Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Wool The Graphic Novel Omnibus by Hugh Howey

Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

    Hugh Howey's journey began quietly enough when he decided to self-publish his thriller/post apocalyptic serial novel on Amazon in 2011. Originally, Howey published Wool as a serial publication consisting of five parts. Howey was unprepared for the huge success he would meet as his novel became one of Amazon's leading sellers and made over a million dollars. [Nerdist, Dan Casey, June 4, 2014.] [2]

This is the full novel (an omnibus), with
all five parts collected into one edition.
The novel is sold in hardcover, paper-
back, unabridged (Audible) audio edi-
tion, or as an audiobook. Wool Omnibus
Edition (Wool 1-5) 
Silo Series
     According to Casey, it was not long before Howey's successful book attracted attention from mainstream publishers looking to capitalize on the already successful book, apparently, to parlay it into a huge draw (similar to The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins). Howey surprised everyone by not giving in to tempting offers that would see his book rights disappear--Howey finally garnered a deal where he was paid well, but one which allowed him to keep the book rights (e-book). [2]

     One of the most exciting new developments for Hugh Howey is that he has, according to Rachel Deahl of Publisher's Weekly, sold the film rights for Wool to 20th Century Fox; Director Ridley Scott and Steve Zaillian are two who have "expressed interest in the film adaptation" as well as Lionsgate Films. [3]

     Publishers and promoters have kept the synopsis of the graphic novel short. Whether the brevity is because the novel has been distilled down to its essence, or whether it is because theirs is a desire to keep the plot secret really doesn't matter. It is short. So...let's get to it!

Wool (Part One) Silo
Series Book 1
   This "contemporary dystopian" story is one of the struggle of man to eke out a kind of existence in the harsh remnants of a destroyed society. Man lives on the fringes of existence while the world they once knew has grown harsh and for the most part, unlivable. Man has retreated to underground silos to live, and survivors fear to even speak of the outside world because to even speak of it is forbidden.

Wool (Part Two) Silo
Series Book 2
     Throughout history, in societies of oppression, hope springs up in the form of rebellious men and women preaching optimism in the face of societal oppression. So it does in Howey's novel, Wool. But against what are these unlikely rebels rebelling? When they are caught, they are given a way out...that is, a way out of the silos. Out into the unbreathable air of the outside. A way out of life. [1]

Wool (Part Three) Silo
Series Book 3
     Book Description:
          First, the official title:  Wool: The Graphic Novel: The Silo Saga Omnibus by Hugh Howey; Script by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti.
     Book Length: 160 Pages
     Publisher: Jet City Comics (August 12, 2014)
     Language: English
     ISBN-10: 1477849122
     ISBN-13: 978-1477849125
     Originally published in serial publications (1-5): The covers are shown in this section; now available for download as a complete book.
     Additional Included Information: Twenty pages of BONUS material (including the following: Jimmy Broxton's Sketchbook, Variant Covers by Darwyn Cooke, inked pages by Jimmy Broxton, and Bios).
Wool (Part Four) Silo
Series Book 4

     FirstThe very first thing I ask myself when I pick up a graphic novel is whether or not it actually is a graphic novel. How can I tell? Well I look to see whether or not the publication is episodic in nature (like comic books), or is the publication a story with a complete beginning, middle, and end? So, that's the first thing.

Wool (Part Five) Silo 

Series Book 5 (cover)[9]
    Here, Howey's graphic novel was originally published as a series (of 5). Since Howey had the intent to have a complete story arc (beginning, middle, end), and since Howey took the five parts and then published them as an omnibus, I conclude that the five parts are similar to chapters in a book, not episodic, like comics. Also, since movie makers desire to make the book into a movie, credence is lent to the idea that the story is a complete story arc.

This photo is one I took of my book,
Wool: The Graphic Novel. The pages
are securely bound to the cover.
     Second: I look at the pages, binding, and cover--What kind of cover does the book have, and how are the pages bound?

     The book I purchased is a physical book (not an e-book) with a cardstock cover, and the pages appear to be glued. I couldn't find any stitching, but the pages seem to be secure within the book, unlike the example I have for you, here, just below, left. (Hercules: The Thracian Wars by Steve Moore, Reviewed on this blog on 06-29-14.)

