words and things are changed), and it’s even grander.

I have to admit my favorite character for years was Gandalf, but as time has worn on, I have come to appreciate Samwise Gamgee, and I think he’s my favorite now. He is the steadfast, loyal friend—even as Frodo begins to succumb to the Ring, Sam remains by his side. His sadness when Frodo departs for the Grey Havens is pitiful. And he is the guy who winds up getting married and having a bunch of little hairy-toed hobbit babies. I just love him. I know a lot of Tolkien’s fans go in more for the elves, but I have to say the hobbits are my favorite.

Incidentally, I made a soap called Hobbit’s Garden that smells like apples, oak, English ivy, and rain. It’s available from my Etsy store, where you can find some other nice soaps I made as well. I have one bar available to ship right now, and the other batch I made will be ready July 6.

It feels almost sacrilegious to do so, but I am knocking half a star off my rating for this book for the excess of telling versus showing, but I am of the opinion that the series should be taken as a whole, and if so, then it’s a five-star read all the way.

Rating: ★★★★½

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The Two Towers, J.R.R. Tolkien, Rob Inglis

[amazon_image id=”078878983X” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” class=”alignleft”]The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings, Book 2)[/amazon_image]I have been listening to J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel [amazon_link id=”078878983X” target=”_blank” ]The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings, Book 2)[/amazon_link] as narrated by Rob Inglis while making soap and taking walks (trying to drop a few pounds). The first time I read this series, I whipped right through all three books, unable to put them down. The next time I tried a re-read, and the time after that, I wound up bogged down in The Two Towers. I told myself it must be that there was a lull in the pace, but now that I’ve listened to it (and finished it, this time), I think it was just me because there is a lot going on in that book.

For those of you who have only seen the movie, the book is different. In the movie, the action involving Merry, Pippin, Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn flips back and forth with the action involving Frodo and Sam. Not so in the novel. The first half of the novel finds Boromir falling at the hands of orcs who kidnap Merry and Pippin to take them to Isengard. Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn give Boromir a funeral and go in search of the hobbits. On the way, they meet Éomer, nephew of King Theoden of Rohan. They join the Rohirrim to defend Helm’s Deep against the onslaught of orcs, then head to Isengard, where they finally find Merry and Pippin, well and safe and rescued by Treebeard. The Ents have risen against Saruman. Meanwhile, Gandalf has seemingly come back from the grave and taken Saruman’s spot on the White Council. He drives Saruman out of the White Council and breaks his staff.

The second half of the novel concerns Frodo and Sam’s descent into Mordor, during which they meet up with Gollum, who becomes their unlikely guide, and Faramir, who allows Frodo go free and even spares Gollum at Frodo’s request. Gollum leads Frodo and Sam into the lair of the great spider, Shelob, and in that darkest hour, all hope seems lost.

At this point in the hero’s journey that is The Lord of the Rings, Frodo is in what Joseph Campbell called “the belly of the whale.” It is the bleakest hour, when his quest seems doomed to failure, and his life is in its greatest peril. He has come all the way to Mordor, only to be ensnared by an ancient, evil beast. Even good old Samwise thinks his master is gone until he overhears orcs saying Frodo is still alive.

I was struck again, as I always seem to be when I watch the movies and as I was the last time I read The Two Towers that Faramir is a much better man than Boromir. He is one of the few characters in the novel not to be tempted by the power of the Ring, even when it is within his power to take it and use it as he would. He is truly a brave and noble man and one of my favorite characters.

I was struck listening to Sam talk about how the story of the destruction of the Ring might be told one day.

The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually—their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on—and not all to a good end, mind you, at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and find things all right, thought not quite the same—like old Mr. Bilbo. But those aren’t always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in!

What a spectacular comment on why we tell stories and why the hero’s journey, in particular, continues to speak to us. And of course, Tolkien always understood that about stories, and that he put that wisdom in the mouth of Samwise Gamgee makes me love both Tolkien and Samwise even more. Sam even has a little bit of insight into the villain’s role in the story. Gollum is arguably more pitiful than villainous, but he does betray the hobbits, and Sam was always right to be wary of him. Sam said:

Even Gollum might be good in a tale, better than he is to have by you, anyway. And he used to like tales himself once, by his own account. I wonder if he thinks he’s the hero or the villain?

