Friday, 22 August 2014

September - May: A Bookish Tour (Part 4)

Hi everyone. This is the final post in my epic review series (maybe a slight exaggeration) of what I read during my hiatus. I like to think that with this post behind us, we can forget that the hiatus ever happened! For the first three review posts, click here, here and here.

The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

"Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie."

A quest. A ring. Courage and bravery in the face of evil. Possibly the most famous work of epic fantasy ever.

And yes, Emily the Major Fantasy Fan only read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings for the first time this spring. Better late than never, right?? What can I say? I LOVE these books. Just everything, the characters and the humour of The Hobbit, and the beautiful lyrical writing of The Lord of the Rings and the amazing epic scale. I love quests. I love high fantasy. The scope and breadth of it was incredible - and I know that, having not yet read The Silmarillion or the Histories of Middle Earth, I've only scratched the surface of Tolkien's incredible world. These book sky-rocketed to be some of my favourites. I am in awe.

The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil by Stephen Collins

"The job of the skin is to keep things in ... "

On the island of Here, everything is controlled and contained; the neat, ordered houses line up together using their conformity to block out the terror of the Sea and the distant whispers of a place called There. Dave is content with his job and his life - until one day, strange things begin to happen.

The second I saw this in the library, I was of course hooked. Who could possibly resist a book titled The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil? Certainly not me. I don't read graphic novels very often but I do enjoy a good one, and the pictures in this did not disappoint:

They were really beautiful in style and very detailed - you could look and look at each page, seeing all the little touches added by Collins.

This book was really unexpected. From the humorous title I was expecting a light-hearted read, but in fact I was presented with a strange and quite depressing story. The social commentary was very interesting as Collins tackled the conformist mindset of our society and the slow deadening of our minds.

Specifically, there was a really interesting portrayal of everyone being constantly on their phone - which as I'm sure you know is an accurate depiction of the general public, whether on the train or walking down the street, and even in social situations.
The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil gave me a lot more to think about than I was expecting - but I did enjoy it, and would definitely recommend it.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zaf√≥n 

Daniel has grown up surrounded by books, and when he is ten, the ultimate heritage of a book-lover is passed onto him by his bookshop-owning father: he is taken to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, where he must trawl the dusty archives to find one book to "adopt", thus saving it from oblivion. He finds The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax, a mysterious author of whom he has never heard before, and stays up through the night reading  a breathtaking story. Growing up in twentieth century Barcelona he is pulled into the book's gothic world, and he is drawn deeper than he ever imagined as he tries to unravel the mystery surrounding Julian Carax.

I loved this book. It is written in true gothic style with lyrical, beautiful prose and a fantastic plot that twists between dark and light, past and present, and the people both in Daniel's life and in the novel he becomes immersed in. It was a really compelling read and I would definitely recommend it to any fans of historical fiction, those who enjoy a complex plot and lovers of beautiful prose.

Black Angels by Rita Murphy

For Celli, growing up in America's South in the 1960s, the difference between black and white is ultimate and unquestionable; she loves her black nanny Sophie, but believes that what society tells her about racial differences is the truth. Despite her missing father and the growing racial tensions of her country, Celli's life is settled - until one summer, when Sophie becomes increasingly involved in the Civil Rights Movement and the truth about Celli's parents is slowly brought to light. That is the summer when she begins to see angels in the back garden - angels that she never imagined to be her age, or black.

This was a pretty interesting book. The truth is that books like this, set in 60s America, are ten-a-penny; like the world wars, a focus on the Civil Rights Movement and the black quest for equality is a popular theme for contemporary authors. This book was certainly set apart by the angels it featured - these were symbolic, I think, of equality, though I can't say I entirely bought into them. But despite this rather strange aspect of the book, it was well-written with an interesting plot. It was a quick read and I would recommend it, I think, if you have a particular interest in this time period and its racial issues. 

So, have you read any of these? What did you think? (I'm especially interested in the last three, because the likelihood is you have read LotR.) On the topic of LotR, though: what's a book that's really famous but you didn't read for ages? Or maybe you've still not read it?!

Emily x

PS I'm back from holiday tomorrow! As I type this right now, on July 31st, about to hit the "schedule" button, I can't believe that when you're reading this I'll actually be almost back to school. Ugh. Scary thought. 


  1. I just wanted to let you know that I've nominated you for the Liebster Award! Find the information here:


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