Friday, 21 December 2012

Review:'The Hobbit: 'An Unexpected Journey'

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey PosterIn all honesty, it was never an option that I wouldn't like this film. It was the first Lord of the Rings-related movie I had ever seen in the cinema because I was considered too young to see the others (damn you, parents). So what choice does an English-student with a liking for Old English have except fall head over heels in love with the film 'An Unexpected Journey'?

A younger and more reluctant Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, sets out on a "unexpected journey" to the Lonely Mountain with a spirited group of Dwarves to reclaim a their stolen mountain home from a dragon named Smaug.
I read the book ages ago and have it stored in the back of my mind as a pleasant memory of an amazing book. I hadn't read the Lord of the Rings yet but knew about it and this book was a great introduction. I remember reading The Silmarillion not long afterwards, being slightly confused. But I was therefore really looking forward to seeing it on screen. Unlike many others I was not at all fazed by the prospect of three movies. I tend to have unflinching trust in my favourite directors and I loved what Peter Jackson did with The Lord of the Rings. And I always want to see more extra Tolkien material, I mean, who doesn't?

First of all, the story itself is brilliant and Peter Jackson does very well at representing not only the key themes but also the details that make it so special. The Prologue here is weaker than the one at the beginning of  'Fellowship of the Ring' but almost nothing can match the ethereal beauty and command that Cate Blanchett possesses. Ian Holm's performance was a bit disappointing, especially because his voice and performance was so good in the previous trilogy and he faded compared to Martin Freeman's Bilbo. Freeman works in a huge number of minute movements and facial expressions that make the character very real. He has perfect comedic timing but also knows when to be serious and how. His response is very similar to the audience in the sense that our first response is also 'no, no, no, no' when the Dwarves start throwing cutlery.

Talking about the Dwarves: I love them. Although it did take me two visits to the cinema to be able to distinguish most of them, they were a real joy to watch. Fili and Kili immediately established themselves as the "hot dwarves", Ori was adorable and Thorin is...majestic. I recommend it strongly to check out the 'Majestic Thorin' tag on Tumblr, it had me giggling and laughing like a fool. The bond between the Dwarves, the different characters and loyalties are very interesting and I can't wait to find out even more about it in the next two movies. Here is an article that explains it all so much more eloquently than me. A bit more on Thorin, as played by Richard Armitage. Not only is Armitage majestic and perfect for the role, but Thorin is a very interesting character. He is a leader, yes, and very noble, but he is also mistaken and harsh at times. I am quite looking forward to seeing more of him. James Nesbitt is great as Bofur and Ian McKellen is, as always, perfect as Gandalf. 

And a little bit more on Andy Serkis' Gollum. I just wish Gollum was a bigger part of 'The Hobbit' because Serkis' performance is brilliant. Gollum is different, more innocent perhaps. His split personality really comes forward and is both funny and tragic. Serkis also worked as Second Unit Director on this movie, sharing some responsibility with Peter Jackson. Perhaps this will garner him some more recognition because I really think he deserves more than he is getting. Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh did a great job on the script, again, and another one of my favourite directors, Guillermo del Toro, also took part in the screenplay.

Overall, this movie is probably the best way to spend 2 hours and 50 minutes of your life. From the moment the Dwarves start singing, Bilbo goes on an adventure, Thorin behaves majestically and Gollum guesses his own riddles you will be hooked and damn Jackson for making us wait another year for the next movie, 'The Desolation of Smaug'. And you know why that one will be good? Because it has 'Desolation' in its title and that is amazing!

Joyce's Friday

Gain New Blog FollowersIt's another Friday and the last Friday of this year I'll be spending in the UK. I'm quite looking forward to spending Christmas in Germany, it just has this promise to it. But let's put an end to my pondering and move onto the memes. Follow Friday is hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee. This week's question is:

Q: What have you learned from book blogging that you didn't know before about the publishing industry?

I think I've learned quite a lot, especially that it is really hard to get books published the old-school way, through a publisher rather than online. I have read some amazing books, many of which I haven't ever seen in bookstores and think definitely deserve to be there. That is still something I want to figure out, how some books get published and others don't.

I have also grown a new appreciation of online publishing. Some people are quite negligent about it or condescending but they underestimate how much work goes into self-publishing, spreading the word, setting up blog-tours, etc. 

I'm trying to do my coursework and sometimes you get so terribly stuck in a sentence you want to throw the laptop across the room, go back to primary school and relearn how to write and read. But I stopped my inner Hulk and decided to blog. But because I'd feel guilty to not do anything related to work I have decided to use 'Dubliners' for some of these memes. Book Beginners is hosted by Rose City Reader and Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice.