Hercules: The Thracian Wars by Steve Moore.  I reviewed this book on my
blog on 06-29-14, if you would like to see and read more about this book.
     Comic books are usually covered in the same pulp paper with which their pages are printed, and the pages are usually stapled. Poorly constructed graphic novels often have their pages fall out due to poor construction meth- ods or materials (the glue) used to bind the pages between the covers. This second step is critical because if your book falls apart, the book is ruined and your money wasted. I found that Hugh Howey's book, Wool, is well-constructed with good materials, the pages securely adhering to the binding.

Here is a graphic of the Kindle
 Edition from Amazon's website.[10]
  • NOTE: Some of these points do not apply to e-books or novels purchased as Amazon Kindle downloads. So, where the analysis doesn't fit, simply ignore that point and move on to other parts of the analysis. The Second analysis point, for example, does not apply to e-books.
     Three: Analysis point three is a quality question. What kind of paper is used for the book? Is the paper pulp paper, like comic books have, or heavier paper with glossy or semi-glossy pages? Generally, you will find that the cheaper the paper is used on comics, and the better, heavier, and glossier paper, is used on graphic novels. Even so, this MAY not always be true, as I have seen collections of comics in bound cardstock and hardbound covers, and a few graphic novels published on inexpensive paper. The point, here, is to look at all the points, together, before you decide.

     I found Howey's publication, Wool, covered with cardstock and very nice paper inside with a semi-glossy finish. The cover was done in a beautiful matte finish.

     Four: Does the publication have advertising? If so, how much and where is it located within the book? Advertising is invariably found in comic books, having as much as 10-12 pages of ads. Graphic novels, however, contain no advertising whatso- ever, or if it does, it is for the same publisher, or book in the same series--the point is that little or no ads are found in graphic novels.

     I found Hugh Howey's book, Wool, to contain absolutely NO advertisements on any pages. My conclusion on this point (only) is that it meets this point's criteria for a graphic novel.

     Five: It is important to know how many pages the publication contains. The reason you need to know this is that generally, graphic novels average about 100-150 pages. Also, you need to know that in the United States, the standard comic book is generally 22 pages plus another 10 pages for advertising. On the other hand, graphic novels are approximately three times the size of a comic book, at around 100 pages. I have many graphic novels that have over 150 pages.

     Hugh Howey's book, Wool, is 160 pages, so it easily meets requirement five for a graphic novel. It is really nice to see this many pages in any graphic novel.

     Six: Following up on number five, determine whether or not the publisher is a U.S. publisher. European publishers have different standards, practices and traditions. The reason you should know this fact is that with the internet and international publishing, you may find some publications that follow non-U.S. publishing practices. For example, the publication may be of a different size.

     Wool is a standard size publication, and looking at the publisher: Jet City Comics, we find out that they are located in Mill Creek, WA. That makes them a U.S. publisher that will follow the standards, practices and traditions of U..S. publishers.

This is from the Amazon website, showing the title for Wool being
listed as a "GRAPHIC NOVEL." This is just one way to demonstrate
that a novel is a graphic novel. [1]
     Seven: Is the book advertised as a graphic novel? Is the book labeled as a "graphic novel"? This point addresses the intent of the publisher and/or author. It is important to know what they think. This is especially important when the line between comic and graphic novel may be crossed or may be somewhat blurred. It is NOT dispositive, however, just a good indicator of what's intended.

The front of my book. A photo showing
the author/publisher intended to list
the book as a graphic novel.
     Wool's title clearly indicates it is a graphic novel, as does the cover. Moreover, it is advertised as a graphic novel and sold as such. Ergo. The author and publishers intend that the book be conceived of as a graphic novel.

     Eight: The final point is one of quality and appearance. Is the cover and art well done and appealing? What is your overall impression of the publication?

A photo of the cover
of my book--again:
earthtones, muted
colors and blacks.
     Wool's cover art is quintessential to the story with the cardstock a beautiful matte finish done in earth tones and a sober pallette. The color pallette continues on to the inside with some story themes receiving warm earth tones including sunset colors, golds and warm browns, while some themes receive a much cooler treatment with toned-down greens and even blues. A very few pages are done in black and white (you'll see why when you read the graphic novel).
The pallette for the book consists of earth tones. Here, the
color scheme are cool colors with greens and blues and
somber blacks and grays.

         The overall impre- ssion is that the quality and appearance of the publication is both sturdy and appealing, leaving a wonderful sense of a quality product.

     Optional Point: If the graphic novel is one in which the graphic novel was created as a follow up publication to an original novel (or series), is the adaptation faithful (enough) to make you feel satisfied that justice was done to the story? This point is optional because not every graphic novel has been adapted from a novel (or series). Also, the point is moot if the reader has only read the graphic novel and not the novel(s). 