Same shows a great deal of insight into the nature of what Tolkien would call fairy stories. The villains are as important as the heroes to a good yarn, even if they are not much fun to be around in real life.

Rob Inglis is an excellent narrator, and he does a particularly brilliant characterization of Gollum. He manages to distinguish most of the characters from one another. In addition to Gollum, his Samwise, Merry, and Pippin are all excellent as well. Gandalf and Aragorn sound like they should. No voice is out of place. His dramatic reading of the plot brings the story to life, and I thoroughly enjoy listening to it so much that I found myself making excuses to plug the audio book in and listen.

If you haven’t re-read [amazon_link id=”0788789821″ target=”_blank” ]The Hobbit[/amazon_link] or The Lord of the Rings in a while, I encourage you to give Rob Inglis’s narration a try. He’s an excellent reader of a rather ripping good tale.

Rating: ★★★★★

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books that Feature Travel

Top Ten Tuesday adapted from http://www.flickr.com/photos/ceasedesist/4812981497/

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is top ten books that feature travel in some way. OK, wide open, so here is my list.

[amazon_image id=”0545139708″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7)[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”054792822X” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Hobbit; or, There and Back Again[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0544003411″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Lord of the Rings[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0143105957″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Moby-Dick: or, The Whale (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0440423201″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Outlander (20th Anniversary Edition): A Novel[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0385737645″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Revolution[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0143039954″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Odyssey (Penguin Classics)[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0451202503″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Songcatcher[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0486280616″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn][/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0393334155″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (A New Verse Translation)[/amazon_image]

So many great books feature quests or voyages. These are my favorites. You could argue that all the Harry Potter books feature travel, but the trio travels the most in [amazon_link id=”0545139708″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows[/amazon_link], which features not just the very long camping trip, but the end of Harry’s journey and even a trip to the other side of the veil.

[amazon_link id=”054792822X” target=”_blank” ]The Hobbit; or, There and Back Again[/amazon_link] features Bilbo’s famous quest to the Lonely Mountain with 13 dwarves and sometimes Gandalf. It’s a classic quest and an excellent hero’s journey. In some ways, it is more of a straight hero’s journey and a tighter, finer story than [amazon_link id=”0544003411″ target=”_blank” ]The Lord of the Rings[/amazon_link], which is also quite an amazing quest in which Middle Earth is saved, at least for the likes of men and possibly dwarves and hobbits, but not so much elves, especially not Galadriel and Elrond.

Ishmael says at the beginning of [amazon asin=0143105957&text=Moby Dick] that he decided to stop teaching school and sign on a whaling ship in order to “see the watery part of the world.” He saw a lot more than he bargained for, but you can’t deny it was a heck of a trip.

In Diana Gabaldon’s [amazon_link id=”0440423201″ target=”_blank” ]Outlander[/amazon_link] series, Claire Randall travels back in time when she walks through a stone circle at Beltaine, and she finds herself over 200 years in the past. Trips don’t get much farther than that.

Like Gabaldon’s Claire, Jennifer Donnelly’s Andi Alpers finds herself about 200 years in the past during the French Revolution, but she also figures out a way to move on from a terrible loss in her past in [amazon_link id=”0385737645″ target=”_blank” ]Revolution[/amazon_link].

[amazon asin=0143039954&text=The Odyssey] is the quintessential travel book. The whole book is about the worst trip home ever. On top of that, it’s a rollicking adventure that has stood the test of time. Few books can match it.

I absolutely love Sharyn McCrumb’s novel [amazon_link id=”0451202503″ target=”_blank” ]The Songcatcher[/amazon_link], and my favorite part concerned Malcolm McCourry, who was kidnapped and brought to America from Scotland, bringing a snatch of an old song along with him on the voyage, but the real voyage in this novel is the trip that the song takes through the generations, remembered by Malcolm’s descendants and passed down through time.