'There was no hope for him this time: it was the third stroke. Night after night I had passed the house (it was vacation time) and studied the lighted square of window: and night after night I had found it lighted in the same way, faintly and evenly.'
I really liked this beginning. It is so final but also opens up an entire story for the reader to explore and be immersed in.

'Ignatius Gallaher puffed thoughtfully at his cigar and then, in a calm historian's tone, he proceeded to sketch for his friend some pictures of the corruption which was rife abroad. He summarized the vices of many capitals and seemed inclined to award the palm to Berlin.'
Just the name, Ignatius Gallaher, sounds annoying and throughout this story, 'A Little Cloud', I got soo sick of him, but in a good, literary way, if you know what  mean.

Well, those are my memes for today. Somewhere tomorrow or today I'll have a review for the 'The Hobbit' movie up, but I can already tell you I absolutely loved it and have already seen it twice...which is only about a third of how many times I want to see it....who knew dwarves could be sexy.... I will stop now.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Review: D.H. Lawrence's Three Short Stories

It is sort of difficult to review three separate short stories rather a collection of short stories, but I hope I have figured out a system. I'll review the stories and then I'll rate Lawrence on his ability to write short stories, in my honest opinion. The three stories I will review are England, My England’, ‘Monkey Nuts’ and ‘The Horse-Dealer’s Daughter'.

England, My England
'England, My England' is set at the outbreak of war and deals with a family that is slowly breaking apart. The husband comes across as insensitive when in fact he seems to be completely separate of his human nature. He doesn't get back into touch with that until he finds himself a soldier and faced with death. 

This was a bit of a strange story and at the same time it was very familiarly Lawrence. Most of his symbolism is drawn from nature and he is very good at it but in this story it was particularly interesting because he opposed this symbolism with the harsh reality of war and human nature. At times some scenes are quite shocking because they are so very harsh but I did enjoy reading them because they bring up a lot of interesting themes to think about.

Monkey Nuts
Both of these stories have to do with the First World War and whereas 'England' dealt with actual combat, 'Monkey Nuts' deals with the consequences of the War, especially for the relationship between men and women and how the roles of the latter have changed. On the one hand I did like the story because the female protagonist was so interesting and strong but on the other hand it was almost mean towards women. They had a much bigger role in society since all the men were of to fight the War and I feel that here we don't get the positive side effects of that at all. It is presented as emasculating rather than as supportive. 

The Horse-Dealer's Daughter
This was my favourite story out of the 3 and I had some differences in opinion about it with my seminar people. The story centers on the daughter of the now dead horse-dealer. The household is packing up and she now feels she doesn't have a purpose and, in my opinion, is too independent to want to burden anyone else. I don't want to spoil the story but where everyone else seemed to think that she was either manipulative or weak I saw an independent woman who wanted to make her own decisions. I also saw much more of a love story than anyone else so that might have coloured my opinion as well! In this one story I thought Lawrence was an amazing narrator. Especially towards the end I just thought the story got better and better and I'm considering doing an analysis on it soon because it simply was very good writing. 

Overall, I give D.H. Lawrence's skill in short story writing...


I liked reading this stories but only the last one truly gripped me. I am not saying all characters have to be likable and it probably takes more skill to write a despicable character rather than a nice one, but the first two stories simply weren't to my taste. But Lawrence is a master at description and his use of language is beautiful, so even if you weren't convinced by my review of these stories I would still recommend picking up any of his novels because they are, truly, beautiful!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Help me, Jane!

I just wrote this and decided to post it rather than have it sitting around. I would love to know whether you think it is utterly terrible or whether there is something there. And I want to know who figures out who her friends are! So yes, comments are appreciated and (sadly) begged for. So here you go, this is 'Help Me, Jane'.

