10 Interesting Posts You May Have Missed in April 2021

Post Round-Up

Around the Blogosphere

  1. Amanda recommends diverse cozy mysteries.
  2. The Orangutan Librarian offers some tongue-in-cheek advice for running a book blog!
  3. Michael discusses The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and the Weight of the Shield.
  4. Marie shares 10 YA books that will make you cry.
  5. Julia asks: Does Crooked Kingdom Deserve the Hype?
  6. Aayushi shares a look into the first year of blogging.
  7. Mere Inkling shares Christianity, Science, and C.S. Lewis.
  8. Jane lists books to read if you love North and South.
  9. Sammie highlights books for early reluctant readers featuring animals.
  10. Aria discusses how reading affects mental health.

Highlights at Pages Unbound

Recommend a Diverse Classic: Their Eyes Were Watching God

Classic Remarks

WHAT IS CLASSIC REMARKS?

Classic Remarks is a meme hosted here at Pages Unbound that poses questions each Friday about classic literature and asks participants to engage in ongoing discussions surrounding not only themes in the novels but also questions about canon formation, the “timelessness” of literature, and modes of interpretation.

HOW CAN I PARTICIPATE?

Leave your link to your post on your own blog in the comments below. And feel free to comment with your thoughts even if you are not officially participating with a full post!

You can find more information and the list of weekly prompts here.

(Readers who like past prompts but missed them have also answered them on their blog later and linked back to us at Pages Unbound, so feel free to do that, too!)

THIS WEEK’S PROMPT:

Recommend a Diverse Classic

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Zora Neale Hurston was both an author and a folklorist, whose research influenced many of her writings. Her best known novel is perhaps Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), which centers on Janie Crawford and her three marriages. Janie’s tale recounts how she initially was married off to an older man for protection, only to find that he doesn’t love her. She then runs off with another man, who only wants to use her. Finally, she marries for love, but again finds her relationship with her husband to be unstable. Through her three marriages, Janie (and Hurston) explore the gender roles and the expectations society places on women.

Though published in the 1930s, Their Eyes Were Watching God still feels incredibly relevant. The issues it grapples with, from domestic violence to the role of men and women in marriage are issues that society continues to grapple with. In many ways, the novel feels a bit ahead of its time, with Janie seeking love and self-fulfillment, while being open to her own sexuality, in the face of a disapproving society. The book, however, presents no easy answers. While Janie’s third marriage appears to be her happiest, because her husband Tea Cake sees her as more of an equal than her previous two husbands, the novel also suggests that Janie is not fully realized as an independent woman until after Tea Cake’s death. In this way, Their Eyes Were Watching God illustrates an intriguing tension that many readers may find relatable. Janie wants to find her identity in a happy marriage, but, if she cannot be seen as an equal to men, she may ultimately not be able to do so. She wants both love and respect, but can women truly have it all?

Their Eyes Were Watching God is a powerful novel by a talented author–one whose work was not always appreciated in her own time. If you have not read it yet, maybe now is the time to give it a try.

Jo: A Graphic Novel by Kathleen Gros

Jo

Information

Goodreads: Jo: A Graphic Novel
Series: #1
Source: Library
Published: 2020

Official Summary

A modern-day graphic novel adaptation of Little Women that explores identity, friendships, and new experiences through the eyes of thirteen-year-old Jo March. A must-read for fans of Raina Telgemeier.

With the start of eighth grade, Jo March decides it’s time to get serious about her writing and joins the school newspaper. But even with her new friend Freddie cheering her on, becoming a hard-hitting journalist is a lot harder than Jo imagined.

That’s not all that’s tough. Jo and her sisters—Meg, Beth, and Amy—are getting used to a new normal at home, with their dad deployed overseas and their mom, a nurse, working overtime.

And while it helps to hang out with Laurie, the boy who just moved next door, things get complicated when he tells Jo he has feelings for her. Feelings that Jo doesn’t have for him…or for any boy. Feelings she’s never shared with anyone before. Feelings that Jo might have for Freddie.

What does it take to figure out who you are? Jo March is about to find out.

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Review

Jo is a perfectly serviceable adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. However, because it has arrived after a number of similar retellings, it simply does not feel new, fresh, or even that interesting. How many times can one update Jo to a writer to the school newspaper with a sister who likes art, a sister who likes boys and makeup, and a sister with cancer? It has been done several times now and the stakes are getting higher to provide an original take. Jo will appeal to readers who enjoy graphic novels about the middle school experience, but it seems unlikely to make a real mark.

