Word Porn: The Return of the King

Word Porn posts are quotes or passages from writing/authors/stories that I love. They will be as spoiler-free as possible. Today’s choice is from The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien.

The Rohirrim indeed had no need of news or alarm. All too well they could see for themselves the black sails. For Eomer was now scarcely a mile from the Harlond, and a great press of his first foes was between him and the haven there, while new foes came swirling behind, cutting him off from the Prince. Now he looked to the River, and hope died in his heart, and the wind that he had blessed he now called accursed. But the hosts of Mordor were enheartened, and filled with a new lust and fury they came yelling to the onset.

Stern now was Eomer’s mood, and his mind clear again. He let blow the horns to rally all men to his banner that could come thither; for he thought to make a great shield-wall at the last, and stand, and fight there on foot till all fell, and do deeds of song on the fields of Pelennor, though no man should be left in the West to remember the last King of the Mark. So he rode to a green hillock and there set his banner, and the White Horse ran rippling in the wind.

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day’s rising

I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.

To hope’s end I rode and to heart’s breaking:

Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!

These staves he spoke, yet he laughed as he said them. For once more lust of battle was on him; and he was still unscathed, and he was young, and he was king: the lord of a fell people. And lo! even as he laughed at despair he looked out again on the black ships, and he lifted up his sword to defy them.

004_tolkien The Return Of The King Book Cover by JRR Tolkien_1 The_Return_of_the_King_(city)

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Review: THE HERO’S GUIDE TO STORMING THE CASTLE by Christopher Healy

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I love the covers. PS: I need a Briar cover.

Rating: 4/5

The first book in this series, The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, was possibly my favorite 2012 debut, and one of my favorite middle grades of all time. So I was thrilled to receive the ARC for the sequel for review (THANKS, WALDEN POND PRESS). I’m not going to lie, I think the first one is an overall better book, but I still thoroughly enjoyed The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle.

Since the main group of characters and the general world has been established in Book 1, we get to see more of that world and the countries in it, as well as many more characters, in Book 2. Little Taylor was my favorite newly-introduced character. He is hilarious and awesome and an expert in a REALLY AWESOME skill that I don’t want to spoil. Spoiler: It’s awesome. A new country, Dar, and its inhabitants also figure prominently, and I’m guessing will continue to do so in Book 3.

The first section of this book works mostly to reunite our heroes and heroines from Book 1. It’s super fun to see how they’re all reacting to the action from the first, and how the various character dynamics have shifted (more on that later). The middle section of this book is pretty weak; there is an imbalance of telling versus showing, and the characters spend most of their time planning and re-planning their plan of attack. And it’s about as repetitive as the previous sentence. The final part of the book, however, gathers up all the slack again and is a rollicking adventure with lots of peril and shenanigans and put all of the (many) supporting characters to good use.

The thing about Healy’s writing that amazes me the most is that, in spite of the ludicrous story and crazy antics the main characters get up to, he still manages to portray the characters as real people. They have fleshed-out personalities and flaws and understandable motivations. The character dynamics and relationships are absolutely stellar. Each individual interacts with each individual in a specific, consistent way, regardless of whether they’re interested in each other romantically or not. Speaking of romance, except for the pair that’s married, I have no idea who is going to end up with who in this series and I KINDA LOVE IT. Specifically in this book, we get a lot of Liam, Duncan (who I love to pieces) and a lot more of Briar Rose (who I love even more). Briar is fierce and scary and kinda possibly evil, and really adds to the group dynamic. DYNAMICS, PEOPLE, HEALY IS GOOD WITH THEM. There’s also plenty of villains, some that we’ve seen before, some new, and they’re all varying degrees of rabid.

Finally, this book did a good job of setting up the conflicts (both character and plot) for the next one, which makes me happy but also sad because I have to wait….for how long…..

Most of the illustrations are only partially done in the ARC, some of them are missing, and a few look finished. It was really cool to see the process of those; I’m a huge fan of the illustrations in the first book, and it looks like the sequel’s illustrations will be just as great.

