Fellowship of the Ring Book Tag

Today, for the very first time, I’m doing a book tag on my blog! Many thanks to BiblioNyan for tagging me. She’s very cool and kind and friendly and you should check her out.

I have to admit, I’m a poor Tolkien fan. I’ve only read The Hobbit and about two thirds of The Fellowship of the Ring, although I have seen all the movies in the trilogy & the first Hobbit movie. I’ll have to get on that sometime, but for now, here’s the tag!

Points to Note:

  1. Please pingback to Nandini’s original post.
  2. Feel free to use the banner from her post.
  3. Be as creative as you like while interpreting the prompts.
  4. Tag at least 3 people you think would enjoy doing the tag.
  5. Even though Gollum is not an official part of the Fellowship, Nandini wanted to have a round figure, so she added a prompt for this character too.

1. Gandalf – A book that taught you something

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Out of all the questions in the tag, this the the hardest to pick, because I learn something from just about every book I read. In the end, I decided to just go literal and recommend a book that taught me a lot of good information. Rubicon is a book that was assigned to me by my high school Latin teacher. It’s great because it’s a history book written in an engaging narrative style. Even if you already have a pretty good grasp of Roman history, I recommend this book just on the basis of being fun to read.

2. Frodo – A book that left a mark on you

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I read Night in my eighth grade English class. I’d learned about the Holocaust before, of course, but this was the first time I had encountered a survivor’s account. It was so visceral, dark, and disgusting. It made me realize exactly how dark human nature can be and what true evil looks like. The last line of the book has stuck with me ever since:

From the depths of the mirror, a corpse gazed back at me. The look in his eyes, as they stared into mine, has never left me.

3. Legolas – A book you finished in one sitting

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I very rarely finish a book in one sitting, even if it’s extremely short. Usually it’s only comics or poetry books that fit into that category, and so the last book I remember finishing in one sitting is Milk and Honey. Honestly, I didn’t really like it. While I appreciate the author’s vulnerability and expressiveness, the quality of the poetry is just poor. It’s fourth-rate Tumblr poetry. So many of the poems come across as lazily written. I’m not giving it a pass just because I sympathize with the author’s experiences or agree with some of her viewpoints.

4. Gimli – A book that features an unlikely friendship

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This sprawling masterpiece is full of strange connections and coincidences. There is, of course, Jean Valjean’s commitment to Fantine and later Cosette. His role as Cosette’s surrogate father is one of the essential relationships of the book. When you look at it more closely, though, there are all sorts of unlikely friendships. Valjean and Fauchelevent, Thenardier and Georges Pontmercy, Marius and Les Amis de l’ABC… that last one has a severely underrated backstory that’s totally glossed over in the musical. If you only know the musical, you’re missing out on so many details!

5. Merry – A book that pleasantly surprised you

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One time in middle school, I was taking way too long to choose a book at the bookstore. My mom got impatient and tried to help me pick. When she suggested The Mysterious Benedict Society, I wasn’t sure I would like it. Since we had to leave, though, I accepted her suggestion and gave it a shot. It turns out that this is one of the most clever and charming children’s books I’ve read in my life, and I later ended up buying the sequels, too!

6. Pippin – A book that made you laugh

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Nimona caught my eye at the bookstore one day, and since then, it’s become one of the most reread books on my shelf. It’s an irreverent fantasy story with lots of laughs, but it also offers a nuanced deconstruction of the line between good and evil. The main characters all have depth and make you sympathize with them at the most unexpected moments. I appreciate how this book manages to pull off light banter and ridiculous gags without feeling disjointed when it transitions to deeper and more emotional fare.

7. Boromir – A book/series that you think ended too soon

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There’s something bittersweet about Calvin and Hobbes. It’s basically how I learned how to read, and unlike most of the comics of my youth, it hasn’t grown stale with age. Instead, I find something new every time I revisit a strip. Bill Watterson has left us with plenty to chew on, but I still wish for more sometimes, or at least that the guy would come out of hiding for five minutes so I could shake his hand. These books evoke such intense nostalgia in me that it’s like some sort of drug.

8. Sam – A book with memorable side characters who stole the show

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When I think of books with a colorful ensemble cast, the Harry Potter series is the first one to come to mind. It’s hard to even name all of them, but aside from fan favorites like McGonagall, Snape, and Sirius, even the truly minor characters have their own fans. It’s partly because of the massive popularity of the series, but it’s also because Rowling gives her readers such a large sandbox to play in. Characters I think are underrated? Fleur Delacour and Regulus Black.

9. Aragorn – A good book with a bad/average cover

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My brother gave me The Dispossessed for Christmas this past year. Now, the cover isn’t exactly ugly, but it does look like a plain, cheap science fiction paperback–which, to be fair, it is. What’s contained between the covers, though, is insightful social and political commentary. Le Guin is a sensitive and thoughtful writer who knows how to capture the human condition. I slowly fell in love with this book.