Writing a review about Jo feels rather difficult because nothing is strikingly wrong with it. Yes, some of the scenarios are rather rushed (such as Laurie getting over Jo’s rejection in about two pages). And some of the book feels just a little too easy, as if the author did not want to upset any young readers (so Beth is already cancer-free in this version, and Jo, when coming out, receives a page of affirmations and then goes about life as usual). On the other hand, however, there’s also not much striking about the book in general.

The one notable aspect of the story may be that if emphasizes Jo’s sexual identity more than some of the other modernizations. Making Jo gay is not uncommon in modernizations, but Jo takes some more time to explore Jo’s feelings–her confusion, her worries about telling her family, her thoughts about telling people beyond the ones she lives with. Everything ultimately works out, however, with Jo receiving nothing but love and acceptance. Readers searching for a modernization with a gay Jo March that is also very affirming may want to take a look at Kathleen Gros’s story.

Jo is a feel-good graphic novel where everyone is kind to each other and a bit of hard work and perseverance seem enough to solve any problems. Readers who enjoy Little Women will no doubt be interested in this modernization, but it will also likely be enjoyed by fans of works such as Smile, Sunny with a Chance, and Real Friends.

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Other Little Women Adaptations

3 Stars

Hunted by Meagan Spooner

Hunted by Meagan Spooner

Information

Goodreads: Hunted
Series: None
Source: Purchased
Published: 2017

Official Summary

Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast? 

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Review

Hunted by Meagan Spooner is a quick and satisfying retelling of “Beauty and the Beast.” If you want a take on the classic fairy tale that mixes things up a little but is more comforting than completely novel, this is the book for you.

I’ve been sitting on writing this review for several days after I finished reading Hunted because, frankly, I can’t think of must to say about it. The story is different from the versions of “Beauty and the Beast” most readers are familiar with; for instance, the main character is a hunter more than an avid reader (though she does enjoy books), and her bonds with her sisters are emphasized over her relationship with her father. The story is set in Russia instead of France, and there are other fairy tales and bits of folklore woven in.

And yet…in spite of all these obvious differences…the book doesn’t actually come across as original.

But while the book didn’t wow me, I enjoyed it, and I appreciate it for what it is: a fun take on an old tale, perfect for readers who want a cozy fairy tale retelling and to watch Beauty come into her own and then find her true love. I enjoy YA books immensely and have for years, but there has been a definite shift towards books that are trying to make points rather than tell stories, books that are incredibly dark, and books that are rather convoluted (with varying degrees of success). All this is fine, depending on what you’re in the mood to read. Hunted reminded me less of recent YA books and more of the ones I read when I was actually a teen: it’s really just a fun spin on “Beauty and the Beast.”

If you like fairy tale retellings and “Beauty and the Beast,” check it out. If you want really original take on the story or a YA fantasy that’s epic and complex, this might not be for you.

Briana
3 Stars

Shuri: Wakanda Forever by Nnedi Okorafor, et al

Shuri: Wakanda Forever

Information

Goodreads: Wakanda Forever
Series: Shuri
Source: Library
Published: December 2020

Official Summary

The Black Panther’s techno-genius sister stars in her own incredible adventures! T’Challa has disappeared, and Wakanda expects Shuri to lead their great nation in his absence! But she’s happiest in a lab surrounded by her inventions. She’d rather be testing gauntlets than throwing them down! So it’s time for Shuri to rescue her brother yet again – with a little help from Storm, Rocket Raccoon and Groot! But what happens when her outer-space adventure puts Africa at risk from an energy-sapping alien threat? Then, Shuri heads to America to investigate a lead, with Ms. Marvel and Miles “Spider-Man” Morales along for the ride! But with her people in peril, will Shuri embrace her reluctant destiny and become the Black Panther once more? Prepare for a hero like you’ve never seen before! COLLECTING: SHURI (2018) 1-10

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Review

Shuri: Wakanda Forever focuses on Shuri as she attempts to find her place in the world. When her brother goes missing in space, everyone expects her to step in as the Black Panther once more. But…what if Shuri does not want to? She is comfortable working in her lab and she has been gaining mastery over her powers as the Ancient Future. Wakanda is grappling with new ideas about how to move forward as a nation, and Shuri wants to help. She just wants to do it on her own terms. Shuri: Wakanda Forever is a moving look at one young woman’s journey to balance her people’s expectations with her own.

