Black, White, and Shades of Grey: Morality in Fantasy Literature

Who wouldn’t want to hear their favorite authors speak together on the same stage?

Recently, I was inspired by staff at Eventbrite about putting together a dream panel of authors I’d like to see at a conference.  Eventbrite is an organization that helps people create and share events that bring communities together.  For more information about their conference management tool, check out their website.

I love attending conferences, but have sadly never been to one that is book-related.  (That is likely to change now that I’m working as a librarian.)  Still, I assume that most events follow similar structures and that there is a great deal of freedom in what goes on in a panel.  That being said, I spent some time brainstorming what group I should bring together.  There are so many genres that I love and so many topics that would be interesting to explore.  I ended up settling on…

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On the Shelf: Rick Riordan, Classics on Audiobook, and a Bit of Dickens

I’ve been shirking my summer reading lately… which explains why I didn’t make a book-related post last week.  But, I assure you, I have a good reason!  (More on that later.) Even though I haven’t completed anything worth reviewing lately, I’ve still been literary.  Instead of following my usual format, I thought I’d take an opportunity to discuss all the stories I’ve consumed.

First up: Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan I’ve been inching my way through Riordan’s vastly entertaining stories about modern-day demigods for several years.  Whenever the next one comes my way, I pick it up.  I started the Heroes of Olympus series three years ago and, although the final novel has been out for a year or two, I finally got around to reading it on my Kindle.

Yes, I know these books are written for twelve year-olds.  But what’s the fun of reading if you don’t appreciate stories for all ages?  Although the writing isn’t spectacular, I ADORE these books.  The characters are just plain FUN.  The plot moves quickly, pulling me in and keeping me up late into the night. I won’t spoil the final novel for any of you who haven’t read them, but it did not disappoint!  I read for hours straight, unable to put the book down.  A satisfying conclusion to a highly enjoyable series!

Check out this FABULOUS fan art by Viria, one of my favorite artists:

Photo taken from Google Search

Audiobook Talk: Since I do field work for my summer job, life gets boring quickly.  So, I listen to audiobooks!  What I love about listening to novels is that it gives me a sense of purpose–the plot progresses to an end, giving me a goal to work towards.  It breaks up the day and gives me something to look forward to amid weeding, hoeing, and other menial tasks.

Every summer, I listen to J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece on audiobook.  I’ve been through them at least four or five times now.  I started this year’s listen during my first few days back at work.  Fellowship of the Ring took a mere four days–a new record!  The Two Towers took longer–about a week.  The Return of the King went quickly as well.  I don’t really know what else to say about the series outside the fact that it’s an old favorite and no summer would be complete without it.  I’m hoping to get through the copy of The Silmarillion I received for Christmas sometime this summer–a project that has now been set up quite nicely!

Last week, I returned to another old favorite: Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen.  Like many, many, many others, I’ve been reading and re-reading Austen’s classic for years.  It’s been quite a while since I last touched the novel itself.  What I love about P&P is that it’s the kind of story that you never tire of reading.  Every time through, something different strikes you.  Listening made certain aspects of the story stand out in ways that I had never before considered.

Now, I’m revisiting another old favorite: Jane Eyre.  I’m currently almost nine hours in–Rochester just dressed up as a gypsy in order to mess with his house guests (and find out if Jane has feelings for him).  I’ll probably finish this one by the end of the week.

Finally, the book that has been holding me up… Two years ago, I started reading Bleak House by Charles Dickens.  I got 350 through before sending it to the back-burner due to assigned reading.  This summer, I’ve vowed to finish the massive 800 page chunker.  The problem is… it’s an enormous story with at least thirty characters that are difficult to keep track of.  I had to re-read the Sparknotes summary for all the chapters leading up to where I left off, as well as character descriptions.  This helped a bit, but I really didn’t get my bearings until I had plowed through fifty pages or so.  I’m now on page 473 with half the book to go.

It’s a wonderful book (minus the boring parts) and I WISH that my Victorian Lit professor had assigned it.  I feel like there’s so much that I’m missing.  But the central characters are enjoyable–I especially love Mr. Guppy.  The portions Esther narrates are my favorite.  I also laughed out loud at the part where Mr. Krook spontaneously combusted.  Dickens has lots of balls in the air at the point I’m at and I’m excited to see how he connects everything.

