The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien

Source: Goodreads

Bilbo Baggins is a typical hobbit. He likes tea and smoking his pipe in front of his fireplace and has no intention of going on an adventure.
Gandalf the wizard has other plans.
So it comes to pass that 13 dwarves barge into Bilbo’s home, eat all of his food, insult his abilities as a burglar (of which he has none, anyway), and then leave for an adventure without him.


While the story itself was intriguing, the overly parental way in which Gandalf basically dragged everyone where they needed to be and the subsequent whining that went along with it from the other 14 adventurers was eye-rolling levels of exhausting.
I loved the world-building, especially Tolkien’s descriptions of of forests. I just can’t help but feel that there would’ve been less whining if at least one of the party had been a woman. There were exactly zero female characters excepting the odd villager, and it definitely affected the plot.


****Also **Spoiler** but I very much did not like that the whole book was about how the dwarves were going to kill Smaug and take back their mountain and then Smaug was ultimately killed by a white male chosen-one type character who we really didn’t need. ****


I am glad I didn’t read this as a kid because I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed it due to the sheer amount of telling > showing, and again, the whining. If you’re going on an adventure of your own volition, you have forfeited the right to complain about how terrible, boring, and hungry the trip is. Suck it up, buttercup. Overall this one was meh for me, but I think a lot of that was due to the fact of it being written in much the same style as Peter Pan, which I also did not really enjoy. Here’s hoping The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Silmarillion go much better for me.


HHC Rating: 3 Stars.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January – Alix E. Harrow

Source: Goodreads

January Scaller has spent the majority of her life within the grounds of Locke House, her only glimpses of the outside world contained within cars, trains, and ships at the side of Mr. Locke on a rare field trip. Raised in her father’s absence to be good and obedient, intelligent and quiet, January has tried her best to fit the mold laid out before her. However, even Mr. Locke’s company cannot completely erase her obvious heritage, on full display in the shade of her skin and the unruliness of her hair. Nor can all of Mr. Locke’s nurturing completely block out her inherent nature – to wander, run wild, and dream as if her life depended upon it.

January’s journey is told in alternating chapters between her life and the stories she reads in a mysterious book, The Ten Thousand Doors. While eventually this story-weaving pays off, it does mean that the first 125 pages were all character introduction and world building, which was interesting intellectually, but not gripping. I actually flipped ahead to see if it got more interesting a couple times, despite many friends telling me the book was really great. There is a marked difference between the first 125 pages and the following 235 pages. Once the story gets going it moves well and everything weaves together beautifully. If I hadn’t flipped ahead, I definitely would’ve been at least a little surprised by the twists the story took, and even after I knew they were coming, they still made me tear up. Ultimately, that’s what pushed me to a higher rating. If I hadn’t gotten so bogged down in the beginning of the book, this would easily have been a five star read. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right head space when I started it – it was the middle of finals, after all – but by the end I was firmly invested in January’s journey and the 10,000 doors.

Shout out to my friend Taylor for lending me her copy, and also for making this her staff pick at our bookstore! I hope many, many readers get the chance to visit January and reignite their imaginations.


HHC Rating: 4 Stars

Notes:
*Off-page animal cruelty, but the animal is ultimately fine*
**This book alludes to physical intimacy, but doesn’t contain any explicit scenes, so it’s a great option for your teen who loves fantasy but isn’t ready for those scenes yet.**

The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts (Lonely Hearts Bookshop, #1) – Annie Darling

Source: Goodreads

Posy Morland has always lived above Bookends Bookshop. She and her brother lived here before her parents passed away, and she came back from college to help raise her brother after they were gone. Their home is thrown into jeopardy when Posy’s landlady and boss, Lavinia, dies, leaving the bookshop to Posy and the rest of the property to her odious grandson, Sebastian. The two new owners go head-to-head over their beloved bookshop, desperate to keep it alive but at odds about the best way to do so.


I so wanted this book to be spectacular. The bookshop setting, the stellar love/hate chemistry between Posy and Sebastian was there, everything was there, but one thing was missing. Glaringly obvious to me as I neared the end of the story was the fact that we never got to know Sebastian at all. We almost never got chapters from his point of view, and when we did they focused on his actions and never delved into his thoughts or emotions. Because of this, Sebastian’s feelings felt as though they came out of the clear blue sky. The ending felt very rushed, like the author had hit word count and everything after that was just to wrap everything up. The best romances, in my opinion, allow you to get to now both your heroine and your hero, and not getting Sebastian’s view point really hurt the ending of this one. Overall it was cheerful and cute and an enjoyable read, but the ending really dented my feelings about it.

