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.

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)

The Guns of Avalon (Amber Chronicles, #2) – Roger Zelazny

Source: Goodreads

There are infinite worlds made of shadow, and only one born of the royal Amber line can navigate them. Among the shadows now move creatures of chaos and darkness, venturing off the black road to incite war, disease, and suffering among the shadow lands. The black road cuts through all, right up to light that is Amber. Corwin of Amber is an expert at navigating the shadow realms, but faced with his own anger and hatred in the flesh, will he be able to overcome it?


The second novel in Zelazny’s epic Amber Chronicles picks up where the first left off, with Corwin recovering form his injuries and going in search of new avenues to the throne of Amber. As we meet a slightly wider cast of characters among the shadow worlds, we also learn more of Amber’s history and the intricate family dynamics. Most importantly, we see the results of Corwin’s curse on Eric – a curse even he doesn’t know the bounds of.

All of these novels are on the short side, but this one actually felt shorter despite it actually being longer than the first. There was a lot of travelling and explanation of how Corwin was morphing the shadows he was passing through, and not a lot of plot or character development. Typical second book slump. The female characters might serve some sort of point in the future, but in this particular volume they felt rather gratuitous. As a man over 100-years-old, you would think Corwin would be a little better at controlling his urges. He also spends a lot of his time thinking about these women, which is why I think they might have some purpose later on – Dara especially. Overall, this installment didn’t wow me, but I’m curious to see where the plot goes.


HHC Rating: 3.5 Stars.



Other Reviews in this Series:
Book 1 – Nine Princes in Amber
Book 3 – Sign of the Unicorn (Review Available July 23rd)
Book 4 – The Hand of Oberon (Review Available August 6th)
Book 5 – The Courts of Chaos (Review Available August 27th)
Book 6 – Trumps of Doom (Review Available September 17th)
Book 7 – Blood of Amber (Review Available October 8th)
Book 8 – Sign of Chaos (Review Available October 29th)
Book 9 – Knight of Shadows (Review Available November 19th)
Book 10 – Prince of Chaos (Review Available December 10th)

Fix Her Up (Hot and Hammered, #1) – Tessa Bailey

Source: Goodreads

Georgie Castle has always been invisible. As the pesky little sister left out of the family business, she’s found her own way in life, using her business degree to launch a small company doing children’s birthday parties. Only, the business is so small that it’s just her. Dressed up as a clown. But no matter how good she is at her job, it definitely doesn’t make her family take her anymore seriously than they ever have.

Travis Ford is back in town after a shoulder injury ended his shining baseball career prematurely. He’s drowning his sorrows in beer and take out until someone breaks into his apartment and starts throwing food at him. Literally. But is he really going to let his best friend’s kid sister tell him how to live his life? Heck no. What could Georgie know about life? She’s just a kid. The pesky little sister of his best friend, who came to all his games growing up and spied on him from a tree in her back yard.

As Travis begins to build a new life, he becomes increasingly aware of a few things.
1) Someone started a betting pool to see who the baseball playboy will date first.
2) His washed up fame has left him high and dry… and lonely.
And 3) Georgie is so not the kid he remembers from his school days.
Too bad she’s busy building her own life, determined to make her family take her seriously, and is treating him like the big brother he’s always been to her.

This book was exactly the distraction I needed, though had I known the title of the series I probably would have been better prepared. It started off super cute and then became quite, quite steamy, actually. I’ve since shoved it at multiple friends who are also enjoying themselves. We’ve been texting about it and it mainly ends up being heart emojis because we all love Georgie and Travis just so much. Not safe to read aloud at work, and also probably inappropriate for anyone under 18.

I will say that the whole ‘little sister’ trope is a bit overused, and Travis calling her “baby girl” and referring to her as his little sister all the time does make everything a little, well, awkward. Add in that Georgie is a literal birthday clown and Travis is obsessed with her being a virgin, and you have the ultimate awkward scene. But it still managed to somehow be cute. When it comes to contemporary romance, there’s always a lot of objectification, and Georgie and Travis both participate in this quite a lot, but it doesn’t overwhelm the story. This was a light, quick read, with some very steamy (and somewhat awkward, I’ll be honest. It’s very step-by-step rather than overall-emotion) scenes. I’ve never read any of Bailey’s books before, so I’ll have to check out a few more before I can say for sure that this is her normal style, but it was a fun summer beach read!

HHC Rating: 3.5 Stars.

Other books in this series:
Book 2 – Love Her or Lose Her (Expected Publication 2020)