Saturday, 26 September 2015

A Tolkien Blog Party of Special Magnificence (2015)

My blogger friend Hamlette is hosting her annual Tolkien Party of Special Magnificence. After taking part in this event for the last three years I've even started to associate it with September! Do click on the above link to read everyone's answers to Hamlette's questions. You can also play some games and take part in a giveaway to win some Tolkien-y prizes. And now for my answers to the tag questions:

1.  What draws you to Tolkien's stories?  (The characters, the quests, the themes, the worlds, etc.)
Everything! Their epic scope and sheer wonder. Tolkien's beautiful writing. The worldbuilding. The characters. The action and adventure. The themes of love, bravery, hope, sacrifice and compassion. I even love all of the poetry and songs!

2.  What was the first Middle Earth book you read and/or movie you saw?  What did you think of it?
The first book I read was The Hobbit and the first film I saw was The Fellowship of the Ring. I loved them both :)

3.  Name three of your favourite characters and tell us why you like them.
I think Aragorn, Faramir and Eowyn are probably my top three Middle-earth characters. I've talked about their characters before in the previous years that I've done this blog event (if you want to click on the tag) so I won't add to anything that I've already written.

4.  Are there any secondary characters you think deserve more attention?
Eomer is a very underrated character! He's a deeply protective and loving brother and nephew and he's fiercely devoted to Rohan. I also love his argument with Gimli over Galadriel! Frodo tends to get a bad rap as well and it makes me really sad :( Frodo might not be my favourite Middle-earth character but I still have a huge amount of love and respect for him.

5.  What Middle Earth character do you relate to the most?
I honestly don't know because I can see aspects of myself in quite a few of the characters. There isn't really one single Middle-earth character that has me thinking "Oh wow, this character is just like me!"

6.  If you could ask Professor Tolkien one Middle Earth-related question, what would you like to ask him?
Tolkien and I both come from Birmingham - which makes me very proud! - so I would looove to ask him about what it was like to grow up in the city during his time and how his childhood shaped his writing. 

Hall Green, Birmingham

7.  Are there any pieces of Middle Earth merchandise you would particularly like to own, but don't?
A fridge magnet from the Hobbiton gift shop in New Zealand! Some day I'll go there, some day...

8.  What battle would you absolutely not want to be part of?
I'm not sure but I know I'd be absolutely useless in any kind of battle. Physically I've always been an exceptionally weak and puny individual! :D

9.  Would you rather eat a meal at Rivendell or Bag End?
Rivendell. I'm sure the Hobbits can cook up an excellent meal but I bet elvish food would be absolutely extraordinary and accompanied by amazing wine. 

10.  List up to ten of your favourite lines/quotes from the books or movies.

Friday, 11 September 2015

'His Last Bow' by Arthur Conan Doyle (1917)

Synopsis: His Last Bow is the eighth book in the Sherlock Holmes series and is a collection of seven short stories that were sporadically published between August 1908 and September 1917. The stories were then put together into a book in October 1917. The seven stories in this book are The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge, The Adventure of the Red Circle, The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans, The Adventure of the Dying Detective, The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax, The Adventure of the Devil's Foot and His Last Bow. The title story is the last of the Sherlock Holmes stories chronologically, is told in third-person rather than in John Watson's perspective, and takes place near the start of WWI. Sherlock Holmes has now retired from detective work and has taken up beekeeping at his new home in the Sussex Downs. However, Holmes is then asked to come out of retirement to aid the government in the war effort and invites his old friend John Watson to provide some assistance in a case...

At the end of November last year I set myself the challenge of finishing off all of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes books. His Last Bow is the penultimate book in the series and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it! I wouldn't say that this book is as good as the Adventures and Memoirs collections but there are still some brilliant stories in it and I definitely liked it quite a bit more than The Return of Sherlock Holmes (which I still really enjoyed) and The Valley of Fear. My top three favourite stories from this book were:

The Adventure of the Bruce Partington Plans - This story is a lot of fun! It reminded me quite a bit of The Naval Treaty and yet it didn't feel like a rip-off of that story like The Second Stain did. I love how this story starts as well: a dense fog has been swirling around London and Holmes has been spending some time studying up on the Medieval era (a nice detail that). Holmes has gotten bored with this though and is extremely annoyed that criminals aren't taking advantage of the fog to commit more crimes. :D The Bruce Partington Plans is also the second of the two stories in the canon that feature Mycroft Holmes and I love Mycroft! In The Bruce Partington Plans we learn more about Mycroft - that he sometimes is the British Government - and he gets some very amusing lines in it. I especially love his moaning about having to be away from the office with Siam in its present state, and the part where he basically admits that the only reason why he's not out there solving the case of the Bruce Partington Plans himself is because it involves field work. Interestingly enough, Mycroft also shows up at Baker Street accompanied by Lestrade in this one. Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss ought to take note. I don't think Lestrade and Mycroft have shared a scene together yet in their show, even though The Hounds of Baskerville established that they speak to each other and have some kind of a working relationship. Oh, and another interesting thing about this story? There's another character called Violet in it! Arthur Conan Doyle must have really liked the name!