HHC Rating: 3.5 Stars.

Spinning Silver – Naomi Novik

Source: Goodreads


Miryem comes from moneylenders on both sides of her family, but while her grandfather has made a name for himself in a walled city, her own father has trouble even approaching his clients in their small town. When Miryem tires of living in squalor while the warm and well-fed townsfolk spin wicked stories about her family and others like her, she takes it upon herself to reclaim her mother’s lended dowry. In doing so, she sets off a chain reaction that leads to dark consequences with the Staryk, who haunt the forests and have raided the surrounding towns for gold each winter for as long as anyone can remember.

A story of faeries and witches and demons who try to push the seasons around for their own gain, Spinning Silver is a masterpiece of interwoven storylines. Heroes all, Miryem, Wanda, and Irina must band together to bring nature back into balance and return peace to their families and their kingdom.



This book was fabulous. Novik’s writing astounds me every time I crack a book. It haunts me well after I’ve closed it, and sticks its nose into whatever projects of my own I’m working on, saying “Ohhh, but can we make this more complicated and awesome?!” Which is wonderful, but also frustrating when I’m just outlining.

This was the second book I’ve read by Novik, the first being Uprooted, which simply took my breath away. I think this one was slightly harder to follow, just because it took me a few sentences into each chapter to figure out whose POV we were supposed to be in, because, hey, there are many, and three of them are girls who are all roughly the same age and think in similar ways. Nevertheless, I very much appreciated the different personalities and the subtleties in which they were different, and it was most interesting, to me at least, to see three similar people react to things in totally different ways.

I can’t say much about the storylines themselves because SpOiLeRs, but the scenery was beautiful: Winter in Russia, similar to the Winternight trilogy by Katherine Arden vibes (Catch my review of the first novel in that series here!), but definitely set a few years later because transit seems to be much easier in this universe than that one. The three heroes from vastly differing backgrounds and yet all facing similar fates really hits home, while also giving you a much broader view of the world than if it had only followed one of them. This is a book I will not be forgetting any time soon.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars.

Other books by this author:
Uprooted

Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen

Source: Goodreads

Catherine Morland is the second of four children of a small town vicar, and after befriending the wealthy and childless Mr. and Mrs. Allen, is invited to go to Bath with them for a few months. While there she makes the acquaintance of the Tilneys and the Thorpes, wherein her adventures in polite society begin.

A few of my classmates and I have decided to create a Jane Austen Book Club, and we’re reading them in the order they were written, so we’ve begun with Northanger Abbey. This novel is often touted as being a gothic novel making fun of gothic novels, and while Catherine is certainly obsessed with the genre, but having never read any true gothic novels, I can’t say that I see the humor in any of it.

To be perfectly honest, I hated almost every. single. character.
Nearly everyone is completely self-absorbed and focused solely on the possibility of their own personal happiness. The never ending prattle of these characters would be exhausting if let loose upon society. Austen herself breaks the fourth wall to talk to the reader constantly, explaining why she did some such thing or left something else out, and I really think getting rid of all the fourth wall breaks would make the story at least 15% more interesting.

It feels as though John Thorpe’s entire reason for existence is to be a bigger wierdo than Henry Tilney, thus making Henry look good by comparison. Tilney even admits at the end that he only ever gave Catherine the time of day because she seemed to be into him, and he didn’t have anything else going at the time. And Catherine was only into him because she only had two options and John is John.

I’m pretty sure everyone I know has met at least one Isabella Thorpe in the course of their life. She gaslights everyone, is petty, jealous, and a compulsive liar. She thinks she’s a big fish in a small pond, even though she’s not an interesting human at all, and keeps jumping from relationship to relationship because the grass is always greener on the other side. She’s exhausting, and not a person you’d ever want as a friend, but when you have no friends, she’s an easy one to keep. The worst part is that her younger sisters are perfectly nice humans and are going to get treated like trashy, tiny versions of her for the majority of their lives just because she and John are awful people.