[amazon asin=0486280616&text=The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn] is yet another classic travel book, as the book follows Huck and Jim down the Mississippi. We can see how far Huck has come in his other voyage when he decides to tear up the letter revealing Jim’s location and says, “All right, then, I’ll go to hell.” Reading that line always gives me the shakes.

Sir Gawain promised he would seek out the Green Knight in the Green Chapel, and he is a knight of his word. If you are looking for reasons why Gawain is better than Lancelot, you can’t do better than the excellent [amazon_link id=”0393334155″ target=”_blank” ]Sir Gawain and the Green Knight[/amazon_link]. Plus, we have no idea who wrote it. It’s a complete mystery. He goes on a quest and finds himself in great peril, but he is true, and he returns home to Arthur’s court a wiser man.

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The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien, Rob Inglis

The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings, Book 1)I have been listening to Rob Inglis’s audio recording of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring while making soap. He’s a fantastic reader, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to him read Tolkien. In particular, Inglis does a fabulous job with all the songs in Tolkien. Case in point, I have never much cared for the Tom Bombadil section of The Fellowship of the Ring, though I did enjoy the part where he rescued the hobbits from the barrow wights; however, this time, I quite enjoyed the magical old fellow. Same with Galadriel’s songs. His voice characterizations are quite good. I think Aragorn comes off as sounding a bit too old, but I have no other complaints. Inglis’s characterization of the hobbits is particularly good.

I decided to re-read these stories some time ago, but I find I often become bogged down in the middle of [amazon_link id=”0547928203″ target=”_blank” ]The Two Towers[/amazon_link] somewhere. I decided perhaps listening to the books might work better for me, but the books have only recently become available on Audible. If you haven’t heard them before, give Rob Inglis’s reading a chance. He’s one of the best readers I have heard, and I can’t imagine that Tolkien himself wouldn’t approve heartily of Inglis’s rendition of his work.

Rating: ★★★★★

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Top Ten Bookish Memories

Top Ten Tuesday adapted from http://www.flickr.com/photos/ceasedesist/4812981497/

What a fun topic for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday! My best bookish memories:

  1. Reading the Harry Potter series to my oldest daughter. When she was young, we had this horrendous commute and only one car. We had to wait for her stepdad to get off work, and we would sit in the car and read. I will probably always associate the Harry Potter series with that closeness we shared.
  2. Going to the library with my best friend Darcy. We would walk there and get hot chocolate out of the machine. I used to love to bike over to the library, too. It was so close to my grandmother’s house. Unfortunately, it’s since been closed.
  3. Winning a trip to Salem, MA in a contest connected with Brunonia Barry’s The Map of True Places. We loved it. We never could have imagined two years later, we’d be living in Massachusetts (though not in Salem).
  4. Meeting Matthew Pearl and winning a signed manuscript page from The Dante Club.
  5. Meeting Katherine Howe. She told me that my husband is crazy. Which is true.
  6. Meeting Jasper Fforde. What a charmer! He said one of my favorite things ever about interpreting literature and reading being a creative act. I loved it. When he signed my book, he also stamped it and tucked a postcard inside it. It was a nice touch.
  7. Reading Tolkien for the first time in college and finishing The Fellowship of the Ring around midnight. I was so desperate to find out what happened next that I took a chance and went downstairs to my friend Kari’s dorm room to borrow The Two Towers after midnight. She was awake, and thankfully, she was amused.
  8. Sharing my favorite book Wuthering Heights with students who loved it, too. One of them told me that she only had room for three books in her suitcase for college, and she packed Wuthering Heights.
  9. Reading The Catcher in the Rye with my first class of freshmen at the Weber School. They were the class of 2008, so they are mostly finished with college now, which blows my mind. They just really loved the book. They wanted to keep reading whenever we read together.
  10. Reading Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? with my son. He loved those books in preschool. They were both such delightful books, and sharing them with my son was so special.

What are your favorite bookish memories?