     I have found that adaptations are very interesting, sometimes successful, sometimes, not. Wool is mostly successful. While there are some things that have been changed from the original omnibus story (the ending is one of them), mostly I find Wool, successful as an adaptation to a graphic novel. I have really endeavored to not give away spoilers to the book, so I can't be too specific as to what I found changed that I didn't care for. general, I liked the book as an adaptation.

     This book is a contemporary post-apocalyptic thriller. If you are OK with your teens reading it, I wouldn't think it is any worse than other, similar, stories out there today. Adults and teens normally reading this subject matter should know what to expect--and enjoy.

     For all of the above reasons, I rate this book 4.0 stars out of 5.0 stars. While it is a very good book, it is not Wool, the novel, it is Wool, the graphic novel. While being very good, it just can't rise to the same level as the novel. It is, however, a very good adaptation of the novel, Wool. For those reasons, I have awarded 4 instead of 5 stars. 

     Thank you for taking the time to read my review of this book and consider the ideas and opinions I have presented to you as food for thought. If you would like to read more about graphic novels please go to my website at Sharon's Love of Books. Meanwhile, this week, pick up something good to read and have some fun. Happy New Year's Day to you all. 

Until next time...
This flower is a double white Rose of Sharon. [15]
...many happy pages of reading.

All my love, 


[1] "Wool: The Graphic Novel (The Silo Saga)." Retrieved 12-30-14.
[2] "Author Hugh Howey on Turning His Self-Published Hit Wool Into a Graphic Novel." [Nerdist, Dan Casey, 06-04-14] Retrieved 12-30-14.
[3] "20th Century Fox Spins 'Wool' For Scott Free And Film Rites." [Mike Fleming; Deadline] Retrieved 12-31-14.
[4] "Wool Omnibus Edition (Wool 1-5) Silo Series." Retrieved 12-30-14.
[5] "Wool (Part One) Silo Series Book 1." Retrieved 12-31-14.
[6] "Wool (Part Two) Silo Series Book 2." Retrieved 12-31-14.
[7] "Wool (Part Three) Silo Series Book 3." Retrieved 12-31-14.
[8] "Wool (Part Four) Silo Series Book 4." Retrieved 12-31-14.
[9] "Wool (Part Five) Silo Series Book 5." Retrieved 12-31-14.
[10] "Wool--Kindle Edition." Retrieved 12-31-14.
[11] "Advertising." Retrieved 12-31-14.
[12] "Comic Book Advertising f101: Lesson 1." Retrieved 12-31-14.
[13] "Chatroom Spoiler Free...." Retrieved 12-31-14.
[14] "(RI) 1 Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey Review." Retrieved 12-31-14.
[15] "Pictures From My Garden." Retrieved 12-31-14.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Since You've Been Gone by Mary Jennifer Payne--This New Novel Will Be Released January 24, 2015!

Pages: 224. Publisher: Dundurn (February 17,
2014); Language: English; ISBN-10:
1459728181; ISBN-13: 978-1459728189. [1]
Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     Can a horse really jump the distance of a city block? No, you say. What about an man who doesn't age and sees generations come and go? The Fountain of Youth, you say! Hmm. Well, what about a secret city existing that isn't on any map and you can't get there unless you are a resident of the city? The North Pole? Yes, well, maybe; many children believe there's a North Pole. These examples are all elements of a famous novel by Mark Helprin, called Winter's Tale. I reviewed that book in January (2014), and if you want to look in more detail at these fantastical elements, click here. And while, Since You've Been Gone, may not have flying horses, ageless characters, or secret cities, it does have some elements requiring the reader's suspension of disbelief.

     Both Mark Helprin and Mary Jennifer Payne include elements to their stories requiring the reader to engage in a willing suspension of disbelief. So why do writers like Helprin and Payne utilize these elements if people don't believe them?

     Winter's Tale, for example, is from the genre of magical realism where these kind of weird elements are utilized. Other genres where you may find weird stuff include gothic literature, science fiction, fantasy, poetry, and sometimes romanticism. Yes, but why do authors use this weird stuff? Well, the answer is really quite simple. They use these fantastical elements because when you enter the story, as Samuel Taylor Coleridge coined the phrase, you enter with a "willing suspension of disbelief." All this means is that when you start reading a book, or walk into a movie theater, you willingly set aside doubt or skepticism all for the sake of enjoying a good story. [2] 

     Before I get any more into why I started out today's post with a discussion of "suspension of disbelief," let me give the the synopsis of the book we'll be looking at, today. That book is Mary Jennifer Payne's new book, Since You've Been Gone.

