Introducing December’s Book Club Selection: The Hobbit

The HobbitThe HobbitThe Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien by J. R. R. Tolkien

What’s It About?

(Description from Goodreads)

A great modern classic and the prelude to The Lord of the Rings

Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely traveling any farther than his pantry or cellar. But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard Gandalf and a company of dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day to whisk him away on an adventure. They have launched a plot to raid the treasure hoard guarded by Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon. Bilbo reluctantly joins their quest, unaware that on his journey to the Lonely Mountain he will encounter both a magic ring and a frightening creature known as Gollum.

Why Was This Title Selected

I wanted a fantasy novel for the year, and this one has been on my TBR list for years. I also assumed it would be a fairly accessible one for readers who are new to fantasy.

Anything Else to Know About It?

We’ve started the discussion about the book, and you’re welcome to come and join us.

It’s available in print, for Kindle, Nook, or Audible.

What’s Coming Up in January?

animal-vegetable-miracleAnimal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Audible | Goodreads

See all the books we’ll be reading in 2017 here.


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Three years ago: November 2013 Recap
Four years ago: Favorite Spiritual Growth Books

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Katie Chandler Series Review (Enchanted, Inc)

Shanna Swendson's Katie Chandler seriesWhile Shanna Swendson’s Enchanted, Inc series actually includes seven titles, I only read the first five. So, the series review is admittedly incomplete as far as how the series ultimately resolves.

However, glancing at reviews of the final two titles doesn’t indicate that there is anything drastically different between them and the others, so I feel pretty confident with my overall comments.

A strength of the series is in the imaginative twist to often standard fantasy elements. There’s magic, fairies, spells, ogres, wizards, and (perhaps most fun of all) – gargoyles are real, and they don’t always stay in place. They’re all in what is otherwise a standard contemporary setting. Chick lit/light romance swirled together with fantasy – how fun!

I appreciated that the romance aspects never took over the entire story, and things are very tame. If you like more romance in your stories (or at least things to go beyond a few kisses), this may not be the series for you.

These aren’t great literature, but for amusing, nonchallenging reading I liked them enough to burn through five in a month or so. I only quit because I couldn’t get the sixth book quickly, and then was never motivated enough to try again for it.

Do I recommend it? Sure, if it sounds like something you’ll like, it’s entertaining. It’s not something I’d ever reread, or recommend you putting a lot of effort into obtaining. They’re great library books for when you want something really light – think beach reading!

Publisher’s Description of Book 1: Enchanted, Inc:
DON’T MESS WITH HEXES

Katie Chandler had always heard that New York is a weird and wonderful place, but this small-town Texas gal had no idea how weird until she moved there. Everywhere she goes, she sees something worth gawking at and Katie is afraid she’s a little too normal to make a splash in the big city. Working for an ogre of a boss doesn’t help.

Then, seemingly out of the blue, Katie gets a job offer from Magic, Spells, and Illusions, Inc., a company that tricks of the trade to the magic community. For MSI, Katie’s ordinariness is an asset. Lacking any bit of magic, she can easily spot a fake spell, catch hidden clauses in competitor’s contracts, and detect magically disguised intruders. Suddenly, average Katie is very special indeed.

She quickly learns that office politics are even more complicated when your new boss is a real ogre, and you have a crush on the sexy, shy, ultra powerful head of the R&D department, who is so busy fighting an evil competitor threatening to sell black magic on the street that he seems barely to notice Katie. Now it’s up to Katie to pull off the impossible: save the world and–hopefully–live happily ever after.

Series Details

Series Title: Katie Chandler
Author: Shanna Swendson
Category: Fiction / Fantasy
Individual Titles:

  1. Enchanted, Inc.Enchanted, Inc. (Katie Chandler, Book 1) by Shanna Swendson
  2. Once Upon StilettosOnce Upon Stilettos (Katie Chandler, Book 2) by Shanna Swendson
  3. Damsel Under StressDamsel Under Stress (Katie Chandler, Book 3) by Shanna Swendson
  4. Don’t Hex with TexasDon't Hex with Texas (Katie Chandler, Book 4) by Shanna Swendson
  5. Much Ado About MagicMuch Ado About Magic (Enchanted, Inc. Book 5) by Shanna Swendson
  6. No Quest for the WickedNo Quest for the Wicked (Enchanted, Inc. Book 6) by Shanna Swendson
  7. Kiss and SpellKiss and Spell (Enchanted, Inc. Book 7) by Shanna Swendson
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Manners & Mutiny by Gail Carriger

Manners and MutinyManners & MutinyManners & Mutiny (Finishing School #4) by Gail Carriger by Gail Carriger

My least favorite of what had been a delightfully entertaining series. Some of that is surely just because my hopes were so high, both because I have so enjoyed the previous books in the series, and because I’d just finished Winter (and LOVED IT), so I was all excited: YES! Series endings can be amazing!