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The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien, Rob Inglis

The HobbitThe Hobbit has long been one of my favorite books, but it only recently became available for digital download. I decided to listen to it before going to see the movie, which I still haven’t seen and suppose I will probably not get to see in the theater, despite my plans to do so.

Because I’ve read (and taught) the book several times now, it seems silly to write a synopsis and review; however, the new variable is the audio book, so this review will focus on the audio book read by Rob Inglis.

Of course, you are probably familiar with the story: Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who is rather hoodwinked into participating in an adventure with Gandalf and some dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield himself in which Thorin hopes to defeat the dragon living on top of Thorin’s rightful treasure in the Lonely Mountain. Along the way, Bilbo and the dwarves tangle with some goblins (aka orcs), and Bilbo manages to find the One Ring, lost by Gollum in a riddle game, an event which precipitates the later War of the Ring that is the focus of The Lord of the Rings.

I can highly recommend listening to the audio book version of this particular novel. The avuncular storytelling style that Tolkien himself later had to stop himself from revising is a perfect match for an audio book. Tolkien’s source material, the Icelandic and Germanic sagas and myths, would probably have been told orally, possibly near a fire in a large mead hall. As such, it seems somehow fitting that this book works so well when told aloud. Rob Inglis is a masterful reader, too. He manages to capture each character’s voice, and I enjoyed hearing his musical interpretations of the many songs in the book. His rendition of Gollum is particularly good. Most importantly, Inglis’s interpretation manages to capture Bilbo’s voice as storyteller so well that it seems perhaps the book was intended to be listened to, as read by Rob Inglis, instead of read. I know. You think I’m crazy. I’ve lost it. But you wouldn’t think that if you had listened to Rob Inglis read this book.

And….

It’s unabridged.

That’s right. No cheap, distorted chopped up abridged version. Up until very recently, you could only listen to an unabridged version of The Hobbit if you purchased a digital audio version of the novel. You had to fork over for the CDs if you wanted an unabridged version. Now you can download the unabridged book via Audible (or iTunes if you prefer) for the first time. If you are thinking of rereading it this year, why not give the audio book a go?

Here is an interview with Rob Inglis about the recording of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

Rating: ★★★★★

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Top Ten Tuesday adapted from http://www.flickr.com/photos/ceasedesist/4812981497/

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I’m Thankful For

Top Ten Tuesday adapted from http://www.flickr.com/photos/ceasedesist/4812981497/

This week’s appropriate Top Ten Tuesday concerns authors I’m thankful for.

  1. William Shakespeare: My best moments in the classroom I owe to this writer, who is not only the greatest writer in the English language, but also the most fun to teach. I can return to his plays again and again, and I always get something new out of them. In addition, his sonnets are some of the most glorious poetry in the English language. Don’t believe me? Watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ORccj9HosA
  2. Jane Austen: She is my homegirl. Really. I love her. I return to her books all the time. I love her characters, her sparkling wit, and her tangled love stories.
  3. J. K. Rowling: Some of my best reading experiences have been with the Harry Potter series. If I could read just one series over and over, and no other books, for the rest of my life, I’d choose the Harry Potter series. I find the Wizarding World to be a rich, imaginative place I never tire of visiting.
  4. Emily Brontë: She gave me my favorite book, even though it was the only book she wrote. I love returning to this book. I always notice something new. I love to hate her characters. I marvel each time I read it at the novel’s beautiful structure. Though I find the characters horrendous, I admit one place I’d love to visit is Wuthering Heights.
  5. J. R. R. Tolkien: My first major foray into fantasy set the bar really high. I am currently listening to The Hobbit in preparation for the movie. I love reading this series, and I love Middle Earth.
  6. Judy Blume: I read her books over and over again as a child. I grew up on her stories, and she has been a huge influence over my reading and writing life.
  7. Jasper Fforde: I have spent many a happy hour giggling through one of his books. He is crack for book and word nerds, and he is utterly charming.
  8. Joseph Campbell: His enduring ideas and understandings about the hero’s journey enabled me to enjoy literature and film in a new way, and I was able to construct a course around his work.
  9. Diana Gabaldon: I love her time travel romance/fantasy/historical fiction/genre-bending stories about Claire and Jamie Fraser. She is so much fun, and such a nice lady, too.
  10. Ernest Hemingway: I love, love, love F. Scott Fitzgerald, but Hemingway has a much larger canon, and I am not done with it yet. I love the way he writes, and I love to read his ideas about writing. I have rarely cried so hard over a book as I did over the end of A Farewell to Arms.

