Books of 2015 (and my lengthy reviews)

Honestly, this is one of my favorite posts to write.  Mostly because I love reading other WP bloggers posts on the books they read.  You never know when you’re going to see a book on someone else’s review and think you should read it…then it changes your life.

This year I’ve read 23 books and 9,432 pages.  This is my second highest reading year since I got married (2010) in terms of books and pages.  I guess I found a lot of time to read this year!  My record is 26 books in 2014 and 11,003 pages in 2011.

Most of the books I read this year were published after the year 2000.  The oldest book I read was The Fellowship of the Ring published in 1954.

These are listed in chronological order with the first book being what I read in January and the last book I completed.

  1. Choices of One. By Timothy Zahn.  Like I mentioned in my review earlier this year – how fun that 2016 started with a Star Wars novel.  It seemed fitting, what with a new era of Star Wars dawning.  I won’t put a real review here since you can read the longer one in my previous post.  5/5 stars.
  2. Blood and Beauty: The Borgias. By Sarah Dunant.  I don’t know much about the Borgias and their lurid mark on history, so I enjoyed this introductory novel to their lives.  It ended too early in the game for me and I’m not sure if there’s going to be a second novel about their lives.  The part that was in there though, was delicious, fun, and I liked the slant she gave to the characters.  The only part that I was truly disappointed in was how little Dunant actually spent with the main man – Pope Rodrigo Borgia.  4/5 stars.
  3. Empress of the Seven Hills. By Kate Quinn.  Kate Quinn has taken over Philippa Gregory’s place in my heart for historical novels empress of the seven hillswith romance, backstabbing, and politics.  I love almost any book by her.  Though this was not as good as Mistress of Rome or Daughters of Rome, I still really enjoyed it.  What set it apart a little from her other novels is that there was a lot of the betrayal and backstabbing, but at its core, there was a lot about loyalty and growth.  This book also had a different ending from the others, where the antagonist did not get what was coming for her, but shocker, she is not disgraced and she lives!  All the main characters lives get turned upside down and nothing ends how you want it to.  It reminded me of ESB in that way…and I loved every moment.  I would recommend this book for people who are interested in Ancient Rome but don’t know much of its history.  4/5 stars
  4. Red Rising. By Pierce Brown.  Hmmm…what to say about this novel?  Being hailed as a new bestseller about the dystopian future, I found it to be a mashup of Hunger Games + Lord of the Flies + Ender’s Game.  In essence, a little off.  The biggest problem I had is that I couldn’t remember what was going on each time I picked it up.  It was the kind of book that is great when you’re sitting down for long periods of time (like a plane ride), but not great when you read bits and pieces before you go to bed each night.  I think it was because the characters weren’t really memorable, there were too many of them, and they changed constantly.  But the ending…the ending was good.  If you like endings that kind of piss you off, you might want to give this a shot.  3/5 stars.
  5. A Mad, Wicked Folly. By Sharon Biggs Waller.  Predictable, and I got bored half way through it.  It was a typical YA novel of a beautiful girl trapped in luxury and wanting to be part of a bigger cause (she becomes a suffragette).  These books can be written well, but this one spent a ridiculous amount of time on the love story.  The main female protagonist did not feel as strong because you could never tell if she was making decisions for herself or her love interest.  3/5 stars.
  6. Chalice.  By Robin McKinley.  Yaaaaaaaaawn.  I actually was really disappointed with this novel and I like a lot of McKinley’s work.  But Chalice was so boring and really dragged.  I can’t even really tell you what it’s about because nothing happened. It was almost entirely composed of flashbacks.  If you like books that do a lot of world building, then you will like this book.  I feel like 70% of it was world building and having you get to know the environment and understanding the demesne.  30% was actually storytelling and plot.  The ending didn’t make sense either.  Needless to say, I put down the book feeling really disappointed.  When I read other reviews by readers, it seems like people either love the book or hate it.  I was in the latter camp.  2/5 stars.
  7. Secrets of a Charmed Life. By Susan Meissner.  First book I read by Meissner this year and it turned me onto her as an author.  I loved this novel way more than I thought I would.  Meissner does a great job of twisting past and present into a story.  She weaves together the lives of two sisters, Emmy and Julia, their separation due to WWII, and the guilt that follows both of them for 20 years of their life.  It’s a harsh, real look of someone who has big dreams and those dreams are snatched away because of war.  But not only does Emmy never pursue those dreams again, but it’s interesting the way it becomes Julia’s dream instead.  This story completely engrossed me.  I thought the characters were very well written; there was suspense, heartache, and Meissner combined so many styles of writing that it kept me on my toes.  4/5 stars.
