"The Hobbit" by J.R.R. Tolkien
One day, as I was sitting bored out of my mind waiting at the airport in Costa Rica, I decided to get up and take a walk. I had already finished both books I had taken with me on the trip, and did not feel like playing 2048 on my phone. I wandered into a small candy and coffee shop, and on the wall to the right, there was a small little shelf with books for sale. After looking for no book in particular, I came across "The Hobbit." After some internal debate, I decided to buy the book for two reasons. First of all, because I am a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings movies, and realized that I always get angry at people that watch movies based on popular books, but never read the books; I did not want to be so hypocritical. Secondly, because I am a massive Song of Ice and Fire fan (seriously, my world revolved around those books for several months), and George R.R. Martin's works are often heavily compared to the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, and I decided that I wanted to make those comparisons for myself.
I must say, buying this book was a great decision. The writing is incredibly beautiful, poetic, and elegant. Though the character's dialogue clearly reflect that this book took place in the distant past, you can find yourself laughing with them, arguing with them, thinking with them all the same. After having watched the first two Hobbit movies as well, I can tell you that I much preferred the book. I was also very surprised by how different the book was from the movies. Not that I do not like the movies anymore, but I understand why the Tolkien family did not sell any more of his work for movie rights. While the plot of the book and the films are the same, there is a shift of focus, and the movies focus on completely different matters when compared to the books, and it takes away from the beautiful poetry and piece of art Mr. Tolkien created entitled "The Hobbit."
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone that loves reading about fantasy or adventure. Even if you have already seen the film adaptations of the book, it is worth your while to read it. Let me put it this way; it took Hollywood three multi hour movies to adapt 306 pages of written text. It is a fast paced, captivating book that is a great read for any time of day.
Golden Line: "There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after."
"Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore" by Robin Sloan
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!!!
When I first began reading this book, I was absolutely infatuated with it, because the characters were so real, the lives they lived were believable, and because the story was just relatable in general. I don't really know exactly what about that style of writing was so captivating, but I loved it. Granted, I had no idea where the author was going to take this story, but I continued reading. Something about this book just makes you feel comfortable. You don't need to be sitting next to the fireplace in a big leather chair to feel warm with this book.
Then, a massive plot twist that I never saw coming uprooted everything I thought I knew about the story. Clay, our protagonist, is a struggling web designer living in San Francisco. He gets a shock from reality, realizes he needs a job immediately, and gets one working the night shift of Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore. Initially, Clay does not understand why the bookstore is open 24 hours; there are hardly any customers, and the selection of books the store offers are not the type of titles that bring in revenue sufficient enough to keep a business open 24 hours. Clay gets a Googler girlfriend, both which prompt the other to ask questions about the bookstore. Eventually, they begin to discover patterns, and using Google's technology, begin to decipher codes; codes much older and more important than either of them ever imagined. Long story short, they discover that Mr. Penumbra, his bookstore, and his customers from the "Wayback List," are all members of a 500 year old cult, dedicated to uncovering the secret to immortality, left to them in their most sacred codex vitae. From there on, the story combines the ambition of a group of people who have worked tirelessly for 500 years with the technology of today's modern era to uncover those long protected secrets.
THE SPOILERS END HERE
When I began reading this book, I absolutely loved it. I don't understand why the plot twist bothered me so much, but when it happened, it shattered my reading world to pieces. For several weeks, I had to put down "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore" and read other books, because I just could not handle the turn of events. They bothered me that much. But that also serves as a testament to the great writing that is contained between those covers. I would definitely recommend this book, especially if you are looking for something that is unique and refreshing. It is also worth mentioning that in the end, when I finally picked up the book and finished reading it, I truly enjoyed the ending. In total honesty, I probably did overreact to the story, and I can easily understand why anybody else would love the twist. This is a funny, cynical, smart, and entertaining piece of writing that deserves to be read.
Golden Line: "They caught him having sex in the library," Deckle says matter-of-factly. Then he raises a finger and says, sotto voice, "Which, by the way, is still frowned upon, but would not get you burned today."