And this one … wasn’t.

It wasn’t terrible by any means, and if you’ve read the earlier books I can’t imagine that you won’t want to read this as well. And perhaps if you’ve got tempered expectations you’ll be pleased enough with this.

As it was it was somewhat disappointing. I do still adore the beginning of the series, and I did like finding out certain things about some characters (being intentionally vague here), but the wrap-up at the end seemed to leave some others out. Perhaps they make appearances in the other series she wrote?

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
If one must flirt…flirt with danger.

Lessons in the art of espionage aboard Mademoiselle Geraldine’s floating dirigible have become tedious without Sophronia’s sweet sootie Soap nearby. She would much rather be using her skills to thwart the dastardly Picklemen, yet her concerns about their wicked intentions are ignored, and now she’s not sure whom to trust. What does the brusque werewolf dewan know? On whose side is the ever-stylish vampire Lord Akeldama? Only one thing is certain: a large-scale plot is under way, and when it comes to fruition, Sophronia must be ready to save her friends, her school, and all of London from disaster–in decidedly dramatic fashion, of course.

What will become of our proper young heroine when she puts her years of training to the test? Find out in this highly anticipated and thrilling conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Finishing School series!

Book Details

Title: Manners & MutinyManners & Mutiny (Finishing School #4) by Gail Carriger
Author: Gail Carriger
Category: Fiction / Fanstasy (Steampunk)
My Rating: 3 Stars

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Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Two years ago: Biggest Disappointments of 2013
Three years ago: Book Review: Cheaper By the Dozen

Winter by Marissa Meyer

WinterWinterWinter (The Lunar Chronicles) by Marissa Meyer by Marissa Meyer

This is, of course, Book #4 in the Lunar Chronicles series (I feel like I’ve mentioned it a time or twelve before, plus all the other buzz this series has gotten on other blogs and media sites).

I was so hesitant to start Winter – I *loved* Cinder, really, really liked Scarlet, and ok, so Cress wasn’t my favorite, but still. It was good enough as a penultimate series entry. For the ending though, was this going to be a crash-and-burn of a great series? Could it possibly live up to what I wanted it to be?

Now for the tricky part: talking about the book while maintaining a spoiler-free zone. So, in brief: Yes, the book lived up to the promise the series showed in Cinder (and erased the memory of that disappointing Fairest) . It’s over 800 pages, but read much faster than that, plus it’s so much fun having that much time to spend with these characters I didn’t wish any of the pages away.

What about the plot, and how things worked out? Well, you’ll need to read it yourself to find out, but I was so impressed at the job Meyer did of bringing together all of those plot threads. It made me want to start the series all over again and see what hints she dropped in earlier books.

Super satisfying, this was a great ending to a fun series. Highly recommended for fantasy fans.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend—the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?

Book Details

Title: WinterWinter (The Lunar Chronicles) by Marissa Meyer
Author: Marissa Meyer
Category: Fantasy
My Rating: 5 Stars

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Bookish Gifts for the Late Shopper
Two years ago: Twitterature – Recent Reads

Quick Lit: Recent Fiction Reads

Playing catch-up with reviews:

The Big FourBig Four: A Hercule Poirot MysteryBig Four: A Hercule Poirot Mystery by Agatha Christie by Agatha Christie
Probably my least favorite Poirot so far – it was laughably ridiculous with the plot devices (Super villains! A secret lair! Poirot cheating death at every turn!). Read it only if you are insistent on reading all of Christie’s work, but otherwise skip it in favor of some of her other books.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads


Speaking from Among the BonesSpeaking from Among the Bones: A Flavia de Luce NovelSpeaking from Among the Bones: A Flavia de Luce Novel by Alan Bradley by Alan Bradley

I still love Flavia, and still adore the audio versions of these books. Don’t start with this one though – begin with the first in the series, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. If you are at all a fan of mystery books, give Flavia a try.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads


An Incomplete RevengeAn Incomplete RevengeAn Incomplete Revenge (Maisie Dobbs Book 5) by Jacqueline Winspear by Jacqueline Winspear

It took me FOREVER to get through this one, and I’m not sure why. I like the Maisie Dobbs series, but this one was not as compelling for me. I’m still looking forward to continuing on with the series however, as I do love Maisie’s character.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads


A Curious BeginningA Curious Beginning: A Veronica Speedwell MysteryA Curious Beginning: A Veronica Speedwell Mystery by Deanna Raybourn by Deanna Raybourn

Fun elements to it, but not to the “you’ve got to read this book!” level. I may look for the second in the series when it’s published next year, because I am curious about where she goes with the characters, but it’s not a super high priority.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads


GodmotherGodmother: The Secret Cinderella StoryGodmother: The Secret Cinderella Story by Carolyn Turgeon by Carolyn Turgeon

I don’t even know how to write about this one without giving spoilers galore. It’s a sort-of retelling of the Cinderella story, so if you like re-imagined fairy tales you may want to give this a try. This one is definitely darker, tilting away from the Disney side of the fairy tales spectrum towards the original, Brothers Grimm version side. It’s likely to stick with you though – I’m still thinking about it.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Goodreads

For more peeks at what people are reading, head over to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s link-up!