  8. The Name of the Wind & The Wise Man’s Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicles). By Patrick Rothfuss.  Two mega huge high fantasy novels, both really good.  The novels follow Kvothe, the main character who seems to be a hero from stories but has changed his name and is a solitary bartender in a backwoods town.  Both books are almost entirely flashbacks, but when we go back to the present, something interesting always happens – to the point that you know the present will be important, but first we need to find out how he got there.  These books are huge so they are not for the faint of heart.  They are not fast paced either, but everything that happens is intriguing.  The worst part of these novels?  THE THIRD BOOK ISN’T OUT YET.  And there’s no news on the release date either.  This is possibly the worst thing about reading great books that are part of an unfinished series…now I have to wait.  4-5/5 stars.
  9. A New Dawn. By John Jackson Miller.  You can read my review here, but in short, I liked getting the backstory of Kanan and Hera.  I didn’t like how there was not as much about Hera or from her point of view as I was hoping.  3/5 stars.
  10. In Every Pew Sits a Broken Heart. By Ruth Graham.  Written by Billy Graham’s daughter, Ruth writes about her struggles and how not to judge others and use God as a rock to help you through.    I thought it would be better is all I’m saying.  2.5/5 stars.
  11. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.  By Cheryl Strayed.  No, I haven’t seen the movie and don’t plan to.  At wild PCT trailtimes, I really liked this book, but most of the time I was bored.  Maybe it’s just me, but the parts that rubbed me wrong on this book was how it felt like a lot of whining and complaining from Cheryl.  She had plenty of moments to get her act together prior to her marriage crumbling, doing drugs, and drifting apart from friends and family.  Instead, she hikes the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) with NO experience whatsoever with hopes that it will heal her.  The funny thing is – we sit with her throughout the entire trail, but never find out if the PCT really pieced her back together.  As soon as she’s done with the PCT, we’re basically done with the book, except for a small few paragraphs about the rest of her life.  And by rest of her life, I mean, she immediately jumps 5 years later.  That was the part I was most looking forward to…how did the PCT change her life afterwards?  I thought it was an essential piece of the puzzle and we only got a slight whiff of it.  It’s a great book for those who like those introspective, figuring-my-shit-out kind of books similar to Glass Castle or even Eat, Pray, Love.  It’s a horrible book for avid hikers who dream of hiking the PCT or have hiked the PCT.  3/5 stars.
  12. The Buried Giant. By Kazuo Ishiguro.  I thought I would love the storyline when I started out, but then the style of writing really got under my skin to the point that it made it hard to concentrate on the plot.  When I began the novel, the premise was so intriguing that I couldn’t wait to keep reading it the next night.  An elderly couple (when do you ever read about that in fantasy novels?) as the protagonists realize something is very strange in the fact that this “mist” keeps robbing their memories.  So they leave their village to find their son, meet up with a warrior, orphan boy, and the Sir Gawain (yes, that Gawain, from Arthur’s round table) and get entangled in their adventures, which is also somehow tied to the mist.  Premise sounds okay, right?  Well, the writing was deliberately old fashioned and halting with random stories thrown in here and there, that I couldn’t get as into it as I would have hoped.  I got bored or frustrated and wanted to give up.  I didn’t, and I’m glad I didn’t, because I thought the ending was quite touching, but it didn’t make up for the rest of the novel.  3/5 stars.
  13. Failed Moments.  By Robert Allen.  The author, Allen, contacted me over Goodreads and sent me a free copy of this book in order to write an honest review.  The novel basically asked the question, “If you could go back in time to do the right thing, would you do it?” And the novel asks you to believe we have multiple lives.  My main qualms with this book is that the endings of his different lives seemed so rushed compared to the fleshing out of the story in both instances.  They almost were anti-climactic because you could see the ending before it came.  Allen took a longer time developing his characters and giving us historical context with background, but the ending always flew by and then all of a sudden, he was back at the hotel. I kept getting jarred out of the novel at times, a feeling I don’t like.  Story was good, but a little bit more work could make it great.  3/5 stars.
  14. The American Heiress. By Daisy Goodwin.  I picked up this book because some of the story had to do with the lives of the rich and famous in Newport, RI…right down the road from me and I’ve visited the mansions quite a few times.  It’s a YA novel of a fictional wealth American girl whose mothers would try to find them matches in titled English aristocrats.  The English dukes and barons needed the money and the Americans loved the title it gave them.  In this book, she marries a duke and becomes a Duchess.  Though the characters weren’t that interesting (and sometimes their actions didn’t make sense), I loved the contrast between the American “fast money” and the English “old money” and the differences between their points of views on money.  3/5 stars.