Captain Tilney was interested in Catherine in a creepy way. Not letting them tour the house or garden without him? I’m just going to come on out and say loudly that this makes him sound like he’s eyeing up Catherine for himself. Every time he talks about Henry’s home, he makes sure to mention something he built with his own two hands. He’s very obvious about the house needing a lady’s touch, embarrassing everyone. An not letting anyone into Lady Tilney’s rooms is just strange.

The things I did enjoy about the book were the parts where Catherine was off in her own imagination. Her walk with Henry and Eleanor, the tour of the house, the story Henry tells her on the way to Northanger, and her first night there. I loved how those papers played out at the very end, and I think the novel would have actually been better and more well rounded if the story were told from Eleanor’s POV. Could you imagine having a friend come to visit who believes that your house is haunted and that your mother was murdered most foul? Having a gullible friend like Catherine would be fairly entertaining. All these bits and pieces of delight were not enough to outweigh the mostly awful characters and the fourth wall breaking, however, and I was very happy to be done with it.

HHC Rating: 2 Stars.

Other reviews in the Jane Austen Book Club:
Sense & Sensibility (August Book)
Pride & Prejudice (September Book)
Mansfield Park (October Book)
Emma (November Book)
Persuasion (December Book)

Waiting for Tom Hanks – Kerry Winfrey

Source: Goodreads

Annie grew up obsessed with rom-coms. After her dad passed, she and her mom watched them religiously, and she went to school for screen writing to write her own – featuring Tom Hanks of course. But after school she came back to Ohio, where she has lived with her uncle since her mom’s passing, and she can’t seem to move on with her life. She’s waiting for her Tom Hanks, her perfect match, but she’s not out there looking for him. Instead she’s sitting in her best friend’s coffee shop working remotely doing freelance article writing for everything from cold sore creams to gardening rakes.

Everything changes when a famous romantic-comedy director announces he’s shooting his new movie in Annie’s hometown. Annie’s best friend insists it’s fate, and it truly seems it could be when she finds a sudden connection to the director and ends up working on set. But instead of learning the ropes in the hopes of creating her own movie someday, Annie finds herself the unwitting heroine in her own Tom-Hanks-esque love story.


I rarely pick up books that have just been published, because I am always too busy working my way through a massive backlist TBR. Waiting for Tom Hanks kept popping up on my radar, though, and I finally decided that I just had to read it. Cut to visiting 3-5 different indie bookstores before finally finding it at Target by accident. The million-and-one references to rom-coms, Nora Ephron, and Tom Hanks are delightful, so long as you are just as obsessed with rom-coms as Annie and actually get all of the references, because there are many. Annie’s uncle also runs a weekly Dungeons & Dragons game, which I absolutely love with a singular purity, and honestly Uncle Don is just so pure over all. He is easily my favorite.

Annie as a character was slightly annoying because she couldn’t see what was going on, but that’s how rom-coms go, aren’t they? There was hardly any diversity of any shape or form (which is also mostly on par for rom-coms, though it’s a huge problem of the genre), and the ending was definitely rushed – I could have used another 25-50 pages for better pacing, please! Also, there were almost no physical descriptions in the entire book – so maybe there’s a lot more diversity than we think? That’s probably a pipe dream, but oh well. Overall it was a very cute book that I will be passing along to many friends.

HHC Rating: 4.5 Stars.

Other Reviews in this series:
Book 2 – Not Like The Movies (Book available in 2020)

TOTY 27: Aiming for the Stars

You might think this title is cheesy, but I love it, and it’s my opinion that counts the most after all.

I turn 27 today, and I’m set to graduate with my Master’s Degree in December (I’ll walk the stage in May, 2020). This is a big year. And I have a lot of big goals I want to accomplish.

There’s a catchphrase I’ve been thinking about for well over a year, that I think sums up my ideas perfectly. It’s from Ashley Poston’s Once Upon A Con series, wherein there’s a mock-conglomerate version of Star Wars/Star Trek/Firefly/Stargate/etc… that’s called Starfield, and it’s tagline is “Look to the stars. Aim. Ignite.” I want that kind of bravery in my life, so I’m adopting it as my theme for the year. Anything is possible, you just have to work for it. So, logically, if anything is possible, why not aim for the stars?

Here are some of my long-term goal for the next year:

1 – Get a Full-Time Job in Publishing.