So… that concludes another On the Shelf!  Maybe this weekend, I’ll take a break from Dickens and read something review-able.  In the meantime, are there any books that I talk about here that you’ve read?  What are your thoughts on them?  Based on these texts, are there any you recommend me adding to my massive “To-Read” list?

Lord of the Rings Valentines

Around this time every year, a plethora of strange and witty Valentines begin showing up in my dashboard on Tumblr.  Every year, I’m drawn to the Lord of the Rings ones.  All week, I’ve been looking them up on Google and giggling at them.  I was originally to scatter several throughout my actual Valentines Day post (which is coming in the next few days).  But then I realized their presence detract from what I’m trying to do in the post.

They’re too good not to share, so I decided to give them a post of their own.  Consider this a Valentine from me to you!

Which is your favorite?  Are there any quirky Internet Valentines you love?  Let me know in the comments!

The Battle of Five Armies

This weekend, I visited Middle Earth via the silver screen for the last time.  To say I’m a Tolkien fan is an obvious fact.  I mean, I DID name my blog from one of his lines.

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS

I remember my first exposure to The Hobbit.  I was six or seven years old and we rented the old 1970’s cartoon.  It was creepy, kind of terrifying, but my brothers and I enjoyed it enough to delve further into Tolkien’s world.

In fifth grade, I read the Lord of the Rings for the first time.  The movies were coming out around this time and I followed them religiously.  Despite differences from the books, I adore the film versions.  I have them memorized.  I listen to the original trilogy on audiobook every summer.

The main difference between the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fanchises is that the original trilogy came out when I was still in my formative years.  I was an excited child, ready to eat up anything Peter Jackson dished out.  As I grew older and learned to see the books and movies as different entities, I continued to love them out of childhood nostalgia.  The Hobbit, however, is different.

The first time I ever read The Hobbit was at the age of ten.  I was in fourth grade.  Mr. Achartz, my teacher, read it aloud to us.  I had a copy and followed along.  I fell absolutely in love.  Ever since, I’ve been reading and rereading the children’s story to the point where I don’t even need the words for the story to appear in my mind.

My main issue with The Hobbit movies is that I’m WAY too intimate with the source material.  Not only did I grow up on the story, but it’s something I’ve put a great deal of academic thought into.  Last fall during my term abroad, I wrote a ten page final essay on the uncanniness of Mirkwood that not only scored the best grade possible, but took first prize in the annual essay contest in my university at home.  The novel’s themes, centering around the idea of home, fascinate me and hold my heart.

It’s been incredibly painful, to be honest, watching the world eat up the film versions.  I enjoyed the first one well enough, but was absolutely devastated by the second.  Peter Jackson mutilated my beloved story.  The characters come and go to and from all the right places, but the events that transpire are totally different.  I was heartbroken by this.

Going into the final version, to say I had expectations would be a lie.  I didn’t even watch any of the trailers, to be honest.  I knew that the film would never match my idealistic childhood imaginings.  So I didn’t expect it to.  I went into The Battle of Five Armies with a mindset of detachment–these weren’t my beloved characters.  This isn’t my beloved story.  It’s an adaptation, a version that is not my own.

Having this mindset helped a LOT.  I actually really enjoyed the movie.  The pacing, of course, was really weird.  One of the finest moments of the novel is when Bard slays Smaug, which happens in the first ten minutes.  Most of the movie is focused on the battle and resolving Thorin’s issues with pride and, as the movie calls it, “dragon-sickness”.

There were things I really enjoyed.

Smaug, for one, is absolute and total perfection. It’s a shame his role is cut so short. Benedict Cumberbatch is incredible.

Once I pushed aside the weirdness of the Tauriel/Kili thing, I was able to actually cheer for the cross-species couple.  (Although I’m still miffed that they actually created a freaking awesome female elf and the stupid studio only allowed her existence if she was part of a love triangle.  WOMEN DON’T ALWAYS HAVE TO BE IN LOVE IN MOVIES.  Rant over.)