  15. The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King. By J.R.R. Tolkien.  Do I even need to write a review?  These are some of my favorite books.  It had been years since I read them, mostly because I had built it into my head that they were so long, forgetting that the last time I read them was in college.  When you don’t have papers and other reading to do – these books go by quite fast.  It was fun to reread and see what had been changed from the movies.  5/5 stars.  All of them.
  16. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. By Marie Kondo.  If you know me, I’m obsessed with organizing, scheduling, and “whenlife changing magic of tidying up book in doubt, throw it out”.  This book made me realize there are crazier people than me.  Quite a relief, actually.  That said, I do recommend this book if you are lacking motivation to clean your house.  She make some good points, such as a) if it doesn’t bring you joy, throw it out; b) Sort by category, not by room (books, clothes, kitchen utensils); c)  don’t become obsessed with fancy organizers; d) make sure everything has it’s “place” in your house; d) the more you clean out your house and keep it just to what brings you joy, the happier and more transformative your life will be.  But I warned you – she is really cray cray sometimes.  4/5 stars.
  17. The Mistress of Spices. By Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.  A novel about a woman transformed by magic and tasked with using her spices in a modern day San Francisco shop to help other people.  It took a while to get used to the way Ms. Divakaruni writes with run on AND fragmented sentences but it ended up being enjoyable once I got into the flow.  The magic was different from a fantasy novel, and I enjoyed that it was different from what I normally read.  But I wouldn’t read it again and I’m not sure I would recommend it either.  3/5 stars.
  18. A Cast of Stones. By Patrick W. Carr.  I haven’t done this in a long time, but the book I wanted hadn’t come into the library so I browsed the stacks until I found one that looked good.  And this is what I came up with.  (I should do that more often)  This was a stereotypical fantasy novel plot line.  An outsider protagonist (male, of course) with no hope for a future ends up on a quest where he does not know what is going on.  He’s hopeless in the beginning but slowly learns how to fight and think.  Ends up in a place where he takes a rest and rids himself of his inner demons, as well as becomes an amazing fighter.  Moves onward with his journey after the resting point and learns about love, betrayal, greed, etc., before finally coming to the place where he was supposed to end up in the beginning.  Once he’s there, he’s reunited with his friends, there’s a climactic battle, and he becomes the hero.  Yes, it was predictable.  But, yes, I also liked it.  The book appealed to my side of wanting to go off on a quest and feeling like an outsider.  Yet it also had more interesting subplots, which is what kept me reading this novel.  Such as the stones and reading them, and trying to find out if the group he was with was really on his side or just after their own ends.  Pros for me was there was not a lot of romance, there was fighting, and a sense of intrigue and mystery.  I believe this is the first novel in a set, but I’m not sure if I’d read any more.  I’m curious, but not curious enough.  3.8/5 stars.
  19. Four Sisters, All Queens. By Sherry Jones.  Funnily, this is the second book I read on the Provence sisters.  It’s not that I meant to, I just didn’t realize it was both on the same subject.  I almost gave up reading when I saw it was the same subject line as The Sister Queens by Sophie Perinot (read it in 2014).  Where I think that Perinot’s novel was stronger, I like how Jones’ novel went into all four sisters and their lives.  Perinot only focused on Marguerite and Eleanor, the two most famous sister queens.  I appreciated that Jones wrote about all the sisters and their dynamics.  Overall, I learned a lot and enjoyed it but Sherry Jones really shied away from writing dramatic events.  Just as the chapter got really good, it would end and switch to another point of view.  You’d then return to that same sister a year later.  A good book and I enjoyed learning about that era in history…I only wish she would not have shied away from the important details.  3/5 stars.
  20. Lady in Waiting. By Susan Meissner.  Second book by Meissner this year.  I’m not a fan of modern fiction but Meissner did such a superb job with intertwining a modern day Jane going through a rough separation and Lady Jane Grey’s history.  I didn’t think they would relate, but she did a good job.  The “life lessons” were a little shoved in my face (and that’s saying something for me) but I didn’t mind it because I liked the novel.  I would recommend this book to those who enjoy historical fiction but want something a little off the beaten path. 4/5 stars.