This summer and fall I will be relentless in the search for a full-time position somewhere in publishing. I know that I want to stay in Boston for as long as possible, and that I don’t want to be in sales or marketing, but I will take just about anything else that will pay me a living wage and give me health insurance. I don’t mean that to sound like I don’t care what job I have, it’s just that I love so many aspects of publishing that I would be pretty thrilled to work anywhere in the industry.

2 – Get in Shape.

I’m over being weak and tired all the time. After my friend’s wedding at the end of June it took me days to recover, and the leg I messed up two years ago is still a little stiff. I’m ready to be in shape again like I was when I ran track in high school. I’m determined to get into some actual strength training this year. To that end, I did my first workout in almost ten years this morning! Big shout-out to my baby sis for writing me up a workout schedule to ease me back in to the practice.

3 – Eat Well.

Now that I no longer have night classes, I’m determined to set up an actual meal schedule and cook 4-5 nights a week, eating out only on the weekends.

4 – Sleep Well.

Again, no more night classes means I can go to bed by 10pm and get up at 5:30 or 6am and actually start my day nice and slow, the way I would prefer to, with yoga, reading, and journaling.

5 – Finish a Manuscript.

I’m determined to finish at least one MS this year, ideally two. This time next year I don’t need to be in a place where I can begin submitting to agents and publishers, but I think it will be at least a great learning experience to finish writing a book.

6 – Buy a Car.

If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that a tree fell on my car 18 months ago, and not having one has made it increasingly harder and more expensive to visit my family and friends, not to mention get a job. I’m hoping to be able to afford a used car by this time next summer, maybe a Prius like the one I had (I fit an entire Ikea ‘Billy’ Bookshelf in there once! In a flat-pack, but still!), or something else that gets great gas mileage because my family is pretty spread out. Send me your car suggestions!

7 – Get a Cat.

While I love all of my friends’ pets, I dearly miss having a pet of my own, and I’d like to adopt a cat sometime next year once my financials stabilize. I do also love dogs, but as a new professional I don’t think I’ll be home enough to give it adequate exercise, nor would I necessarily be able to afford regular doggie daycare/dogwalker/petsitter.

8 – Pay Off $8,000.00 of My Student Loan Debt.

My goal is to be debt-free by 35, so I’m hoping to get a jump on it and pay down my principles and avoid as much interest as possible. $8,000 in a year would require me to pay $667 each month – which should be doable once I get a full-time job and probably give up most of my coffee and eating out regularly.

9 – Save for Travel.

My friends and I are planning to go to Ireland next summer, once we’ve all graduated. I’ve never been overseas, and my friends and I all have Irish heritage, so we’re desperate to visit. Flights from Boston aren’t bad either, it’s cheaper than flying to the West Coast. Aside from paying down my debt and saving for a car, this should be my only big-ticket item for the year.

.
.
.

Aiming for the stars, to me, means putting aside my fears and worries and attacking my goals with renewed fervor. It doesn’t mean ignoring that part of me that always says “but what if everything goes wrong? Will I be okay?” and instead acknowledging it quickly and moving on, knowing that I will be okay and charging ahead into the unknown with a sense of peace that only comes from being okay with failing and having to start over and try again and again until something sticks. It’s simultaneously my greatest strength and my greatest weakness. The worrying makes me a great Mom-friend, a wonderful people-manager, and good judge of character, but it also holds me back from a lot of adventures and opportunities because I need to sit and weigh out all the options. The goal is not to stop doing that – that would be out of character for me completely – but to do it faster and more efficiently, to be more decisive, to start setting better boundaries on my private time and become stronger in my arguments, and to be a little more relaxed and go-with-the-flow rather than always worried about where my next step needs to be. I’m excited to see what the future holds for me at 27.

If being 26 ended up being about getting back to a sense of balance and keeping my head above water, 27 will be about blowing everything out of that water. Leaving my retail job and taking a part-time gig at a local coffee shop was the best decision I could have made this winter. I’m finally almost caught up on sleep and am finding time to read and write for pleasure again. It’s life-changing. I’m no longer volunteering at the yoga studio, but I’m trying to actually attend more yoga classes or do yoga at home. I’m focused on my health and am eating better, though still not cooking as much as I would like. I’m shopping less and more intentionally, and I’m focused on saving for the important things. I’m so proud of what I’ve accomplished this year, and my hope is that this year will be just a drop in the ocean of awesome that my 27th year will bring. Here’s to my sixth year of blogging and sharing my favorite books and life-changing moments with you all. I can’t wait!