The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings

I have a miniature dachshund named Winston.  He HATES fireworks.  In the last few years, I have learned some tricks to help him deal with the holiday.  One of my favorite traditions now is a movie marathon with lots of action to drown out the booms.  This year we watched The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogies.  Watching these movies took me back to childhood.

One of my earliest memories is being read to every night by my dad.  One of the books that stands out the most is The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.  I remember him checking out an illustrated copy from our local library.  It felt so special having him read when we knew he was tired.  He worked in Wichita and had an hour commute every day to and from work with a 4 a.m. alarm.  I loved the story of Bilbo Baggins and the company of Thorin Oakenshield.  My favorite scene is and always will be the chapter, Riddles in the Dark, where Bilbo meets and outwits Gollum.  I was always a little worried for Bilbo.  Answer the riddle or be eaten?!  How scary.  Followed by giant spiders in the forest of Mirkwood.  (Why is there always giant spiders?)  Then when they reach the Lonely Mountain, Bilbo has to face the dragon, Smaug.  This book gets better and better.  But I still remember being saddened at the end with the death of Thorin.  I still am sad about it actually.

When I was in high school, my dad and I went to see the first of the Lord of the Rings movies.  I was blown away by the sheer magnitude of this movie.  It was visually stunning with an amazing cast and a great story.  I had never read the LOTR books but I did remember the story, The Hobbit.  I immediately had to buy the trilogy and start reading.  I LOVED them.  The detail that Tolkien puts in his books is beautiful and complex.  The following years, I went to see The Two Towers and The Return of the King and was so happy to see that Peter Jackson followed the source material so well.

Then several years later Jackson announced they were adapting The Hobbit!  I was stoked.  They were bringing back some of the original cast and adding new talent.  Going to the theater to see the first movie was like being a kid again.  Once again, the casting was amazing.  Martin Freeman as Bilbo and Richard Armitage as Thorin were both exactly what I wanted.  Even though the movies veered off the story line, I felt that Jackson still gave us the feel of Tolkien.

When I happened upon an exact copy of The Hobbit that my dad read to us in a used bookstore I snatched it up immediately.  I placed it in a spot of honor next to my illustrated copies of Harry Potter!  There is nothing like a special book that makes us feel young again.  What is your favorite book from childhood?  We’d love to hear your comments!

Book Review – The Last Namsara

The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

The First Line: Asha lured the dragon with a story.

Summary: In a land where stories are poisonous and lure fire-breathing dragons, Asha, the daughter of the dragon king, is the most feared dragon hunter in Firgaard. As a child, Asha was addicted to telling the ancient stories of her people despite their power to call the dragons. When Asha’s storytelling brings a dragon to her village, killing hundreds and permanently scaring her, Asha is deemed the Isakari, the epitome of a cursed and corrupted god. But when Asha is charged to hunt and kill the greatest dragon of all, she unlocks buried secrets about her past. Joined by her dagger-throwing cousin, a mysterious slave, and the stories of the gods, Asha’s quest for freedom and redemption challenge everything she knows about her world and herself.

Highlights: This book is epic! From the amazing, axe-wielding main character to the unique world view and social structure of Firgaard to the intense fight scenes with giant, fearsome dragons, this book has everything you could want in a fantasy story. Storytelling is vital to this world, and the author makes that prevalent by including ancient stories in between the chapters of the book. These stories read like myths or fables and are just as intriguing as the present-day tale. What also sets The Last Namsara apart from a traditional fantasy narrative is Asha’s journey from resistance to acceptance. Firgaard upholds a rigid slave order with a sect of people who are collared and treated as less than human. Through Asha’s story, she finds herself connecting with a particular slave and sympathizing with his struggles. The villains in this story are so enticing. Asha is engaged to Jarek, the commandant of the Firgaard army, and his harshness and possessiveness are delightfully terrible. Of course, what also makes this story so epic are the dragons with their great, powerful wings, poisonous fire-breath, and an affinity for storytelling!

Lowlights: While I absolutely adored this book, some might find it a little confusing in the first fifty pages or so because of the unique terminology of the class system. Specific groups of people, such as the slaves, are called skrals, and the soldiers are called soldats which both took some getting used to. I had also wished there was a map of the world in the book to be used as a reference when the author describes other lands or areas within Firgaard. In the beginning, Asha was incredibly cold toward a slave and while she does eventually warms up to him, some readers might find that she takes a little too long. Readers also may find it difficult to keep the old stories and legends straight, particularly about the gods Namsara and Iskari. However, within one hundred pages, I found that all of these things were quickly rectified, and the story flowed incredibly well.

FYI: This book will be a part of a companion trilogy with the next two books having different main characters. Asha and her company will be featured as side characters. The next book is set to release in 2018.

The author, Kristen Ciccarelli, also filmed a beautiful video about her journey to writing The Last Namsara while sculpting a dragon mug from scratch! Check it out here on YouTube!

I Dream of Dragons

So I’ve got a little confession to make…I am so obsessed with dragons right now. To be fair, I think everyone is a little obsessed with dragons what with Game of Thrones and this new Starbucks “secret menu” Dragon Frappuccino that’s riding on the coattails of the Unicorn Frap. Even though I get that it’s a mythological being, I totally want to own (or be) a dragon.

The infamous “secret menu” dragon frappuccino from Starbucks!

It all started innocently enough. I binge watched Game of Thrones to catch up for the upcoming season, and I was on the hunt for a fun and easy IOS game that had a similar fantasy feel. Then I stumbled upon DragonVale, this adorable game that lets you collect and hatch all kinds of dragons, and I was hooked! I mean, I get to literally be a Mother of Dragons!! The game has been around for a few years, and the design, the animation, and the little story lines are so cool!

Now if you’re like me, when you get into something, you REALLY get into it. It’s like finding an awesome song and playing it on repeat for three days until you start hallucinating a little. So, naturally, if I was watching shows with dragons and playing a game with dragons, I had to start reading a book with dragons too, and I found the Wings of Fire series by Tui Sutherland!

If you know a reluctant reader, young or old, or someone who loves adventure, fight scenes, and mysterious prophecies, these books are the perfect fit. The series begins in the wake of this terrible war between three Sand Dragon sisters who are battling for the throne. A prophecy appears promising five dragonets of destiny who will choose the right leader and save the world, but Clay, Tsunami, Sunny, Glory, and Starflight aren’t sure if they can save anyone, even themselves.

If you are a dragon lover like me, throw on your Mother of Dragons t-shirt, cozy up with a Dragon Frappuccino, and be it with a show, a game, or a book, dive into a dragon’s world of flight, fire, and fantasy!