 

My favorite book of this year (other than the LotR trilogy) would probably be a tie between The Name of the Wind/Wise Man’s Fear and Secrets of a Charmed Life.  Nothing blew me away like 2014’s Ready Player One, but the Kingkiller Chronicles surprised me with their depth and layers.  Secrets of a Charmed Life had me crying at one point, but also filled me with joy.  It was a surprisingly, satisfying read and I look for that in novels.

There you have it!  2015 in books.  If you want to follow my reading all year round, you can come hang out with me on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/3910665-kiri

What was your favorite book of 2015?  Should I put it on my to-read list?

The Highs, The Lows, and The Books I Read In Between (2014)

2014 is a year that will stand out.  It started with highs and ended in lows.

This blog had a great year!  I posted 109 times, with most of my posting being in April (my haikus!).  My most viewedBlog post of 2014 was a post from last year, the Jedi Code Absolutes, but the most viewed post written in 2014 was actually not mine at all – but Megan‘s Facts in Fiction: Conspiracy Theories for Star Wars.  LOVE IT!  Yay, Megan!  Thanks for writing that great guest post! 🙂  My most commented on post of this year was actually April 10th’s haiku post where we had a friendly discussion about Count Dooku and clones.  Over 2014, Mei-Mei commented the most, followed closely by L. Palmer (we miss you!).  2014 also saw a year where I was able, for the first time ever, ask for guest bloggers when I went to Australia and it actually happened!  Megan and Null posted, with Icarus’ post ending up coming a little later.  I hope to continue this great streak in 2015, but I’ll be hard pressed, especially as I continue to work on my business.

Now here we are…time for the reflection that is always so important when a new year comes around.

The Highs of 2014

  • My business is doing great!  I have 3 clients and 2 that I’m hoping will sign onto a contract by end of January (knock on wood).  It’s been exhausting working on it every. single. day.  But you know what?  I hope it’ll be worth it and I think it will.  I’m often too hard on myself and don’t see all the little achievements that I have brought about.  But honestly, I have done SO well and every day is a learning process but I think it’s going to be fine.
  • I traveled.  I traveled a lot for me!  Miami in April, Bahamas in May and Australia in July.  Next year I already have
    Me at the Great Barrier Reef!

    Me at the Great Barrier Reef!

    travel lined up for Arizona in February for a friend’s wedding, Miami in April again, and hopefully Anaheim for the Star Wars Celebration!

  • We got the Episode VII cast, title and our first trailer!  It’s just been adding to the suspense but even though I feel like we know more, I still feel like I know the same amount as I did in the end of 2013.
  • I’ve learned more this past year than I have in a while.  This year has been the most challenging for me in terms of mind (my business), body (a fitness challenge I did during the summer), and soul (emotionally up and down).   I’ve learned what I’m made of and what I can become when I push myself.  I feel like before 2014, I was coasting.  I challenged myself, but only just enough so that I could give a little spurt of effort and then lay back and coast for a while.  This past year, there was not a lot of coasting.

The Lows of 2014

  • I’ve debated putting this on here, but it wouldn’t be truthful without it.  I unfortunately miscarried in November.  When I found out I was pregnant, I was terrified and felt like I wasn’t ready.  I look back on that with regret and wish I had appreciated it.  I hope that none of you ever have to go through a miscarriage because the emotional roller coaster it puts you through…I’m still suffering from it.  I’m a lot better, really I am, but November and most of December was full of crying, anger, guilt, and fear.  I’m still scared and unsure if I want to try again because of the constant fear I know I will feel if I do get pregnant.  But if there’s one thing I have learned from Lord of the Rings and Star Wars (but mostly LOTR) is that there is always hope.  So who knows?  When I feel ready to try again, maybe this time it’ll all be okay.
  • We put Chewie to sleep on December 6th.  (Yeah, end of the year sucked)  We found out in February that she had a
    The last photo ever taken of Chewie :(

    The last photo ever taken of Chewie 😦

    disease which marked her much older than the 4 years we all thought she was, including our vet.  Turns out she was a senior dog, probably over 9 years old.  We watched her slowly deteriorate from February to the point where she could not go up and down the stairs without falling, peeing in the house a lot, not eating, and her stomach ballooned with either a kidney problem or a tumor.  Testing would be thousands of dollars, which we were unwilling to do, so we ended up making the decision to put her to sleep.  We only had her for a little over a year and a half, but we know that she lived a really good life for the end of it and that’s the most we can hope for.  We will get another dog soon, but will another dog ever come to us from the shelter with a Star Wars name?  It made her so special.