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Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Books I’m Looking forward to Reading in 2015

The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde

The Well of Lost PlotsThe Well of Lost PlotsThe Well of Lost Plots (Thursday Next Series) by Jasper Fforde by Jasper Fforde

It took me months to finish this book, and usually that’s a sign that it’s one I should have given up on and admitted that I didn’t find it compelling enough to keep reading.

Except I really do like this series – it’s so odd, and so entertaining. So why did it take me forever to finish it? I think it’s because I was reading the collected version of the first five books in the series on my Kindle, and seeing the “11 hours remaining in the book” status was so discouraging I was never motivated to keep reading.

Obviously, I know that those numbers were for the entire set, but still. It couldn’t give me a breakdown of “this far for this book alone” and that drove me batty. Who knew I needed some sort of real guidance as to how much I had left in a book? Because clearly I do, and counting chapters wasn’t enough, at least until the very end.

All that aside, it is a series that I recommend, if you’re into quirky, genre-bending novels. It’s a mish-mash of fantasy and mystery, but it works.

One of my favorite parts of this series is trying to catch as many literary allusions as possible. I have no expectation that I get them all, but I get enough of them to be quite amused and impressed by Fforde.

If it sounds intriguing, do yourself a favor – don’t start with this one – it’ll make no sense whatsoever, and with this series you’ll want all the help you can get as far as making sense of things. Begin with The Eyre AffairThe Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel by Jasper Fforde and see how you like this alternative world, and the fabulous character of Thursday Next.

Publisher’s Description:
The third installment in Jasper Fforde’s New York Times bestselling series follows literary detective Thursday Next on another adventure in her alternate reality of literature-obsessed England

Jasper Fforde has done it again in this genre-bending blend of crime fiction, fantasy, and top-drawer literary entertainment. After two rollicking New York Times bestselling adventures through Western literature, resourceful BookWorld literary detective Thursday Next definitely needs some downtime. And what better place for a respite than in the hidden depths of the Well of Lost Plots, where all unpublished books reside? But peace and quiet remain elusive for Thursday, who soon discovers that the Well is a veritable linguistic free-for-all, where grammasites run rampant, plot devices are hawked on the black market, and lousy books—like the one she has taken up residence in—are scrapped for salvage. To make matters worse, a murderer is stalking the personnel of Jurisfiction and it’s up to Thursday to save the day. A brilliant feat of literary showmanship filled with wit, fantasy, and effervescent originality, this Ffordian tour de force will appeal to fans of Douglas Adams and P. G. Wodehouse.

Book Details

Title: The Well of Lost PlotsThe Well of Lost Plots (Thursday Next Series) by Jasper Fforde
Author: Jasper Fforde
Category: Fiction / Mystery / Fantasy
My Rating: 3 Stars
Buy the book: Print | Kindle | Audible

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Shadow Scale

Shadow ScaleShadow ScaleShadow Scale (Seraphina) by Rachel Hartman by Rachel Hartman

Shadow Scale concludes the story begun in Seraphina, which I enjoyed enough to look forward to reading the sequel.

Unfortunately, Shadow Scale is a much weaker book, and it’s hard to recommend it, even to those who have read the first. I absolutely would not suggest anyone read it without reading the first – it won’t really make sense and you’ll miss out on the world-building.

In this book, Seraphina seems clueless, traveling about and just fortuitously having things happen to her, instead of making things happen. She’s also more self-pitying, and it gets tedious.

I don’t really like fantasy books where the hero has an all-powerful ally, and I also don’t like it when the antagonist is all-powerful. Jannoula ends up being that sort of foe, and I found myself rolling my eyes at the difficulties Seraphina found herself in because of Jannoula’s abilities. Fantasy novels are lots of fun for me, unless I reach a point where suspension of disbelief doesn’t work and it turns into ridiculousness. In that way, Seraphina worked for me while Shadow Scale didn’t.

The romantic triangle issue is resolved (no spoilers here, I can’t imagine anyone who didn’t think it would resolve in one way or another; this is a YA book after all), but it felt too neat. Does anything in life work out in such a convenient manner? It was eye-rolling, and telegraphed way too early in the book.