The Adventure of the Devil's Foot - This story was my absolute favourite in this book. It's awesome! In this story a seriously overworked Holmes is told by both Watson and one of Watson's colleagues that he's in desperate need of a rest or he'll suffer a complete breakdown. So Holmes goes off to a cottage near Poldhu Bay in Cornwall for a holiday. Watson goes with him of course and the two of them have a fairly nice and relaxing time... that is, until the local vicar tells them that a woman has apparently been frightened to death and that her two brothers have been driven insane. The Devil's Foot has a similar premise to The Reigate Squire but its West Country setting and awesomely creepy, gothic atmosphere reminded me very much of The Hound of the Baskervilles. I love it whenever Arthur Conan Doyle goes gothic! There's also a highly suspenseful scene in this story where Holmes foolishly places both himself and Watson in great peril in order to test the effects of some drugs. Watson only manages to save the two of them with some great effort. This story also features that famous "I followed you. I saw no one. That is what you may expect to see when I follow you" exchange, and there's another great part where someone accuses Holmes of being the devil himself and Holmes actually takes it as a compliment! The Devil's Foot is a terrific story and I very much hope that it's adapted for the BBC's Sherlock!

His Last Bow - I know I've put this story down as being one of my favourites from this book but actually my feelings are a bit mixed. The third-person narration in this felt quite weird to me and there's barely any mystery or intrigue in the story at all. That being said the scenes between Holmes and Watson in this story are lovely, the "East Wind" speech is poetic and beautiful, and there are some very funny references to Moriarty, Sebastian Moran and Irene Adler. All in all, I think this story is a fitting end for Holmes :)

Rating: 4.5/5

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Bookish and Not So Bookish Thoughts

(c) Lianne @

Bookish and Not-So-Bookish Thoughts is a weekly blogging event hosted by Bookishly Boisterous. It allows book bloggers (and non-book bloggers) to write about pretty much anything, bookish or otherwise (i.e. share exciting plans for the weekend, rants on things they've encountered during the week, etc)

1. It feels like a long time since I've done one of these! Since my last Bookish... post the books that I've read and loved have been Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, L.M. Montgomery's The Blue Castle, Jane Austen's Mansfield Park (re-read) and Arthur Conan Doyle's His Last Bow.

2. I'm currently reading Homer's The Odyssey. It's the sequel to The Iliad (which I hated!) but so far I haven't found it to be as bad as that one. And once I'm done with The Odyssey I think I'll be re-reading Jane Austen's Emma. At around Christmas time last year I decided to re-read all of Jane Austen's six novels with the aim of making some kind of a ranking post, only it's taken me a long time to get round to some of them. Emma's the last of the books that I have left to re-read.

3. I'll be taking part in some upcoming blog events fairly soon. The first of these events is the Tolkien Party of Special Magnificence which is an annual event by my blogger friend Hamlette that runs from the 22nd to the 28th of September. The second event is also by Hamlette and is a group read-along of the play Hamlet that will be starting from the 1st of October. Hamlet is my favourite Shakespeare play so I'm very much looking forward to it :) Before the read-along starts I'll definitely be re-watching the David Tennant version of the play and I'll also be seeing the live screening of The Barbican/Benedict Cumberbatch Hamlet on the 9th of October (more on that in a moment!) If you're interested in joining either of Hamlette's blog events yourself you can click on this link for more information.

4. On the 30th of August I got to meet up with my friend Samara! As I mentioned in my last Bookish... post her friend had managed to win two tickets to see the Barbican's Hamlet and I got to meet Samara and her friend Cami on the day they came over to London! It was such a lovely day and I noticed that Samara's put a picture of the two of us on her Instagram page :D I'm on the left in the picture if you want to click on the link.

5. Last night my mum and I came back from our holiday to Italy! :) We stayed in Florence but we also went on day-trips to Pisa, Siena, San Gimignano and Venice. We had an amazing time. We loved all of the places that we went to but our favourite was San Gimignano - a gorgeous medieval town with some stunning views of the Tuscan countryside :) I took some photos there but they really don't do the place justice.

6. Here's a cool story... well, I thought it was really cool! My brother wasn't at all impressed! Anyway, when we were at Florence airport waiting to check in for our flight back to London my mum and I got talking to a lovely Australian woman. Our conversation then went something like this...

Mum: "So have you ever been to London before?"
Lovely Australian Woman: "No, this is my first time! My cousin's son lives in London though. Don't ask me where because I couldn't tell you! He's a film director. We're very proud of him. His last one opened at the Cannes film festival but it doesn't come out in the cinemas until October"
Me: "Is he... is he called Justin Kurzel?!"
LAW: "Yes! Have you heard of him?!"
Me: "YES!"

Then I told her about how much I'm looking forward to his Macbeth film with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard :)

7. I'm not back at work until Friday so today's been quite a nice leisurely day. I've caught up on the episodes of From Mansfield with Love that I missed while I was away. They've reached the Portsmouth arc of the story now and I'm loving Frankie's interactions with Will and Susan Price ("Susie"). I love this adaptation so much! I've done a little bit of online shopping today as well. I bought series one of Poldark and Kenneth Branagh's Cinderella - looking forward to re-watching them again! - and I also bought the film Testament of Youth which I've been wanting to watch for ages.

8. Tomorrow or on Thursday I'm planning to go to the cinema to see The Man from U.N.C.L.E and/or The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials. I also want to write a long-overdue letter to another blogger friend and I might do some baking in the week too.