  • I stopped doing the Big Sister program.  This is not really a low low, but I had a lot of hopes for the program and the relationship I would develop with the girl.  Unfortunately, we were not matched well and something that should have been fun, instead turned into an ordeal.  I dreaded meeting with her on the weekends and came to the decision to end visiting with her. She never showed her appreciation and our likes were so dissimilar that it was hard to find things to do.  I still believe in the program, but after I miscarried, I began reevaluating a lot in my life and to let go of things that were putting a strain on me and this was the first to go.  So it’s a low because I was really excited about it, but it ended up being disappointing.
  • I didn’t go to any conventions this year.  Okay, not a huge deal but it was still slightly disappointing since I went to four last year, including the big NYCC.  I would have liked to go to one but either 1) I didn’t have the time or 2) there were no panels that interested me.  Hopefully I can make it to Star Wars Celebration in April! 🙂

So there you have it.  My year in a nutshell.  Exhale breath.  Let’s hope 2015 gives me a year where I slow down, focus more on myself and my business….AND READ MORE BOOKS!

Okay, this is my favorite part, really.  I love looking back on my year and seeing what I read.  HERE WE GO.

Well guys, I just spent 30 minutes going into all the books I read, hit something funny on my laptop and it all disappeared.  Thankfully this much was saved of my post (really, WP, you need to learn how to autosave every few seconds like word documents and gmail do).  So if you really want to see what I read, you can go to my Goodreads.  I’m not writing all of it again.

ready player oneIn a nutshell: I read 26 books (that’a a lot for me and I think it’s due to all the traveling I did) and 8782 pages.  The best book I read was Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.  I didn’t expect to like it, but instead loved every moment of this gaming novel.  A novel about gamers who are trying to solve a master video game, it was also a love letter to the 70s and 80s, chock full of geeky references.  The worst novel I read, but didn’t finish, was The Shadow Reader.  It was Urban Fantasy and a stupid love story where I got so frustrated with it that I just stopped reading.

So there we go.  2014, it’s been…a ride.  Good, bad, and everything in between.  What books blew your mind this year?  How was 2014 for you?  What are your resolutions, hopes, and dreams for 2015?

Oh and guess what – WE’RE SEEING THE FORCE AWAKENS THIS YEAR!!  Here’s to that.

“Awards become corroded, friends gather no dust.”

I received two Liebster awards this week.  TWO!  That’s crazy.  The first one I received was in December 2013 and I thought that would be the end of that.   Nope, two more wonderful people have nominated me again: Glitch and Mei-Mei.  Glitch is a new follower of mine so I really appreciate the shout out from him.  Mei-Mei has been a following my blog for a long time, and I hers, so I appreciate the longstanding relationship I have with another blogger that I’ve never met.  So thank you to both of you!

oscar acceptance gif

Really, I think these awards are more about the relationships you develop with other bloggers across the community.  Which is why I chose that quote by Jesse Owens to headline this post…there would be no award without friends and followers, so really, I’m appreciative that this little ol’ blog has that many friends.

And now I’ll answer the questions posed and we can all move on to Star Wars.

Glitch first:

  1. What is your favorite color? A very faint, light purple.
  2. Favorite food? Spaghetti. There are two ways that I love to have it: Spaghetti carbonara and spaghetti and a garlic oil sauce with crushed red pepper flakes and prosciutto.
  3. Favorite movie? Is that even a question? If I had to be more specific, it would be ESB.  See this post for my rankings.
  4. Favorite book/series? I used to love Katherine by Anya Seton. It is slowly dwindling as my favorite novel because I’ve changed as a person.  Now I think it would be the LOTR, Harry Potter series, and the Liveship Traders series.
  5. Favorite subject in school? I loved Earth Science in college and English in high school.
  6. Favorite music? Country music! Seriously, that’s not a joke.  My current favorite song is Drunk on a Plane by Dierks Bentley.  However, overall, right now I’m totally digging my Enya station on Pandora because it’s great for yoga and plays cool movie themes like lotr and Gladiator.
  7. Star Wars or Star Trek? No comment.
  8. Science Fiction or Reality TV? Oh goodness. If we are just talking TV, probably reality TV.  I love zoning out to Chopped.
  9. Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit? (Movies) LOTR! You do not want to get me started on the Hobbit movies.
  10. Xbox, PlayStation, or PC? Eh. I don’t really play video games.  I was hella good at Mario Kart though, but gamecube and Wii are not an option here.  I’ll say Xbox because I love Dance Central.
  11. Do you like Jar Jar Binks? Hmmmm. No.  That said – I don’t hate him as others do!  But I don’t like him either.

 

Mei-Mei’s questions:

Why did you decide to blog in the first place?