What I Owe to Diana Wynne Jones

It’s Diana Wynne Jones month over at We Be Reading. When Diana passed away two years ago, I considered writing something about what her books meant to me, but I was too despondent, and in the end, just read the many amazing tributes to her by other people (such as Neil Gaiman). But I do need to express what I owe to her, hence this post. 6124248

I became a fan of Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki when I was in high school, after Spirited Away came out. When I heard about his next movie, Howl’s Moving Castle, and that it was based on a book, I figured I had better check the book out first. The next time I was at my local Barnes and Noble, I found the book, by someone I’d never heard of before (I know, scandalous) and opened it at random.

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“As the million soft echoes died, Howl and the scarecrow were left thoughtfully facing one another across a pile of bones.”

I knew immediately I had to find out how the story got to that point.

Howl’s Moving Castle became one of my favorite books and is still one of my “comfort reads.” I devoured the Chrestomanci series next, as well as the sequel to Howl, Castle in the Air. I couldn’t understand how every single book was comprised of such utter perfection. I read Fire and Hemlock, which I didn’t completely understand at the time, and Hexwood, which was so convoluted, confusing and complicated that of course I adored it (it also has one of my favorite anti-heroes of all time). I read Eight Days of Luke and was inspired by the creative reimagining of old Norse myths. I read Power of Three and was amazed at what a writer can do with point-of-view limitations to tell an old story in a completely new way. I read Dogsbody and The Homeward Bounders and cried over them. I read many of Diana’s short stories and, even when I didn’t love them, exactly, was amazed at the way she tells stories as if they’re standing on their head. I read Dark Lord of Derkholm, and have never looked at epic fantasy the same way again. (I could probably write pages on how that novel is a far better critique of epic fantasy than A Game of Thrones, in pretty much every way and on every level, but I will refrain.)

34286I haven’t read all of her books yet; partly because, now that she’s gone, I want them to last as long as possible. Then again, her books thrive on rereads, as far as I have experienced.

Every single one of her stories that I’ve read have affected the way I read, the way I write, and the way I look at the world. I don’t care if that’s trite or clichéd because it is completely true. The way she twists stories, looks at them from a different angle or gives you something unexpected, made me look at all other stories differently, too. It’s like an exercise in looking at everything upside down and contrariwise. Because of that, Diana Wynne Jones expanded my reading repertoire in many directions, as well. Fire and Hemlock made me interested in fairy tales, Hexwood in Arthur tales, Eight Days of Luke in Norse tales, and Howl’s Moving Castle made me interested in John Donne and English poets. Because of authors like her (Tolkien is another), I developed a relationship with words and stories and communication that will last my lifetime.

18932But that’s not all her books have done for me personally. No matter how sad or dark they can be in parts, her stories always emphasize the incredible power and importance of kindness. Her books make me laugh much more often than they make me cry, and there is always a kind moment even when a situation is grim or a character is feeling discouraged or helpless. There are unkind or evil characters in her books (they reflect reality) but they don’t stop with the “Life is Dark so Deal With It.” The characters in them always persist and endure and find other people who are kind and compassionate (as well as goofy or strange or flawed).

In conclusion: I’m in love with Diana Wynne Jones’ work and I don’t care who knows it. Thank you for everything, Diana.

March Goals

First and foremost, post more often! Good grief I have been a horrible blogger lately.

The Estella Society is hosting a Bookish Photo A Day Challenge. I’m participating via Twitter and Instagram @bahnree.

We Be Reading is hosting Diana Wynne Jones month. Obviously I support all DWJ celebrations always. I’ll probably be doing the readalongs/watchalongs over there.

From my YA/MG TBR pile, I’m going to read The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson.

From my Tolkien Challenge pile, I’m going to read The Return of the King.

I haven’t read ANY YA/MG 2013 debuts yet. But I’m getting a bunch in from the library on Tuesday, so I’m going to try to read The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell and The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd. Other options are Slated, Level 2, and Prophecy.

I’m doing pretty well with my Classics Challenge, but I’m going to try to read Washington Square by Henry James and/or Another Country by James Baldwin.

You can see all of my yearly goals at my 2013 Goals page.

Upcoming Posts:

Best Bookstores in Eugene, OR (a highly subjective review)

Review: The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

Review: The Prophecy by Hilari Bell