10. Gollum – A book that had great potential but disappointed you in the end

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For this one, I’m going to have to go with Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor. I’d heard great things about the book, and the premise excited me. I wanted to see fantasy written for young people that came from a different perspective than the typical amalgamation of various European lore. The magic system here is distinctly Nigerian, to be sure, but the influence of Harry Potter overshadows the book’s plot and style. In the end, I found it surprisingly paint-by-numbers, especially from an author who’s such a critical darling right now.

Tags:

(To be honest, I’m not sure if everyone here is a doer of tags… so if you don’t want to participate, just take it as a compliment!)

  1. Lana Cole
  2. Lorraine
  3. thebookishbohemian

 

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Check out my masterlist for the rest of my posts and reviews!

Sci-Fi Favorites

Right now I’m reading The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal, an alternate history wherein an asteroid hitting Earth accelerates the space race, including the appearance of the world’s first female astronaut. I’m loving it so far, but I haven’t finished it yet, so I thought I’d recommend some other sci-fi favorites in the meantime!

1. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

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Since I read this book around when it came out, it’s spawned a popular series now on its third installment. To be honest, I haven’t read either of the sequels yet, but I really want to. This first book features a quirky ensemble cast of humans and aliens. They form an interstellar construction crew for wormholes, and their biggest assignment yet is to connect an isolated planet with the universe at large. The planet is so isolated that they can’t use typical shortcuts to get there, and so it’s a long way to that small, angry planet. It’s a fun, low-pressure space adventure that focuses on the relationships between characters on what is essentially a really long road trip. And the characters are so endearing!

You can buy it here!

2. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

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Le Guin is, of course, the queen of sci-fi, but I hadn’t read any of her books until this year after my brother gave me a copy of The Dispossessed for Christmas. It centers around Shevek, a renowned physicist from Anarres, an anarcho-communist splinter colony on the moon of the planet Urras (or is Urras the moon of Anarres?). He’s the first visitor between the two worlds in hundreds of years, becoming entrenched in diplomatic intrigue in the much more complex politics of Urras. There’s a strong focus on world-building, comparing and contrasting the political systems of the two worlds. Le Guin uses this novel as a way to explore what anarchism might look like when put into practice, both the upsides and downsides. It’s a nuanced and fascinating read.

You can buy it here!

3. Extras by Scott Westerfeld

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This might sound a bit unusual, but I’m recommending the fourth book in a series. The Uglies series made a splash with its exploration of beauty standards, environmentalism, and dystopian government in a post-apocalyptic Earth. I’ve loved it ever since middle school. Most people, though, don’t even know that there’s a fourth book, since it was originally billed as a trilogy. Extras is something of a spin-off featuring a new main character, Aya Fuse, who lives in a future Japan. The book came out in the early years of YouTube and social media, and I find that it predicted the impact of these websites on our world with unnerving precision. In a city where popularity is an industry, Aya is desperate to be famous. Her character is a fictional prelude to the social media stars and wannabes of today.

You can buy it here! Or start with the first book here.

4. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

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This series is an enjoyable and well-crafted sci-fi/fantasy mashup that brings together the stories of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White in a futuristic setting. Cinder kicks off with the title character as a cyborg who loses her entire prosthetic foot, not just her shoe. It’s also fittingly set in future China, home to one of the earliest versions of the Cinderella myth. The Lunar Chronicles is not merely a retelling, but rather a total reinvention of fairy tales, and Meyer deftly weaves them together to form a cohesive, creative world. I’m asking you to give it a shot even if you usually steer clear of YA books. It’s worth it.

You can buy the first book here!

Have you read any of these? What are your favorite sci-fi novels? Tell me in the comments!

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Check out my masterlist for the rest of my posts and reviews!

The 10 Best Books I’ve Read In 2018 (So Far)

I’ve read 28 books so far this year, and in the process of creating this list, I’ve found that, on the whole, the books I’ve picked out have been extremely good ones. I thought about ranking them. I then realized that I am too weak of a person to put these books in any kind of order. So, in no particular order, here are my ten favorite books I’ve read in 2018 (so far).

o pioneers

O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

This is the story of a woman named Alexandra Bergson, a daughter of Swedish immigrants who becomes a successful farmer on the Nebraskan prairie. Alexandra is a unique sort of strong female character. Physically and mentally, she is capable of overcoming any obstacle in her way, but the challenges she faces are not of that nature. Rather, she suffers emotional pain due to problems with family, romance, and society. I enjoyed the social questions explored in this novel as well as the spare and elegant prose, which perfectly matches the setting of the harsh, lonely prairie. I was also caught off guard by the twist ending.