I did finish it, and so it was at least good enough for that (and at 600 pages, I did debate it.) It’s a quick read for all of it’s length, but ultimately a very unsatisfying end to a promising start.

Not recommended.

[Read more…]

Soulless

PrintSoulless (The Parasol Protectorate)Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate) by Gail Carriger by Gail Carriger

If you’ve read my reviews for the Finishing School series, author Gail Carriger‘s name may be familiar. This series was written first, but it takes place twenty years or so after the first. There are some connections between the two, but one book in I’d say it’s not essential that you read the other one first.

If I’d never read the other series, I’d likely be much more enthusiastic about this one. As it is though, I preferred that one as it’s aimed at young adults and is much lighter on the romance aspects. This one has more specifics than I sometimes appreciated (it’s not graphic, although there would have been too much for my grandmother. As if she’d have read a book with vampires, werewolves, and all the other fantasy elements of this one to let the romance aspect be the only issue.)

My preference is definitely to be skimpy on the romance details however – let’s keep the plot moving forward, and skip the lovely dovey stuff/other action. Your mileage may vary. 😉

I enjoy the imaginative world Carriger has created, and despite my quibbles, will be reading more in the series. I’d recommend it to any fantasy fans who think it sounds intriguing – it’s a quick and easy read, and won’t require much of a reading investment to find out if it’s a style you enjoy.

But start with Etiquette and Espionage. It’s so much fun, and it does come first chronologically. 🙂

[Read more…]

Fairest

FairestFairest: Levana’s StoryFairest: The Lunar Chronicles: Levana's Story by Marissa Meyer (#3.5 in the Lunar Chronicles series) by Marissa Meyer

I’ve loved Marissa Meyer‘s Lunar Chronicles series, but wasn’t sure how I felt about the addition of this originally unplanned entry to the series.

After reading it, I’m still not sure. While I guess I can somewhat appreciate learning Levana’s backstory a bit, and having something eased the wait until the final book is published, is that enough?

It felt like an added-on book, without the depth that has made the others so unexpectedly enjoyable. How many examples did we need of how awful Levana is? And how much does having this weaker entry tarnish the overall excellence of the series?

What I did like is how you can see the incremental steps that took Levana down the path to becoming the despotic tyrant she is in Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress. There are moments of recognizing that maybe if she’d just NOT done this or that, how different things could have been for her, and for so many others.

While chronologically this book comes first, don’t read it that way. It would diminish the fun and discovery you’ll otherwise have with the others. Plus this is the weakest of them all, and if you start with it you might not be inclined to continue.

Despite my complaints about it, I wasn’t really all that disappointed in it – my expectations were pretty low, so it actually surpassed what I thought it might be. I enjoyed the character of Solstice, and seeing some of the characters we see in the other books. All in all though, this is an entirely skippable entry into the series, and not really worth the reading time.

[Read more…]

Waistcoats and Weaponry

Waistcoats and Weaponry (Finishing School #3) by Gail CarrigerWaistcoats & WeaponryWaistcoats & Weaponry (Finishing School #3) by Gail Carriger by Gail Carriger

Book three was maybe just a tiny bit of a disappointment to me, but saying why veers into spoilers, so I’ll just leave it at some concerns with the direction the plot is heading. And yet I’m still very excited by the series overall, and so perhaps I should leave it at a “reserving judgment” status until the final book releases this fall.

If the cover catches your attention, or you’re curious about a finishing school that doubles as espionage training in an alternative version of England, start with book number one – Curtsies & Conspiracies. It’s utterly ridiculous in a way that had me completely entertained. There are werewolves, vampires, a school in a floating dirigible. There’s a shady group known as “Picklemen.” The servants are mostly mechanized. There’s even a mechanical dog who is frequently disguised as a reticule.

The final book, Manners & MutinyManners & Mutiny (Finishing School #4) by Gail Carriger, is scheduled to publish this November and I am hoping there are no snags or delays with publication. I need to know how everything resolves!

Publisher’s Description:
Class is back in session….

Sophronia continues her second year at finishing school in style–with a steel-bladed fan secreted in the folds of her ball gown, of course. Such a fashionable choice of weapon comes in handy when Sophronia, her best friend Dimity, sweet sootie Soap, and the charming Lord Felix Mersey hijack a suspiciously empty train to return their chum Sidheag to her werewolf pack in Scotland. But when Sophronia discovers they are being trailed by a dirigible of Picklemen and flywaymen, she unearths a plot that threatens to throw all of London into chaos. With her friends in mortal danger, Sophronia must sacrifice what she holds most dear–her freedom..

Book Details

Title: Waistcoats & WeaponryWaistcoats & Weaponry (Finishing School) by Gail Carriger
Author: Gail Carriger
Series: Finishing School, #3
Category: Fiction / Fantasy
My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!