A funny example of "suspension of disbelief." [4]
     Edie's mother is late getting home and fifteen-year-old Edie sits looking out the window at a frozen landscape, fidgeting and worrying about her mother. Edie suddenly gets a mysterious call from her mother asking Edie to pack one bag and meet her in the drive-way. They've got to run! Edie is suddenly scared and angry--she must leave her pet cat, Peaches behind. Edie also worries about not being able to tell her friend she is leaving without saying goodbye--Edie will just disappear, and her friend won't know why or where she's gone.

London, England. [5]
     Having fled from Toronto, Canada, and a day later, in England, Edie wakes up and wonders what happened to her cat, Peaches, since she left. She demands to know from her mother what she did with Peaches; Edie learns the indoor cat was left on the frozen porch with a bowl of cat food. While Edie knows her mother is trying, Edie is still angry and upset. Edie also wants to know if "he" will find them, here, in London.

     Two women on the run, fifteen-year-old, Edie, and Sydney, her mother, flee from an unknown terror. Edie's mother takes a night job as a cleaner in an office building, and when Edie's mother fails to return home, Edie is left bereft. With no money for food or transportation, and no one to care for her, Edie feels lost and adrift.

     Days later, Edie's mother still has not returned to their apartment. Edie tries to follow her own "normal" activities of going to school, but she is quickly targeted and bullied by female school bullies. Edie knows she will have to confront the bullies sooner or later if she is to find any peace. Now, at her wits end, without her mother or money, she does something that could land her in jail. But will Edie's new found friends be able to help her? Will Edie be able to solve the mystery about what happened to her mother? Will she ever find her?

     In a series of events that leaves Edie fleeing from not only the mysterious stranger, but also the police, Edie puts it all on the line in an incredible effort to solve the mystery of her mother's disappearance. But the real question is, will Edie's past catch up with her before she is able to solve the mystery?

     While I liked many things about this book, without a doubt, I most loved the exciting opening of the novel. It grabbed me. Edie, our protagonist, in the very first sentence, tells us that today she punched Ranice in the face. Edie muses on being in trouble with her mom; idly, Edie looks out the window to a frozen, snowy, Canadian landscape and worries about her mom being so late getting home.

     "BAM." The second punch connects. The phone rings and both Edie and her cat jump in surprise; Edie answers the phone and her mom, breathing heavily and frantically, tells her that she needs to pack a bag as quickly as she can. Sydney, Edie's mom, tells her she'll be home in fifteen minutes to pick her up--and insists that Edie not answer the door for anyone.

    Holy mackerel! What a great opening! Of course, author, Mary Jennifer Payne, tells it much better than my poor summation of the few opening paragraphs.

     The book continues to balance suspense with action, pacing the reveals to keep the reader on the edge of the seat. I enjoyed the read from the first word to the last period. While this book is targeted to teens, eighth grade and up, I would say that the writing would also appeal to adults, as well. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and I would definitely read future books written by this author.

     And finally, Payne's novel, Since You've Been Gone, is a quick read, and while it tends to be realistic, it has those elements I mentioned, above, requiring the willing suspension of disbelief. Looking at the series of implausible sequence of events, one would at some point, realize that just far too many coincidences have occurred. The plot becomes one in which the story arc approaches implausibility. Eventually, the reader must reach the point of disbelief and then suspend that disbelief. This scenario is unlikely, however, since most readers, when picking up a novel, have already adopted the mindset in which they have decided, albeit, subconsciously, to enjoy the book and adopt the author's ground rules for the world in which they find themselves. They, in effect, have adopted the willing suspension of disbelief already, even before they have picked up the book.

     A similar event occurs when viewing a television show, movie, or other work of fiction. Having been conditioned by society, readers readily adopt this suspension of their disbelief. If, however, the author crafts their work very poorly then all bets are off.

     For example, in a sci-fi movie where CGI is heavily used to the extent that the CGI images look fake, then that suspension of disbelief is out the window. It's almost like waving a red flag in the middle of a scene--it is DISTRACTING to the reader (or viewer) to the point the reader is pulled back to "reality" and out of the author's created world.