You can buy it here!

The_Awakening_(Chopin_novel)_cover

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Edna, a wealthy housewife from Louisiana, begins to chafe in her role of wife and mother, and slowly gives into the temptation of running away from it all. There’s a plot here, a slow, oozing progression, but more important than the building of action is the building of emotion that rises to a fever pitch by the end. I was taken in by the novel’s atmospheric description and by Edna’s inner struggle.

You can buy it here!

woolf

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

This book is not a novel, but rather a reworked version of a speech Woolf gave on the topic of women in fiction. While I consider myself well-educated in women’s rights, Woolf’s insights in this text were a revelation to me. Her writing style is compelling, and her arguments are even more so. I don’t quite agree with them point for point, but at the heart of the book are truths about gender politics and womanhood that I have felt for a long time, but didn’t know how to express. It’s an essential feminist text.

You can buy it here!

vietnamerica

Vietnamerica by G.B. Tran

Tran chronicles the true story of his family’s flight from Vietnam to the United States in this magnificently detailed graphic novel. If the members of the family get mixed up in your head, if the story seems patchy and confusing, if the whole thing feels too chaotic to you, that’s the point — the Vietnam War was chaos. Tran, born in the U.S., shares with us his own journey of connecting to his roots and learning to understand his family. I was deeply moved by the painstaking love and care painted into every corner of this book, and the artwork is even more expressive than the words.

You can buy it here!

220px-Celeste_Ng_-_Everything_I_Never_Told_You

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Lydia Lee is dead at sixteen, and her family members struggle to cope as they try to piece together how and why. There’s no intricate murder mystery here. The story here is in all of the small ways the Lees have failed to communicate with each other, understand one another, and support each other. The pieces, scattered at the beginning, come together seamlessly by the end to form a portrait of a family in crisis. I read this for a class, and ordinarily, it’s the type of book I would scarf down in a day or two. I’m glad that I didn’t and instead had the chance to let it stew.

You can buy it here!

dispossessed

The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

Shevek is a renowned physicist from the anarchist utopian planet of Anarres, and the first person since the colonization of Anarres to visit its twin planet, Urras, where governments suspiciously reminiscent of the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. vie for power. Examining our world through an outsider’s perspective, the faults (and some benefits) of a capitalist system come into focus. In Shevek’s memories of his home planet, on the other hand, we see how the society of an anarchist world might function. It took me a couple of chapters to get into it, but once I did, I was impressed by Le Guin’s gently political writing, which serves as a backdrop to Shevek’s personal narrative.

You can buy it here!

bell jar

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Esther Greenwood is a college student with a supposedly bright future, but there’s a constant cloud over her happiness, something seemingly not traceable to any particular cause. That cloud turns out to be a bone-deep depression. The story describes her downward spiral in a painfully realistic way, capturing the thought patterns of depression with a level of detail that makes sense when you remember that Sylvia Plath committed suicide. This book left me in a funk for days after finishing it.

You can buy it here.

in this corner

In This Corner of the World by Fumiyo Kouno

Suzu is a young newlywed, naïve and spacey, but kind. Living in Hiroshima Prefecture during World War II, rationing, community service, and an ever-increasing number of air raids becomes her new normal. At the same time, she has to deal with more mundane concerns, like getting along with her in-laws and resolving insecurities in her relationship with her new husband. The simplicity of Suzu’s everyday life and the horrors of war combine in poignant contrast, making the inevitable violent ending of the manga even more heartbreaking, yet inspiring.

You can buy it here!

Nota Bene: there is a film of this that is also very good, but it cuts out at least one important plot thread from the book.

passing

Passing by Nella Larsen

Irene Redfield runs into an old acquaintance at a restaurant named Clare Kendry. The twist? They’re both black women masquerading as white in a whites-only establishment. From there, a close but toxic friendship grows between the two women. Clare has a secret, and to escape the pressures of keeping it, she becomes a parasitic presence in Irene’s life, to the mounting frustration of the latter. This moody Harlem Renaissance classic pulled me in, then spat me back out again with its abrupt ending.

You can buy it here!

northanger

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Catherine Morland is a sweet, ordinary teenage girl with one flaw: she is obsessed with novels, particularly, pulpy Gothic romance novels. While on holiday in Bath with some family friends, she falls headfirst into her own romance, but finds that novels have not adequately prepared her for this course of events. There is a surprisingly modern feeling to this book, with the dialogue often prompting me to think, “ah, people really haven’t changed in 200 years.” Being a satire of Gothic romance, this book is chock full of light-hearted and funny moments.

You can buy it here!

Have you read any of these? What did you think of them? What are your favorite reads of the year thus far? I’d love to discuss in the comments.

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Check out my masterlist for all reviews!