Recently, I was at the movies, and a preview came on of Peter Jackson’s upcoming film The Hobbit. Maybe it was because of the huge IMAX screen, but seeing that preview gave me chills. The Hobbit or There and Back Again (that’s its full title) is one of my most beloved reads. I first read it as a ten-year old, and I still read it nearly every year because it is truly timeless without any age limits.
You may be familiar with Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien because of the huge popularity of those wonderful films, but you may not be aware that there is a “prequel” (though it’s not really a prequel) to the story called The Hobbit. It was Tolkien’s first book, published in 1937 with Lord of the Rings following in 1954 and 1955. Some people call The Hobbit a biography of Bilbo Baggins, the main character, but I like to think of it as much more than that. Take a look at this first line:
“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”
Thus begins the story of Bilbo Baggins! Legend has it that Tolkien was grading papers, and wrote that sentence on the back of a student’s paper, and he didn’t do anything with that sentence for years, but it sparked an idea for a book, which eventually made literary history.
Tolkien’s book focuses on the race of hobbits which are folk that are about 3 feet high with big, hairy feet. They live an idyllic lifestyle in the village of Hobbiton in the world of Middle-Earth. Hobbits enjoy the quiet of the daytime, smoking pipes, farming, digging in the dirt in their gardens, and eating delicious and rich foods.
Bilbo Baggins, while loving the life of Hobbiton, has always had a secret yearning for adventures. He gets his wish granted ( or rather it’s forced upon him) when the wizard Gandalf The Grey stops by and gets himself invited for dinner; when Gandalf returns for dinner, he brings a gaggle of dwarves with him. Bilbo’s house is thrown in disarray when the dwarves eat everything in sight, but after the meal, they start to sing songs about reclaiming their claim to a place called “Lonely Mountain.”
After this point, the characters set out for many adventures including captures by goblins, trolls, elves, gigantic spiders, a dragon, and all manner of creatures. This book is so wonderful for the imagination for people of all ages. It’s such a magical experience, and not because it’s classified as “fantasy.” Tolkien felt that his home country of England lacked a true mythology, so he created a world that looks a lot like England, even though it’s called Middle-Earth, and created this wonderful tale that truly has mythic proportions.
If you’re interested in Lord of the Rings, but haven’t read them yet, The Hobbit is an excellent place to start, or revisit even if you’ve read the other books. While Tolkien has immense pages of details in his writing, The Hobbit doesn’t overdo it. The beginnings of Tolkien’s books are usually where we get the most dense descriptions, and some readers either jump in and swim in the details, while others may find it overwhelming, but if you can hang in there, you’re in for a rare treat. I truly cherish this book, and I hope you will too!
BLB Indie Gem
Congratulations to Shirley King and “Catwagman” for winning a free copy of SPARE CHANGE. Thanks for participating the caption contest!–BLB
Olivia Westerly is superstitious to the core. She knows what she knows. Opals mean disaster, eleven is the unluckiest number on earth, and children weigh a woman down like a pocketful of stones. That’s why Olivia avoided marriage for almost forty years. But when Charlie Doyle happened along, he was simply too wonderful to resist. Now she’s a widow with an eleven-year-old boy claiming to be her dead husband’s grandson. Against her better judgment, Olivia takes him in. With a foul mouth, dark secrets and heavily guarded emotions, Ethan Allen Doyle is not an easy child to like. He swears he’s got dead parents, and no other relatives. He was counting on the grandpa he’d never met for a place to hide, but now that plan is shot to hell because the grandpa’s dead too. Olivia claims she’s not his real grandma, but if she doesn’t let him stay, he’s flat out of luck. He’s got seven dollars and twenty-six cents, his mama’s will for staying alive, and Dog. But none of those things are gonna help if Scooter Cobb finds him. Only two people know the truth of what happened the night his parents were murdered–Ethan Allen isn’t talking and the man who squashed his daddy’s head like a pumpkin wants to make sure he never does. Ethan Allen knows the same fate awaits him if Scooter Cobb catches wind of where he is. The only one who can stop it from happening is Olivia. Written in a Southern voice, SPARE CHANGE takes place in the 1950’s and provides a poignant albeit sometimes humorous look at the weighty issues of love, loss, and adapting to change.
Review by Dana Taylor
SPARE CHANGE is one of those books that starts out good and just gets better. Bette Lee Crosby evokes a post-war America not quite Norman Rockwellian, but close. Norman didn’t paint people like Ethan Allen’s parents, but Olivia and the residents of the Wyattsville Arms might have posed for him. Crosby writes with a strong style, bringing many characters alive with their separate voices while moving the story along at a good clip. Spare Change is reminiscent of Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mocking Bird, making the South come alive with flawed human beings. It’s a special story that deserves a wide audience and we hope that Book Luvin’ Babes can give it a boost.