I started my Star Wars blog on the starwars.com hyperspace about 8 years ago.  I took a break for a while in college because I couldn’t keep up.  I started it again, but then it was shut down because starwars.com discontinued hyperspace.  I took another break but then realized that I needed an outlet for my obsession, so wandered onto WordPress.  That was two years ago and I haven’t looked back.

Name three of your pastimes or hobbies.

  1. Yoga
  2. Attending sci-fi conventions and Ren Faires (though I’ve been to 0 this year because starting my own business has been exhausting)
  3. Reading.  Like Mei-Mei said, does that count?  It’s something I’ve done my whole life and love, so I’m going to include it.

If you could interview anyone (dead or alive), who would it be and why?

George Lucas.  Because he created Star Wars.

Do you have any pets? If not, what would you consider getting?

Dog – Chewie. Sweetest thing ever.

Bird – Peanut. Meanest thing ever.

What is your favorite movie and why?

Pass.

What is your favorite comic book and why? (If you don’t read comics, just name a favorite book).

I used to be really into comic books from about the ages 12-18.  I loved the Black Widow comics because Natasha could kick ass and had red hair.

What is your favorite Youtube channel?

Jenna Marbles and Lindsey Stirling.

If you could cosplay as any character, who would it be and why?

And elf from lotr.  As much as I’m not into Tauriel, I love those elf costumes.  They would just take too much effort to make.

What is your favorite topic to write about?

Star Wars.  I’ve lately been forcing myself to write about business on my VA blog, but it’s not half as fun.  It’s starting to get a little more interesting but it doesn’t flow.

What’s your favorite fandom?

Star Wars.

 

Finally, here are some other blogs that I nominate for a Liebster Award.  Do not feel pressured to accept and/or participate, I just want to spread the love for smaller blogs:

 

  1. The Jedi Librarian
  2. The Straw Feminist
  3. 12 Months of Lent
  4. Geek for His Glory
  5. The Nullspace

 

Your questions:

  1. Favorite TV show as a kid?
  2. Favorite local sports team?
  3. Your theme song is:
  4. Beer, wine or liquor?
  5. The movie version of my life would be titled:
  6. If I could have one superpower, it would be:
  7. It’s a Saturday morning at 10am. If I’m not sleeping, I’m:
  8. Something I said I’d never do, but did anyway was:
  9. If they could bottle my personality, the label would read:
  10. One thing people are surprised to find out about me is:
  11. If I could travel anywhere in the world, I would go to:

MTFBWY!

“Not As Certain As Being Left Behind…”

I recently read Kelly’s post on not breaking your word a few days ago and now I can’t stop thinking about friendship.  What set me off on my maniacal thinking spree, and you can see from my comments on her post, was the relationship between Samwise Gamgee and Frodo Baggins in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Now, I know I’m a Tolkien Purist and I’ve come to admit it on this site, though I was in denial for a long time.  But overall, I loved what Peter Jackson did with the Lord of the Rings movies.  I think he did a great job.

The one thing that extensively pissed me off (other than the elves coming to save the day at Helm’s Deep, but that’s for another day) is a minor change he made to Sam and Frodo’s relationship.  Sam is the most loyal friend to Frodo and when he made the promise to Gandalf that he wouldn’t leave Frodo’s side, he meant it.

sam and frodo travel

There are tons of scenes in the movies that exemplify this, but there is one scene that strongly contradicts it.  In Return of the King, Gollum frames Sam by making it look like he ate the last of their food and Frodo gets so angry that he tells him to leave.  And Sam leaves.

What?  In the books, Sam never left Frodo’s side.  NEVER. Frodo treated Sam like dirt at times, due to the Ring, but Sam still saw Frodo through to the very end and never once turned around.  I love that perfect model of friendship.

Of course, my thoughts turned to Star Wars and I was curious to know if any of the friendships in Star Wars could pass the Sam/Frodo test.  And I realized that, wait a minute, there are not many friendship relationships throughout the saga that are not impaired by romance.  (N.B. I would love to go into Ahsoka and Anakin’s relationship, but I try to stick generally to the movies in this blog)

The closest relationships that passed the Sam/Frodo test were Qui-Gon/Obi-Wan and Han/Chewie.  Sure, Obi-Wan and Anakin were good friends, but they would not have stood the Sam/Frodo test because Anakin did something like betraying his best bud and murdering a bunch of people.