     One genre particularly hard on authors in this regard is the genre of "militaristic sci-fi." Avid readers of this genre don't mind fantastically created monsters, aliens, space ships, and any manner of armament, but if the author incorrectly reflects the life of the military man--the novel tends to be panned. [See my post of: Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos (03-30-14).]

     I have to admit that some of the writing came across as a bit choppy. Sometimes the character, Edie, seemed heartless or oblivious to other's feelings or motivations. I don't believe that is truly a bad thing. Teens are NOT adults, with adult reasoning, nor do they have adult actions or behaviors. We shouldn't expect that either, from Edie, just because she's the heroine of the story. Teens can be "heartless" sometimes. I don't expect the author to turn a blind eye to what teens face in open society.

     I also don't think that finding out what happens to Edie's mom--late in the book--is necessarily a bad thing, either. Readers don't always get to know what they want to know when they want to know it. The writing technique is utilized to build suspense and create tension. I think, whether or not you like or dislike this book might be dependent upon whether or not you allow yourself to go along for the ride. Are you enjoying the story or trying to analyze every paragraph and sentence looking for flaws? It all depends on what you want to get out of a book.


     No, I do not believe every bad book should be accepted as good by merely suspending your disbelief. I do think there is a place for the willing suspension of disbelief in reading a book, however. Have you ever heard about stopping and smelling the roses? How about just enjoying something just for the sake of it?

     This book's target audience, as I mentioned, above, is for eighth-grade readers and older. Since this book is for teen audiences, I would say, generally, the book is appropriate for that age group. As always, for anyone who has a sensitive nature, or is younger than the target audience, consideration must be given to the material before reading. The novel does cover kidnapping, murder, abuse, fear, and (potential) molestation. I don't recall any bad language in the novel, making it appropriate for the target group.

     Given my reasons, above, the negative and the positive, and my thorough enjoyment of this YA novel, by this wonderful author, Mary Jennifer Payne, I have no qualms about awarding this book 4.0 stars out of 5. I would read the book again, and would recommend it to others. I think this novel has the potential to reach teens who are struggling to find their way in the world, especially when facing isolation, those who have to move frequently, abuse within the family, those who know or know of the murder of a friend or family member, or those who simply struggle to be accepted. I believe this novel will also appeal to readers of contemporary stories about teens leading a troubled life. I applaud Ms. Payne's novel.

     Thank you for joining me today, as we were privileged to look at Mary Jennifer Payne's wonderful new novel, to be released on January 24, 2015. Please join me next week as I pick up another book in which we can have a bit of enjoyment looking at it. Thank you for taking time to read my blog post, this week. I always appreciate your consideration of my ideas and comments. Do take some time this week to read a little bit. Most likely, you will have a few days off over the Christmas holidays, so pick up a book and give it a try.

Until next week...
This flower is a double white Rose of Sharon. [13]
...many happy pages of reading.

God bless you this holiday season, and

Merry Christmas.

All my love,

[1] "Since You've Been Gone." Retrieved 12-17-14.
[2] "Suspension of Disbelief - Definition." Retrieved 12-18-14.
[3] "Winter's Tale." [hardcover/paperback ed.] Retrieved 12-18-14.
[4] "Dip that pen, Shake that speare." Retrieved 12-18-14.
[5] "Rail Europe." [London, England] Retrieved 12-18-14.
[6] "Dedicated to Locating Missing Persons." Retrieved 12-18-14.
[7] "The Forgotten Genius of Henry Hoke." Retrieved 12-22-14.
[8] "War Stories: Modern Military Science Fiction." Retrieved 12-23-14.
[9] "Quotes Picture by Tanya Christine Jaeger." Retrieved 12-23-14.
[10] "Stop and Smell the Roses No, Really!" Retrieved 12-23-14.
[11] "Review: The Wolf of Wall Street." Retrieved 12-23-14.
[12] "Thank You, Thank You, Thank You." Retrieved 12-23-14.
[13] "Pictures From My Garden." Retrieved 12-23-14.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien and See The Trailer for The Battle of the Five Armies!

Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

The Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell [1949], p. 23.

     Joseph Campbell described the "Hero's Journey" in his book, The Hero With A Thousand Faces. Campbell explains how this journey has captured the minds and hearts of everyone who learns of it. The Hero's Journey is so ingrained into the human psyche as to be found in virtually every culture that has ever been. People never weary of the story of a person who sets out on a journey where he or she encounters obstacles and faces temptations, all to obtain the magic elixir, or sword, or talisman in order to save his family or his people. 