What authors are you thankful for?

Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving! I am so thrilled to be celebrating it this year in the state where the first Thanksgiving took place.

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Ten Fictional Crushes

cap on yellow

Some time back, I discussed some historical crushes, and I have previously discussed my ten fictional best friends. Why not share my ten fictional crushes? Since this weeks’ Top Ten Tuesday is a “pick your own” topic, this weeks seems like the perfect time. Don’t necessarily view these in a particular order.

  1. James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser. If you have read the [amazon_link id=”0440423201″ target=”_blank” ]Outlander[/amazon_link] series, I don’t need to say any more. You know exactly what I’m talking about. My husband is a redhead, and let’s just say my crush on Jamie may have contributed to my interest in red-headed men.
  2. Severus Snape. OK, I admit this one is weird. He’s mean. He’s given to pettiness. That comment he makes about Hermione’s teeth in [amazon_link id=”0439139600″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire[/amazon_link] is pretty much unforgivable. I just really love his characterization. When I discovered in [amazon_link id=”0545139708″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows[/amazon_link] that he had carried a torch for Lily Evans Potter for most of his life, I was sold. In fact, my favorite chapter in the whole book series is “The Prince’s Tale” in [amazon_link id=”0545139708″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows[/amazon_link]. Plus, Alan Rickman.
  3. Faramir. Yeah, Aragorn was never my cup of tea, but Faramir is a really cool guy, and I was glad when Eowyn woke up to that fact and ditched her awkward crush on Aragorn for true love with Faramir. He’s noble and brave. Pippin thought so highly of him that he named his son after him, you know.
  4. Father Ralph de Briccasart. Just like Meggie. Sigh. Richard Chamberlain in that miniseries probably contributes as much to my Father Ralph crush as Alan Rickman’s portrayal does to my Snape crush.
  5. Rhett Butler. So bad. So smooth. And yet so in love with Scarlett (for whatever reason!). Honestly, Margaret Mitchell had to have been thinking about Clark Gable when she wrote the novel because he’s just perfect for the part. I remember when I read the book the first time, even though I hadn’t seen the movie, I knew Clark Gable played the role in it, and I thought even then that she had to have been thinking about Gable. I have to say, that first time, I pictured Scarlett as a redhead, even though she’s described as having dark hair, but now Vivian Leigh just is Scarlett.
  6. Captain Frederick Wentworth. Come on. You’ve read that letter, haven’t you? If you have, you need no further explanation. Plus, he’s a keeper. Even though he was rejected, he was still in love with Anne, and he gave her a second chance. I can’t imagine they were anything but perfectly happy together.
  7. Louis de Pointe du Lac. Lestat was a bit stuck on himself for my taste, and favorite book in the Vampire Chronicles has always been [amazon_link id=”0345409647″ target=”_blank” ]Interview with the Vampire[/amazon_link].
  8. Speaking of which, Edward Cullen. Yeah, I know. This one is really wrong. I don’t like this about myself, but there it is.
  9. Fitzwilliam Darcy. Naturally. I actually have a mug at work labeled Mrs. Darcy. I had a travel mug with the same label, but it broke, and a friend bought me a new Mrs. Darcy mug for Christmas. That is a good friend.
  10. This last is a bit of a cheat, but Nate from the book I’m currently writing, which is as yet untitled. I see him as a sort of amalgamation of Jeff Buckley and Jack White. He’s kind of dreamy. He is based on the Irish hero Naoise from the Legend of Deirdre.

photo credit: Darwin Bell

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