Out of both remaining friendships, I am leaning more towards Han and Chewie for passing the Sam/Frodo test.  Chewie Chewie hanhad a life debt to Solo, so in a way he was kind of forced upon him.  Sam was required to follow Frodo and stick by him on orders from Gandalf.  Where Han went, Chewie went.  Their quest was to help rid the galaxy of the Empire, whereas Sam and Frodo had to rid Middle Earth of the One Ring.  When Han was put into carbonite, Chewie fought to keep him “alive”, but Han asked him not to start a fight that he knew they would lose, but instead to protect Leia.  This order is different from the one Frodo gave to Sam in the ROTK movie.  Whereas Frodo’s order was said out of hatred because he thought Sam betrayed him, Han was giving Chewie an order to stay behind out of love for both him and Leia.  Different motives, big difference.

Even though Han and Chewie come close and pass the Sam/Frodo test, I’m not sure their relationship has the extra oomph that Sam and Frodo’s has.  A big difference is the fact that throughout 2/3 of LotR, we see Sam and Frodo interact by themselves (okay-Gollum showed up, but I’m not counting him), but other characters constantly surround Han and Chewie, so we don’t exactly know the depth of their friendship.  It’s much too…well, “real” for that extra level.  It’s Sam/Frodo taken down to our everyday lives.  They bicker at times and get frustrated with each other, but they still bounce ideas off of each other and lean on one another to help get through the tough times.

But the more I thought about different kinds of loyal friendships, the more I got to thinking: am I Samwise Gamgee to any of my friends, my ultimate idea of friendship perfection?

I think I was, once.  Similar to how Frodo and Sam lived near each other, I grew up in the house next to a girl who was adopted at age 7 from Brazil.  Our parents basically forced us upon each other: she needed a friend her age that could teach her English.  Our friendship grew exponentially after the first year of language struggles to the point where I could tell her anything.  Her parents moved her to a more “Brazilian friendly” (their words, not mine) community when we were 14 because they thought she was not making enough friends in our hometown.  In her new community, the Brazillians rejected her because she could no longer speak Portuguese and the Americans rejected her because she didn’t fit in with them.  At age 16, she tried to kill herself and was hospitalized.  At 17, she dropped out of high school and left her adoptive parents home swearing never to talk to them again.  At 18, she was a stripper and living with a guy where all they did was smoke a bunch of pot.  By 21, she had cleaned up a little and was no longer a stripper, but nevertheless had trouble holding a job and still was not talking to her adoptive parents.  At 23, she had found a new boyfriend and was moving to Rhode Island to be with him.

I have no idea what happened to her after that.  I stayed close with her all the way up until the end.  She was my Frodo, and I wanted to stick it out with her no matter what.  Because at the end of the day, though we seemed so different, my loyalty to her and our friendship was unparalleled.

But from ages 21-23, I was engaged to my now husband.  I told her I wanted to marry him before we were even engaged.  Somehow, I just knew he was the “one” for me.  Her reaction, however, was not what I expected.  She said, “But there’s still so much we need to do together.  How can you get married so young?”  I told her we could still do stuff together; being married wouldn’t make a difference.  I thought I had pacified her fears and insecurities.

Once I was engaged, I asked her to be my bridesmaid and she accepted graciously.  She was going to be first in line after my sister.  And then 6 months before my wedding, she stopped contacting me.  Last I talked with her, she was moving to Rhode Island.  I called her cell so many times, called her sister (the only person from her family she still kept in touch with), emailed her, called her ex-boyfriend…but all to no avail.  She does not have facebook, so that was no help either.  Eventually she changed her number and the cell number I would call said it was disconnected.  To this day, though, I still have that number in my phone and refuse to delete it.  I keep hoping that maybe she will reach out again and find me.

Did she think I was betraying or leaving her by getting married?  Did she just not have enough money to pay for being my bridesmaid?  Did she think that we were now on two different life paths and felt it better just to cut me off?  Maybe all of these answers, maybe none.

Since then, I have never felt the Samwise loyalty that I felt towards her for any of my other friends.  The closest person wouldfrodo and sam mount doom probably be my husband, and even that’s different since it’s a romantic relationship.  My friendships now reflect a galaxy far, far away, more than those in Middle Earth.  I don’t think it’s sad that my friendships are now closer aligned to those in Star Wars, because I love the real relationship between Chewie and Han.  But I do mourn the strength and bond of my former Middle Earth friendship that I have never experienced since.

“It would be the death of you to come with me, Sam,” said Frodo, “and I could not have borne that.”

“Not as certain as being left behind,” said Sam.

“But I am going to Mordor.”