     One of the most captivating stories about the hero's journey is from the pen of J.R.R. Tolkien, entitled, The Hobbit. All of Tolkien's stories have had long-lasting appeal; indeed, even his story of The Hobbit has been reprinted in a 75th anniversary edition. In fact, the story is so popular that movie-makers have made a series of movies based on the book, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), The Desolation of Smaug (2013), and The Battle of the Five Armies (Set for release on December 17, 2014). Even though many people already know the story of The Hobbit, let's take a quick look at the synopsis.

     Gandalf and a party of Dwarves entice a reluctant Bilbo to join their quest to help recover Dwarf lands (The Lonely Mountain) and treasures from the dragon, Smaug, in return for a share of the treasure. The group begins their journey, facing a series of challenges and trials to get to the Lonely Mountain. The first is a group of trolls where Bilbo buys time by keeping the trolls talking about cooking--at dawn Gandalf appears and saves the day. After a stop at Rivendell to get help understanding their map, Elrond reveals some secrets that the map held. 

     Moving on, they travel over the Misty Mountains and The Valley of the Stone Giants, only to be caught by goblins. They are taken into the bowels of the earth, where Bilbo sneaks away, only to get lost in other dark tunnels. While Gandalf rescues the Dwarves, Bilbo finds a magic ring.  He then encounters Gollum and they engage in a riddle contest--if Bilbo loses, he loses his life. Bilbo wins but can't get Gollum to lead him out of the tunnels. Eventually Bilbo, with the help of the magic ring, escapes. The Dwarves and Bilbo find each other and flee from the Goblins and Wargs who chase them; cornered, the party climbs up some trees and are only saved from death by the giant Eagles who come to rescue them.

     The group next encounters Beorn, a bear skinchanger. Beorn feeds them and gives them advice before they set out for the black forest of Mirkwood. After even more life-threatening encounters, the Dwarves eventually get to the Lonely Mountain and use the key to open the secret door. Bilbo enters first and encounters the dragon, Smaug. Bilbo steals a golden cup and reports back about Smaug's weakness. The dragon deduces that the people of Lake-town helped the Dwarves and goes to destroy the town--but Bard, kills Smaug with an arrow to a vulnerable location--Smaug's Achilles' heel. Meanwhile, Bilbo has found and hidden the Arkenstone. Quickly, men from Lake-town and the Wood-elves come and demand compensation for their help--Thorin refuses to deal with an armed force. Bilbo, trying to head off a clash of armies, gives the Arkenstone to Bard so he can ransome it. Unhappily for Bilbo, after he admits to taking the stone, he is banished by Thorin.

Here, Gandalf is meeting with Beorn,
the bear skinchanger, in his bear form.
     It is at this low point when Gandalf reappears and warns everyone that an immense army of Goblins and Wargs is approaching. Quickly, the Dwarves, men and elves join forces in time to battle the Goblin army. On the threshold of losing the war, Beorn arrives as a bear to do battle and he is joined by the magnificent giant eagles, to save the day. Even so, Thorin is fatally wounded. He sends for Bilbo and reconciles with him before he dies. Sadly, Fili and Kili are also killed in the battle. Bilbo takes a small share and goes home a wealthier and wiser hobbit.

'Farewell, King under the Mountain!' he said. 'This is a bitter adventure, if it must end so; and not a mountain of gold can amend it. Yet I am glad that I have shared in your perils--that has been more than any Baggins deserves. (p. 290)
     I chose this beautiful quote, Bilbo's final farewell to Thorin Oakenshield, not only because it is sentimental and poignant, but also because Bilbo shows that he has grown enough to make amends with a friend--instead of throwing it back in his face for Thorin's banishing him from the group. Here, Bilbo shows remarkable maturity and grace.

     Even more importantly, I chose it because Bilbo acknowledges the gratitude in his heart for the great grace of being able to accompany Thorin on his journey. This simple acknowledgement tells Thorin that Bilbo feels he has gained more from the journey than wealth can buy. In this regard, Thorin then says, "No!...There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly west. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world." (p.290) Thorin acknowledges Bilbo's attitude towards life and the realization that while gold may be important, valuing the good things and people in life is far more important. It is, basically, the order in which Bilbo sets the value of things in his life. Moreover, in doing so, Thorin has acknowledged Bilbo's value and that Thorin, too, has learned to value Bilbo above the Gold.

