The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkien

Whisked away from his comfortable, uncomfortable life in his hobbit-hole in Bag End by Gandalf the wizard and a company of dwarves, Bilbo Baggins finds himself caught up in a plot to raid the treasure hoard of Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon.  Although quite reluctant to take part in this quest, Bilbo surprises even himself by his resourcefulness and his skill as a burglar!

By now, I am assuming that The Hobbit is well known to pretty much everyone, so I won’t go too in-depth into the book. After the terrible film adaptations, it was always going to be a bit of time before coming back to this story. Now, with the memory of the stretched-out trilogy dulled enough to appreciate the prose again, the road well-travelled, was once again traversed.

The tale is rich in detail and full of adventure. Middle Earth is full of song – interestingly most are Dwarfish – and feels ancient, it’s impressive for a world to be established so quickly in the reader’s mind.  As the journey continues on through the seasons, and months are counted off, it feels appreciatively real, and the characters’ weariness becomes a lot more believable.  For a short book, it really does a stand-up job of an exhausting, if pleasurable trek.

The best part for this reader were the tantalising hints at things happening in distant locations, those were stories I wanted to hear, as well.  The world felt vast and lived in, and this is enhanced with the addition of maps.   I’ve always hankered for those stories Tolkien never wrote about, the ones suggested by places mentioned on his maps.  This sense of mystery always keeps the world pleasingly incomplete and open to my imagination’s wondering. Continue reading “The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkien”

Cover Love Letter

When scanning the shelves for prospective books, neither the spine colour and font interest me, it’s all about about if I recognise the title/author, or if the title is quirky enough to arrest my relentless and speedy march to the end of the shelf.

It would be remiss of me not to take the time to repost this absolutely gorgeous specimen, which is one book to certainly judge its cover by.  This beauty was cunningly placed in my eyeline, demanding my attention and money, both of which were duly and happily paid.

It is a shame that there aren’t more well thought out and intricate covers adorning shops everywhere, after all the appeal is not just for the bibliophile but also a way to entice those normally not interested in reading into picking up a book.  For those interested in more of Christopher Gibbs’ work, check out his visually arresting portfolio here.

Also worth a mention is Stephen King’s, The Wind Through the Keyhole, which used mosaic design technologies to incorporate thousands of rader’s faces into the artwork used on the back cover illustration of the first edition, which I think is a wonderful give back to the fans, especially those with magnifying glasses who wish to find themeselves.

The Wind Through the Keyhole – Stephen King

Although I reviewed this book back in the day (April 2012, to be exact, achieving a grand total of three likes), having read it again I have decided to update the review to bring it in line with the series written by older, present me.  It may come off as a bit of a weird mix now, but this reblog of a majority newly review just about sums up how I live life.

Book to the Future

” A person’s never to old for stories, Bill. Man and boy, girl and woman, never to old. We live for them.”

Although I reviewed this book back in the day, having read it again I have decided to update the review to bring it in line with the series written by older, present me.  It may come off as a bit of a weird mix now, but this reblog of a majority newly review just about sums up how I like life.

Never has a dust jacket made me feel so popular when reading in a public place.  People were taking an interest in my reading material for once, when I removed this out of the cheap plastic bag, within the better plastic bag, from out of my backpack, that kept the rain off its brand-new pages.  Interestingly the bags mirrored the structure of the book but that was mere coincidence.

The Wind Through the Keyhole is Dark Tower book…

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The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass – Stephen King

As usual when reviewing any series of books, I won’t include the blurb but will plunge straight into a spoiler free review, so even if you haven’t read the first book, The Gunslinger,  you will hopefully feel enticed to start after reading this.

The first time around I was disappointed by this book, especially after its predecessor had been so exciting and visual. Coming back to this brick of a book, it wasn’t exactly with relish that I started but more of a resigned interest to see if I had misjudged it, especially with the hindsight of the rest of the series.

The forward momentum created in The Waste Lands carries on for a time but then slows down – stalls – as backstory takes over for the much of this entry, and that was my major gripe with this instalment.  There is too much focus on a history with which the reader has gathered enough hints to know the ultimate outcome.

It is great to have a more fleshed out story, especially as it goes to motivation for the characters and allows the world to become more understood, if tantalisingly mysterious, even after such a long reminiscence.  Speaking with readers over the years I am usually surprised to find the regard with which this book is held.

Sandwiching the story within a story, there are more insights into King’s creation, it’s a universe is a gloriously apocalyptic amalgam,  the geography of which – and our understanding – is much more apparent here as are the links to other books, which takes on a much more obvious direction towards the end. Continue reading “The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass – Stephen King”

The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands – Stephen King

As usual when reviewing any series of books, I won’t include the blurb but will plunge straight into a spoiler free review, so even if you haven’t read the first book, The Gunslinger,  you will hopefully feel enticed to start after reading this.

This is my favourite book of all eight Dark Tower novels for many reasons, it’s where this reader felt that the quest truly began,  and questions start to have their answers tantalisingly revealed, it’s a superb and strong addition to the series.

After a fairly relaxed beginning, the story builds up to become a tense thrill ride in its last half.  Not only do we see some strong character development, and our understanding of the rules of this universe – and of time’s malleability – solidify, but the journey’s locations and their inhabitants are a pleasure to discover.