“I know that well enough, Mr. Frodo. Of course you are. And I’m coming with you.”

Do You Wish Me a Good Morning or Mean That it is a Good Morning…

…whether I want it or not; that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?  So glad they put this line in the movie because it’s my favorite quote from the Hobbit!

Ok, I’m deviating a little bit from Star Wars here, but I figured I would put in my little review on here of one of my loves: Middle Earth.  If you haven’t read the book or watched the movie yet, you may want to stop reading.

I vacillated back and forth with this movie.  At times, I loved it and was so happy to see Middle Earth again, along with the great sweeping views of the company marching to their destination.  New Zealand was just as stunning as it was in the first trilogy and it made me want to go visit there so badly.  I really liked Martin Freeman as Bilbo and if you’ve read the book – I thought he did a great job of portraying this Hobbit who, you know, just wanted to be at home in his Hobbit hole with a cup of tea but instead gets thrown haphazardly into an adventure.

Jackson did a great job distinguishing between the Dwarves because in the book, I feel like they all blended together and the only thing I remembered was that Kili and Fili were related and that a lot of them had funny sounding names.  Bifur…Bombur… Bofur…What?  Their personalities didn’t stick out to me when I read it, even Thorin didn’t have a personality to me other then wanting to get back his place in the mountain.  However, you still can’t keep track of them in the movieand my husband even said, “He’s gotta start killing off some of them dwarves so I can figure out who they are,” which definitely made me laugh.  Tough luck, Mate, on that one…they all stick around.  At least Jackson made sure they all had different personalities in the movie and it was harder to have them all blend together.

The best scene, easily, was Riddles in the Dark.  I am SO happy PJ did that scene justice.  I’m sure Jackson knew the pressure for that scene, considering how much everyone loves it and Tolkien fans would want nothing but the best Freeman and Serkis.

Riddles in the Dark

Riddles in the Dark

I definitely didn’t mind the added scene of the White Council and I thought I was going to hate it.  It wasn’t in the book, but it is part of the history of Middle Earth.  I can’t speak too much of it since my knowledge of the materials extends only to the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit, but I thought the White Council scene definitely added a bit of substance that the movie had been lacking.  Oh!  And!  The Necromancer is apparently Sauron?  I never knew that, but researched it after watching the movie because I wanted to know if the addition of him was legit or just PJ trying to up the drama.  He was briefly mentioned in The Hobbit, but it seemed like it was more in passing and not that important.

But speaking of additions, I did not like the White Orc who apparently is Azog.  He was in the books (appendices maybe?  It’s been a while), but definitely not to the extent he was in this movie.  Don’t get me wrong – I understand why they needed him.  If they are not going to have Smaug factor into this movie, then they need a villain for us to hate.  So I understand why he was there, but I guess I didn’t like the addition.  Perhaps it’s the purist coming out in me.

The movie was also long – and I found that it was too long.  I understand Lord of the Rings was also very long, but it really is the differences between the novels.  Lord of the Rings is a weighty story with the doom of their world always upon them and evil lurking in every corner.  It is chock-full of information and descriptions, so much so that at times I get incredibly bored.  The Hobbit, in contrast, was written to be a children’s novel and is quite funny.  Bilbo is an interesting and relatable hero who makes you laugh at times by, yes, forgetting his handkerchief and catching head colds.  At times I felt like the movie dragged in places it shouldn’t (the stone giants) and at other times the dramatic looks between characters were over the top.  There are a lot of flashbacks, to the point that I felt like I was watching that awful TV show The Revolution (yes, I actually watched the first few episodes of that) and it caused the movie to drag even more.  Even the battle scenes are long…and I loved the battle scenes in Lord of the Rings.  I just wanted to shout to PJ, “Stop making this longer than it needs to be!”

Radagast is also portrayed very differently from the book, making him out to be a kooky, hippy, shroom-loving wizard.  Why?  Not needed.

radagast the brown

This movie was so full of fluff and filler material, that I don’t think it needs to be made into three movies.  Even with all the history he is adding into it, maybe two or two and a half movies?  At most.  I just felt like I often had thoughts of: “We’re only here in the book?  Shouldn’t we be further along?”  To me, that means the movie is too long.

Overall, I found the movie was enjoyable and lighter hearted than Lord of the Rings.  I heard complaints about that, but honestly – the book is more fun too.  I hope people kept that in mind when watching the movie and didn’t go in expecting a Lord of the RingsThe Hobbit is not Lord of the Rings; it’s a book written for children, not adults.  Perhaps I should keep that in mind too?

Hobbit and dwarves