     Well, I know that I have already tipped my hand about what I think about the book, given my opening remarks about The Hero's Journey. I love the book. Others are not quite so generous because they tend to compare The Hobbit to the epic Lord of the Rings (LOTR) series, also by J.R.R. Tolkien. I've heard disparaging remarks mostly from die hard LOTR fans. Hey, not to disparage LOTR fans, because I'm one of them, it's just that that's where I hear most of the criticisms.

          One of the things I like most about The Hobbit, aside from my favorite quote, above, is that this wonderful story is the story about adventure and wonder, and "fabulous forces," encountered on a journey of discovery. The journey of a quest. Such a journey is known as a monomyth, or The Hero's Journey.

     Joseph Campbell showed the world that seventeen steps comprised The Hero's Journey. Today, we're going to condense it down to the three primary stages. They are (1) The Departure: in which the Hero/Heroine leaves their familiar and safe world behind; (2) Initiation: Our Hero learns to make his way through the unfamiliar territory of Adventure; and (3) The Return: where our Hero returns to his or her familiar world from which they started. Here is a graphic with the three primary stages shown on the inside of the bubble and the 17 stages listed on the outside to show you just what I mean:

     The story opens with Bilbo peacefully living in his "Hobbit Hole," when Gandalf comes up and tells him he'd like Bilbo to come with him for an "Adventure." Bilbo says, "Sorry! I don't want any adventures, thank you. Not today." (p.6) After a night of eating, singing, and drinking with the Darves, Bilbo gets up to an empty house. Gandalf comes in and tells him he has ten minutes to get to the group. He does nudge Bilbo out the door, but Bilbo chooses to go. This is the whole of THE DEPARTURE stage--check the chart and fit the pieces. When Bilbo goes out his front door, he has crossed the First Threshold!

 Next comes THE INITIATION stage. This is where the hero is tested, his road of trials:

    • Bilbo and the Dwarves meet the trolls. Bilbo has his first attempt at theft. Bilbo is challenged to use his ability to speak in order to delay the trolls from killing any one of them. Notice that Gandalf is always away when the hero is tested.
    • The road over the Misty Mountains and the Valley of the Stone Giants is a physical challenge of strength, tenacity and endurance--this is where the group is captured by the Goblins.
    • Taken into the deep recesses of the earth, Bilbo is separated from his party. He must, by himself, face this challenge. Through the dark, Bilbo finds the One Ring--his talisman--and pockets it; soon after, Bilbo bets his life on a game of wits with Gollum --the riddle contest. (Both parties escape the Goblins and meet up outside the Goblin's warren.)
    • Bilbo and the Dwarves are chased by the Goblins and their Wargs. Bilbo must keep his fear under control and not panic, as the group runs to a bluff where they are trapped. They all climb the trees, Gandalf throws fireballs at the group and everything goes up in flames. Outside help comes in the form of the giant Eagles who pick up and carry away the group members.
    • Regrouping, Bilbo and the Dwarves meet an important character: Beorn, the bear skinchanger.
      Bilbo learns that good can come from unexpected places.
    • Onward, the party presses through the black forest of Mirkwood. There they leave the path and must face three trials: (1) Crossing the magic stream; (2) Fighting the spiders (and Bilbo names his sword, "Sting"); and (3) Capture by the Wood-elves. With the help of the ring, Bilbo eludes capture. Bilbo must use patience, cunning, and planning to help break out his Dwarf friends from the Wood-elves dungeon cells. They next go to Lake town and on to the Lonely Mountain.
         Bilbo's final two great challenges are (1) Bilbo must face himself in a test of loyalties--does he choose his Dwarf friends, or his new friend, Bard (who kills the dragon)? (2) Bilbo must face the dragon. This is the hardest test in the book for Bilbo. 

    After all the long quest, The Arkenstone
    is buried with Thorin. [12]
         In the final stage, THE RETURN, Bilbo attempts to stop the war by giving the Arkenstone to Bard to ransom. The attempt fails and Bilbo is exiled. Then, Gandalf comes and warns of the Goblin Army approaching. 

         A great battle is fought, Thorin is mortally wounded, but dies making amends to Bilbo. Bilbo only takes a small amount of treasure and goes home. There, he finds that his property is being sold because he was presumed dead. He recovers most of his things and leads a quiet life having grown and having learned the lessons of his journey with the Dwarves.