Terrified I ran out of the house. Anywhere, anything, except inside those walls. There had to be a place where I could go, a place where there would be warmth, solace. There had to be, right? I ran and ran until I had to make a decision on where to go. I couldn't just keep running aimlessly or could I? There had to be somewhere.
Where to turn to, where to go?
Maybe I could run to Marianne's house, knock on the door, be admitted in. Perhaps there was a place for me there, some clean clothes, some food. But wait, wasn't Brandon there? I couldn't face a man, not now, not one I knew, like I had known him. No, I couldn't. What time is it? Perhaps he is at work, perhaps he is not even there. He probably isn't there, it is a Wednesday. But no, he goes golfing with him on Wednesday and he was not away so perhaps Brandon is at home. And I can not face him, I simply can't
Where to turn to, where to go?
Perhaps Anne then, soothing and kind Anne, who always knew what to say. I feel safe with Anne, comforted. She always knew what to say and what to do. Everyone always said Anne knew, no matter what it was that needed knowing. And William himself was such a great soul. But no, William knew him, even owed him. I couldn't go there, could I? Could I ever go back there or did I have to ban myself from that fireplace for all eternity?
Where to turn to, where to go?
What about Emma? She was fun, she was even gentle in her own way. And she had looked after her own father long enough to know what it means to care, didn't she? Or had she cared enough and did she not want to be burdened? But George would be there. George was a good man and didn't like him that much either. It had been Emma who had insisted upon him being there. Why had Emma wanted him there? Why? It would have been better had Emma never cared for him, then we wouldn't have spend that much time together. I couldn't go to see Emma now, could I? Emma wouldn't approve of me.
Where to turn to, where to go?
How about Mary? Mary was so serious, so unlike Emma! Surely Mary would understand the gravity of the situation. And she had never seen him. Mary never saw any men and he had always avoided meeting her. Yes, Mary's would be perfect. Would it? Mary didn't like a fuss or drama and that was just what I would bring. I would be a burden to her and I couldn't be a burden, could I
Where to turn to, where to go?
Possibly Lydia could take me in? She knows what it is like to be troubled, to be fallen. She had lost grace now so have I. She would understand. And her George hadn't been there for a long time, had he? But then Fred might be, or Rupert or Bill or whichever one was there. Do you fall when you willingly jump? I hadn't jumped, had I? Perhaps I had. But I couldn't go to see Lydia, she would be bored by me. I cannot dance now or laugh or sing and she would kick me out.
Where to turn to, where to go?
I couldn't face Eleanor, she is to sophisticated. She wouldn't understand or would she? She who was always so calm and composed, so...knowing. She would nod and sigh, but she would secretly wonder at me. She would think me foolish. I am foolish perhaps for running like this. Perhaps it is better to sometimes just sit and nod rather than run. But no, it cannot be better, can it?
Where to turn to, where to go?
Catherine would think me the fallen heroine of one of those tales. She would sit me down, make me tell her every detail and then dream of. She would, I know she would. And Henry would just sit there and smile, content to let her fantasise. That is what they would do. What will I do then? What will I do now? Am I the heroine or am I just a side character, who fall shows the heroine what not to do? I couldn't be the heroine if I fell or could I? Would that make him the hero or the devil? He couldn't be the hero or could he?
Where to turn to, where to go?
Fanny might understand. She has been slighted, she has been put aside. But now she has Edmund. She has been content ever since, willing to forget. Am I willing to forget? Will he let me? I wish I could happily forget. It would be easier. Is easy not sometimes good? Fanny would think so, wouldn't she? But she wouldn't know. She couldn't know.
Where to turn to, where to go?
There is nowhere to go but back, isn't there? It would be easily done. I am already standing in front of the door. I could just knock, couldn't I. Tell him I'm sorry, that I didn't want to run. That I want to be heroine to his hero. That neither of us had quite fallen yet. And it would be good, would it? I have already knocked on the door and he is already coming. Why wouldn't it be good?
Where could I have turned to, where could I have gone to?
I could have gone to Lizzie. I now know I could have. But knowing now is knowing too late. It wasn't good, it never would have been. I was no heroine, I had not fallen, I had jumped. I was only running to return. Lizzie knows about realizing towards the end, but I guess she was luckier than I was. He never realised, I think. I don't think he realises now. Fitz would have known what to do. He never owed him or liked him. Fitz was his own person, or as far his own as he wasn't Lizzie's.
I could have gone there, but I can't now.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Teaser Tuesday: 'The Man in the Iron Mask' by Dumas

I have some time left before lunch and my last Viking World Lecture so I thought, perfect time for some teasing! Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB over at Should Be Reading. This week I finally got myself back into reading shape, sort of, and started reading some of my classics. I simply love the title of this one, 'The Man in the Iron Mask' by Alexandre Dumas. Stupid me had to Google his first name because I wondered about accents and who knew that on the Wiki page for this book they summarize the book's plot into the same line as his name. But I still want to read it, it sounds pretty good! This is the third book in the Three Musketeers' Saga.

"Chevalier! Chevalier!" said Fouquet, giddy with amazement, "whitherare you hurrying me?""Across the gulf into which you were about to fall," replied theBishop of Vannes. "Take hold of my cloak and throw fear aside!""Why did you not tell me that sooner, Aramis? There was a day whenwith one million you could have saved me."
p. 58

I would love to be 'giddy with amazement', it sounds like a lot of fun! It's not quite one sentence but therefore only one teaser! So, how about your teasers? Leave a link in your comment and I'll stop by!

