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.**