I also really enjoy Martin Freeman’s portrayal of Bilbo, especially his weird little twitches.  It’s been fun seeing Bilbo grow and evolve as a character, finding his courage and facing down deadly foes.  But, through those little movements, Freeman conveys that deep down, Bilbo is not at home.  He isn’t comfortable.  He belongs in the Shire, in his armchair with a cozy breakfast and a large stock of pipeweed.

I also am head-over-heels in love with Lee Pace’s Thranduil.  He’s one of the most arrogant, (insert many profanities here) characters I’ve ever encountered.  And I love it.  Oh my goodness.  The internet has done some beautiful things with this character.

Because GingerHaze’s Party King Thranduil comics are the best.

I also pretty much adored Legolas throughout the entire film.  But that’s mainly because I don’t take Orlando Bloom seriously.  Every time he does something, I turned and obnoxiously whispered to my older brother, “Legolas does what he wants!”  He never listens to his father, never follows orders.  Out of nowhere, he opens up to Tauriel about not knowing his mother.  And at the end, he dramatically announces to his father that he isn’t returning to Mirkwood.  To which Thranduil goes, “Okay cool, just so you know, your mother did love you.”  At this point, I whispered to Joe (my brother), “So all this time, Legolas just had serious mommy issues.”  And he goes, “And now he’s going on the Middle Earth equivalent of a three-month backpacking trip in Europe to find himself.”  It’s fun not taking Legolas seriously.  (Because even in the original movie trilogy, all he does is point out the obvious.)

There is certainly a great deal more to say and there are a lot of things I could complain about, but I’m trying to be better at not being a total elitist English major snob.  So as far as movies go, it is an entertaining and enjoyable one. I will leave it at that and go read the book.

What are your thoughts/opinions on the movies? Love them? Hate them? Tell me about it in the comments!

In Transit

I admit, this is not my first blog.  I’ve been blogging since the tender age of fifteen.  I am now twenty-one.

The thing about being a college student is that your life is never stable.  You’re in this weird in-between place where you’re not a kid anymore, but you’re not fully an adult.  You live in this weird scholarly bubble that includes essay writing, attending lectures, eating pasta constantly for dinner, and increasing stress as finals loom closer.  You can see the outside world, but it’s shrouded by the weird haze of “someday”.

Nothing stays the same.  You go back to your hometown over school breaks and the businesses on main street are different.  At home, your parents suddenly start making plans to convert your bedroom, that safe place and heart of your childhood, into a sewing room, home office, or guest room.  People you have known for years suddenly start getting married and having babies–often not in that order.  The ties that once held you to home begin to stretch and fade, leaving you suspended in “where do I go from here?” land.

Right now, my life is definitely in transit.  I just returned home to the United States from a semester studying abroad in London.  Living in a foreign country for three and a half months is a wonderful, but strange experience.  Although you try your hardest to stay in touch with people back home, life gets in the way.  So you build a new life where you’re at.  But then, just like that, the semester is over and you go back to your old life.  But, like with home, your ties have faded.  You know they’ll soon be reestablished, but until that happens, you’re stuck in this weird place where you’re not quite sure where you fit.

That’s why I’ve started this blog.  After spending three and a half months on my travel blog (which I put lots of effort into and you should all go read), I had planned on returning to my normal space, the place I’ve been writing since I was fifteen.  But I soon realized that wasn’t going to work.  I’m not fifteen anymore.  My original intentions for blogging are different from what they used to be.  I need to start fresh.

The title from this blog comes from one of my favorite quotes:

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” -J.R.R. Tolkien

Metaphorically, Tolkien hits the nail on the head.  Growing up is stepping into the world.  You leave home, go to college, live abroad, get a job, etc.  The world is a big, sometimes scary place, filled with dangers.  If you don’t watch your step, it can easily sweep you away.    You have to know yourself, know your mission, and you have to stick to it.  You have to hold tightly to who you are.  You have to keep your feet.

But, despite its dangers, the world is also an incredibly beautiful place, filled with wonders to explore and learn.  If you keep your feet firmly on the path and your eyes set on the horizon, you’re in for the adventure of a lifetime.

So, feel free to join me on my journey into adulthood.  I can’t promise what this blog will bring, just as I don’t know what lies in store.  But, I suppose, that’s part of the adventure.  Let’s step onto the road and begin…