Award-winning novelist Bette Lee Crosby brings the wit and wisdom of her Southern Mama to works of fiction—the result is a delightful blend of humor, mystery and romance along with a cast of quirky charters who will steal your heart away.
Crosby’s work was first recognized in 2006 when she received The National League of American Pen Women Award for a then unpublished manuscript. Since that, she has gone on to win several more awards, including another NLAPW award, three Royal Palm Literary Awards, the FPA President’s Book Award Gold Medal and most recently the 2010 Reader’s View Southeast Fiction Literary Award.
Her published works to date are: Girl Child (2007), Cracks in the Sidewalk (2009), and Spare Change (2011). She has also authored a memoir for Lani Deauville, a woman the Guinness Book of Records lists as the world’s longest living quadriplegic. Scheduled for release in March 2012, the book is titled “Life in the Land of IS.”
CHAVIS’ CLASSIC CORNER
How many times have you read a book that creates a world that is so vivid, so real, and so alive that you would do almost anything to live in that world? One of my very favorite books does precisely that. Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander,the start of an amazing literary experience!
If you’re not familiar with Diana Gabaldon, she came to writing after earning degrees in Marine Biology, Ecology, and Zoology, which is great for us because it means she loves details in her writing. She wrote the first Outlander book about 20 years ago, and it has gained a cult following.
Our central character is Claire Beauchamp Randall who moves to Scotland after WWII in 1946. While walking one day, Claire strolls through a “circle of standing stones” (much like a mini-Stonehenge), and gets sucked back in time to 1743 Scotland. She lands smackdab into a clan full of lusty lads, redcoats, blunt weaponry, and the like. In order to survive, Claire needs to be married off to one of the men in the Scottish clan she’s joined. Enter our hero James Fraser.
James (aka Jamie) is one of those heroes who literally leaps off the page with every passing chapter. If you thought Mel Gibson’s William Wallace was a hot, tough, chivalrous guy, believe me, you’ll love Jamie Fraser. He makes Wallace look like the playground punching bag. Jamie is the right mix of ruggedness, tenderness, and that “X” factor that will grab any reader’s attention, and it’s so much fun watching the growth of his relationship with Claire.
Despite the fantastical setting, Gabaldon incorporates a lot of actual historical content and detail in her books. In fact, she fought for years to get Outlander moved out of the “romance” section of the bookstores because her books are more than simple love stories. They are historical fiction. Gabaldon writes her two main characters with so much real-life details and behaviors that you will probably talk about Jamie and Claire as if they’re real people.
So be forewarned, you WILL get hooked, and hooked hard. While it’s not necessarily a “fast” read, it is one that is well worth the time. If you enjoy romance, Scottish swordsmen, chivalry, and history, I can strongly bet that Outlander will be a gem to treasure in your book collection. Face it, who doesn’t love a man in a kilt?
Three Moons Over Sedona by Sherry Hartzler
Review by Dana Taylor
Any title with the word Sedona in it, is going to get my attention. The story begins, however, in Ohio with these lines:
Georgia Mae Brown wanted out of her life. No rush. She’d already waited fifty-three years.
Author Sherry Hartzler piqued my curiosity from the title to the opening paragraph and I soon became caught up in Georgia’s journey of transition and self-discovery. Georgia’s life has recently been turned upside down by the death, under embarrassing circumstances, of her husband, Ed. As the story opens, she is heading out for a gallon of milk and just keeps going.
An aimless drive turns into a road trip when a stranger at a gas station mentions Sedona, Arizona as a “must see” location. Georgia now has a destination and the hope that she’ll find clarity in the new surrounding.
Hartzler does an excellent job of weaving Georgia’s past and present into a smooth story flow. She introduces new characters along the way. Soon Georgia is involved with younger friends in Sedona dealing with their life challenges also.
Zoe is the daughter of a Joan Crawford-like movie star (with a little Loretta Young thrown in for good measure). Her story line adds glamour and mystery to the tale. Trish, the owner of the café where Georgia finds a home base, has her issues and the reader comes to care about her also.
Though the story is devoid of car chases, bad guys, shape shifters, or ditzy heroines, it provides an engaging cast of characters learning to take a chance on new friends and new loves.
Oh, yeah, and most of it takes place in one of my favorite spots, Sedona, Arizona. Did I mention that? Three Moons Over Sedona by Sherry Hartzler, a BLB Indie gem.