What holds the attention and the delight of the reader  is the way in which the world is created, it feels ancient, decayed, and being torn apart, but there is always a tangible and logical nature to everything encountered.  It’s memorable and mysterious, glimpses of things familiar can be seen and much is left untold, and this is what gives the world its enchanting power over the reader. Continue reading “The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands – Stephen King”

The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three – Stephen King

As usual when reviewing any series of books, I won’t include the blurb but will plunge straight into a spoiler free review, so even if you haven’t read the first book, The Gunslinger,  you will hopefully feel enticed to start after reading this.

Having attempted to watch The Dark Tower film recently, I stopped halfway through as it wasn’t grabbing me, this was largely due to the film feeling very rushed, there was no sense of the sprawling journey taking place. The books, unsurprisingly, are a far superior medium to convey the distances and depth of detail in King’s creation.  One positive I took from the film was the reminder to get back to reviewing the books and also to get back to rereading the rest of the series, so it was a worthwhile diversion in the end.

Although I don’t usually judge books by their covers,  this series, or at least these specific covers are really eye-catching.  The Tower grows and the scenery changes to reflect themes as the books progress, it’s a(nother) little detail that gives the sequence that epic feeling of being a true odyssey.

After the scanty size of the first book, each of the net four books significantly improves on the page count of its predecessor. As such The Drawing of the Three feels more standard in terms of its story and presentation, but also its prose style which is a lot less lyrical than The Gunslinger.  In fairness it would have been hard to continue the story in such a way as it does open out but it does take some getting used to. Continue reading “The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three – Stephen King”

The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger – Stephen King

In the Gunslinger, Stephen King introduces the reader to one of his most enigmatic heroes, Roland of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger.  He is a haunting figure, a loner, on a spellbinding journey into good and evil, in a desolate world which frighteningly echoes our own.

In his first steps towards the powerful and mysterious Dark Tower, Roland encounters an alluring woman named Alice, begins a friendship with Jake, a kid from New York,  and faces an agonsiing choice between damnation and salvation as he pursues the Man in Black.

Starting on this odyssey once again and treading the well worn, familiar paths of Roland’s world has been both a pleasure and an eye-opener.  There is plenty of foretelling liberally scattered throughout this first book, and I forgot just how well it was written. Part western, part fantasy, and erring into sci-fi realms this fusion of genres and ideas are a stirring mix of unpredictability for the reader to experience.

The Gunslinger throws the adventurer into a strange, bleak world of obscure references to people and places, full of tantalising glimpses into a world passed and Roland’s own enigmatic history.  On my first read through this technique made me both eager to understand, and infuriated at not having the answers to hand, but the intrepid reader’s efforts will be rewarded as the series unfolds..

Likewise Roland’s world is a familiar, yet alien place with an atmosphere of decay, but is full of detail and mystery.  King manages to show so much whilst leaving even more open to question.  This form of crumb dropping is an enticement for this reader to carry on, to seek understanding of the world, and the lives there, but it will most likely split readers according to their tolerance for curiosity. Continue reading “The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger – Stephen King”

The Secret: A Treasure Hunt – Byron Preiss

One morning, whilst waiting for my strong cup of coffee to kick in, and the laptop to boot up the latest manuscript that needs going over , I stuck on the Travel Channel in the hope of finding some adventure.  Or more importantly to avoid all the terrible reality TV that ruins the medium.

Josh Gates was on doing his Expedition Unknown, and at first my heart sank when his quest involved  a book called The Secret,  thankfully it wasn’t referring to that terrible specimen that came out some years ago.

What Josh was referring to was a book that leads to real buried treasure,  and instead of  a classic  ‘X’ marks the spot treasure maps, there are twelve fantasy images  with clues of real world landmarks cryptically embedded within. Accompanying each illustration is poetry with additional clues to entice the reader into this deceptive maze.

Published in 1982, creator Byron Preiss tapped into the The 80’s love of fantasy but he layered it with the theme of immigration, from the Old World to the New.  The fantastical creatures of Europe came over, and morphed into something else, along with those that told the tales.  It is also an encouragement to get out and travel, to appreciate nature, and enjoy a bit of lateral thinking at the same time. Continue reading “The Secret: A Treasure Hunt – Byron Preiss”

Reading Embers

In case you missed it live, (as we did) here’s Jess’ video.   Ten minutes before kick off we lost electricity, and with the water being off as well, it was a torrid thanks to the ridiculously hot time.  Crissy has the foresight to download a film off Netflix and have her phone charged which went some of the way to helping, before a nap until the electric coming on woke us up.

If you fancy hearing Jess in the flesh and seeing what her work is all about then click below, follow on Facebook, and all that other stuff.

Viridian Gate Online: Live!

After a very long day in Manila which involved: queueing, a lack of manners, coffee, and heat that felt closer to the mid 40’s than the 35 degree reality, I came home to a message from author J.D. Astra.

On the 11th April at 08:30pm MST, Jess will be reading chapter one of book two of her Firebrand series.  You can tune into it here, on Facebook at and then go buy the book right there and then, together with book one, reviews coming soon.

All this is a bit confusing as it will be live on the 12th in this part of the world but after struggling with the maths I still have time to do a post and let you all know before it happens.  If you fancy a trip into the world of Viridian Gate Online, or just want to sample the writing of J.D. Astra then this is the way to go about it.

I feel guilty for having accumulated many books that I need to review for people, and so need to get a move on but after cravenly contriving to forget that for this evening, I’m off to seek some much-needed sleep.