        The "fabulous forces" working upon Bilbo changed him. As Gandalf says, he is no longer the same Hobbit. When Bilbo left his home and crossed the threshold for the first time, he complained of not having his pocket handkerchief. I think that Bilbo learned that at every awakening, every threshold something is lost, "your shoe, your watch, your favorite negligee." For Bilbo, symbolically, it was his pocket handkerchief. Now Bilbo knows that was yesterday. Yesterday he needed those things, but today "the Universe teaches [him] that [he didn't]" need them at all. [13]

         While The Hobbit may be considered for younger readers, adults can gain from reading the beautiful story. Look at what Joseph Campbell said, you step from the common every day world into one of "supernatural wonder"!

         FABULOUS FORCES are encountered! What is not to love about that? All you have to do is let yourself go and enjoy the story. Get into it and allow yourself to experience the wonder of the encounters the way young people do. Let any jadedness go. Just let the child in you enjoy, rejoice, and be excited! Is it any wonder I love this book? If you let yourself, you will, too. Let the "Fabulous Forces" be with you!

         Have you realized, yet, that the Hero With a Thousand Faces is you? That's right. Campbell tells us that we are ALL on a hero's journey encountering fabulous forces, being tested and facing formidable obstacles and brilliant ecstasy. Where are you on your hero's journey?

         Before I leave you, today, I thought you might enjoy seeing the trailer of  the movie being released on December 17th. If you think you might enjoy it, take a look (I loved this trailer!):

         A HUGE cast of stars are in the movie, including, but not limited to: Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug/Necromancer, Lee Pace as Thranduil, Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel, Luke Evans as Bard, Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Orlando Bloom as Legolas, Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins, Ian McKellen as Gandalf, Manu Bennett as Azog, Aidan Turner as Kili, Hugo Weaving as Elrond, Dean O'Gorman as Fili, Christopher Lee as Saruman, and many others. Directing the picture is Peter Jackson, with writing credits going to J.R.R. Tolkien (novel), Guillermo del Toro, Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens, and Fran Walsh (screenplay). [16]  

         The movie, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, is rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images. [14] MPAA also states that no sex or nudity is in the movie and not bad language; some scenes with smoking do occur. The book, however, is--obviously--less frightening to the reader. Since graphic images give a sense of immediacy that a book does not, I would permit most grade school students to read the book--if they are interested.

         I would definitely downgrade the PG-13 movie rating to, maybe PG. All parents should know what their children read since they know how sensitive their children are and how much the material would be influential to the child. To all others, especially you adults, I would highly recommend this wonderful, fun-filled novel of adventure. [17]


         Given my love for the book, stated above, it was very easy for me to rate this book. I give the book 5 stars out of 5. Good reading to all of you.

         Thank you all for joining me this week as we got to review The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Please join me next week as we look at another exciting new title.

    Until next time...
    This flower is a double white Rose of Sharon. [19]

    ...many happy pages of reading!

    All my love,


    [1] "The Hobbit or There and Back Again." Retrieved 12-10-14.
    [2]"The Hobbit Movie." Retrieved 12-09-14.
    [3] "What is the meaning of writing on ring...?" Retrieved 12-09-14.
    [4] "The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition." Retrieved 12-09-14.
    [5] "DoS: Major Editorial Changes?" Retrieved 12-09-14.
    [6] "Chapter 18: The Return Journey." Retrieved 12-09-14.
    [7] "The Tiny Seed." Retrieved 12-09-14.
    [8] "Hero's Journey." Retrieved 12-09-14.
    [9] "In the Hobbit." Retrieved 12-10-14.
    [10] "Movie Review: 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' (2012)." Retrieved 12-10-14.
    [11] "Beorn." Retrieved 12-10-14.
    [12] "The Arkenstone." Retrieved 12-10-14.
    [13] "5 Signs You're on the Hero's Journey." [by Allison Nappi] Retrieved 12-10-14.
    [14] "I Am Luke Skywalker." Retrieved 12-10-14.
    [15] "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies--Official Main Trailer [HD]." Retrieved 12-10-14.
    [16] "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." Retrieved 12-10-14.
    [17] "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." [MPAA Rating] Retrieved 12-10-14.
    [18] "Rating 5 Out of 5." Retrieved 12-10-14.
    [19] "Pictures From My Garden." Retrieved 12-10-14.
    [20] "The Hobbit or There and Back Again." Retrieved 12-10-14.
    [*] "Happy Birthday, J.R.R. Tolkien [3 January 1892-2 September 1973]." Retrieved 12-02-14.