Friday, 7 December 2012

Eowyn's Friday

Gain New Blog FollowersTime for me to take part in some Friday memes, me thinks! I have been sort of absent and I apologize, but time flies at University. There is so much to do, so much to read that everything else sort of falls away.  But now I am completely ready for these questions. Follow Friday is hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee

Q: Activity! Who do you want to be? If you could choose any character from a book. What do you think that character looks like and what do you have in common?
Oh Lord, there are soo many characters that I love, but when it comes to it, I don't know whether I would actually want to be them. But the more I thought about it the more this one character came to mind: Eowyn from 'The Lord of the Rings'. She is an amazing character and while reading the books and watching the movies I felt a real affinity towards her. Especially when she is asked what she fears and answers as follows:
't]o stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire'
One of my worst fears is to live a life in a cage, to not be able to achieve anything or live life. And I feel she is really empowered and modern, wanting to fight her battles and be a good ruler. And I also have a thing for Faramir, so I would have no problem marrying him.

I decided today that I was not going to read anything related to University and found myself reading 'Who's Afraid of Jane Austen?' It's really funny and the tagline is 'How to really talk about books you haven't read'. Sometimes you haven't finished a book but know you will be expected to have an opinion on it and then it is good to know how to express yourself without giving away you haven't read it. To be honest, most of the books that Hitchings talks about I have already read, but it is fun nonetheless. But I decided to use this book for Book Beginnings (Rose City Reader) and Friday 56 (Freda's Voice).

'You are at a wedding or a dinner party, and the conversation is flowing - a roiling, competitive brabble. Or perhaps it is edgy, hesitant (though still competitive). But then the subject moved books. The change in direction is an opportunity for you to look either brilliant or ridiculous, and you sense this keenly. Which will it be?'
I have a gift for saying stupid things that are then followed by a silence, so this opening immediately had my attention. I'd like to think I always say intelligent things, but I don't.

'Additionally, the Odyssey, unlike the Iliad, contains memorable female characters, shifts back and forward in time and setting, is overtly moral, and emphasizes the idea of justice.'
Looks like a pretty good summary of themes in the Odyssey. That is really what these kinds of books are good for. Sometimes, even after having finished a book, you can be so overwhelmed you cannot gather your thoughts. Then it is good to have someone write down some of the key themes so you can talk about it without fangirling or stuttering.

So, that was me for today. Leave a link in your comment and I'll return the visit!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Review: 'Dubliners' by James Joyce

DublinersI have decided to use James Joyce's 'Dubliners' for my coursework for this term's Studying Literature module. I always thought Joyce could only be as difficult as 'Ulysses'. I read 'Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man' a couple of years ago and quite liked it, even if I can't really remember it. I was quite hesitant about picking up 'Dubliners' but I am so happy I did.
This work of art reflects life in Ireland at the turn of the last century, and by rejecting euphemism, reveals to the Irish their unromantic reality. Each of the 15 stories offers glimpses into the lives of ordinary Dubliners, and collectively they paint a portrait of a nation.
 There are 15 stories in this collection, all of which are set in Dublin. Joyce himself said that in these stories he wanted to explore the 'paralysis' that was Dublin. This is what my coursework will focus on as well, so if you have any thoughts on that subject don't hesitate to comment.

My favourite story was probably 'Eveline' in which the heroine, of the same name, awaits her elopement with her lover only to, in the end, be unable to. The 'paralysis' is probably the most obvious in this story, but it is also a beautiful story. It is very detailed and emotional and at the same time so short you can do nothing but admire Joyce for being able to create such a complex narrative in just a few pages. There are so many emotions out in the open and brimming below the surface that even in rereads I have discovered new things about it. The same thing, to an extent, counts for all other stories but it really stuck with me in this story.

What is quite interesting is the structure of the collection. They are divided into childhood, young adults, middle age and death. Although these themes, death and development, come up in all the stories, it is very clear that they are different categories. This means that as you read the stories you almost grow up and accept the paralysis that has spread throughout Dublin. You almost feel Joyce's claustrophobia as you read the street names and walk past the pubs and find nothing that is not Irish, not from Dublin. Even the characters that have seemed to escape have to return and seem caught in something else.

Overall I give the collection....


This collection of short stories is masterful. Joyce truly knows how to create with language. As you read, you feel like you are in Dublin, like you can feel the paralysis, and all of this is done through language and Joyce's intimate knowledge of Dublin. I recommend it to everyone, especially those who are scared of by the name James Joyce.