In many ways, Shuri’s emotional journey stands at the heart of this volume, connecting what otherwise can seem like a disparate chain of stories, some of them more about fan service than service to the narrative. For instance, while seeing Shuri in space with Rocket and Groot is fun, it also seems random. And her team-up with Iron Man, while given a logical reason, also seems like it is more about the opportunity for well, yes, another superhero team-up. By the team she’s teaming up with Miles Morales and Ms. Marvel in the U.S., the plot has gone everywhere, with none of it really tying back to her ostensible quest to discover the whereabouts of her missing brother. The strongest parts are when Shuri is in Wakanda, talking to her people, conferring with the powerful women who are leading the country in T’Challa’s absence, and wondering what her role in the universe is.

Complicating matters is that Shuri has been losing some of her powers as the Ancient Future. Of course, Shuri’s mind and her amazing technology can help her solve just about any problem–she does not really need super powers. But it is concerning to see her losing connections with her ancestors, a sort of tangible representation that Shuri is feeling a little lost at the moment as she tries to navigate the competing interests of her country. Fortunately, Shuri is strong, smart, and capable–readers know that she will always manage to save the day.

Shuri: Wakanda Forever is both a thrilling superhero comic and an emotional look at Shuri’s journey of self-discovery. Fans of Shuri and of Marvel will not want to miss this latest installment in her story.

4 stars

10 Interesting Posts You May Have Missed in March 2021

Post Round-Up

Around the Blogosphere

  1. Siena recommends 10 nonfiction books that read like fiction.
  2. Doing Dewey reviews Beowulf: A New Translation.
  3. The NYT explains “How Crying on TikTok Sells Books” (and yes BookTokkers are being paid by publishers).
  4. Amy lists Greek myths that need more retellings.
  5. Caro shares 2021 releases by Black authors to be excited for.
  6. Taylor shares 4 easy ways to support small publishers.
  7. Liv shares 6 Asian-owned bookstores you can support.
  8. The Orangutan Librarian shares books about ambition.
  9. Michael posts about Martha Jones from Doctor Who to celebrate fiction’s fearless females.
  10. Sammi reviews All the Murmuring Bones by A. G. Slatter.

Highlights at Pages Unbound

  1. A Classic I Just “Didn’t Get:” Madame Bovary
  2. Classic Books That Should Get Graphic Novel Adaptations
  3. Ok, a Negative Review Might Actually Make Me Not Read Your Book (Discussion)
  4. The Best Sherlock Holmes Mystery for Beginners
  5. How to Approach Reading a Classic
  6. The Power of Revisiting the World of Tolkien (Guest Post by Edith-Marie)
  7. Tolkien Opinions and Habits Survey Results

The Lord of the Rings Books and Movies – a Comparison (Guest Post by Linda White)

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme selected by the Tolkien Society is Hope and Courage. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring a number of guest posts! Check out the full schedule of events by clicking here.


LotR Books vs Movies Discussion

Currently, I’m co-hosting a readalong of The Lord of the Rings on Instagram and was interested to find out how many people had seen the movies but not read the books. I am not sure if there is a large group the other way around because, let’s face it, movies are easier to watch.

Especially these movies. They are gorgeously filmed, the casting is wonderful, and the attention to detail is exquisite. I recently acquired a copy of the The Sketchbook of Alan Lee, wherein he talks about the different ways they had to come up with set pieces, and how feverishly they had to work on such a tight schedule to make everything. There were calligraphers creating documents, model builders, painters and all types of other crafts people involved. And it shows.

That makes it easy on the eyes. But how faithful were the movies to the beloved books? (And for purposes of this article, I am treating them as three distinct books, and I will only touch on some of the differences that strike me the most.) The Fellowship of the Ring seems to have suffered the most as far as having bits left out. Some will forever moan about the exclusion of Tom Bombadil. But consider the extra work that would have entailed – sets and costumes and really, just the casting of the character of Tom Bombadil would have to have been perfect. This would have added quite a bit of work for scenes which ultimately would not carry the narrative forward enough to justify it. We even lose the Barrow-downs in the movie (and it is completely glossed over later when Merry stabs the Witch King as to where his blade has come from).

“So passed the sword of the Barrow-downs, work of Westernesse. But glad would he have been to know its fate who wrought it slowly long ago in the North-kingdom when the Dunedain were young, and chief among their foes was the dread realm of Angmar and its sorcerer king. No other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will.” 

The Return of the King, p120

There are certain changes which I felt were good. I loved Arwen being the “better rider” and carrying Frodo to the border of Rivendell where her people’s magic could help him. I loved that she was a bit more than a weepy lovelorn lass or a quiet Queen. She went looking for Aragorn, and this first meeting of theirs in the movie sets the tone for their relationship. In the book, the character of Glorfindel does not stick with me, and it seems kind of odd that he would just happen to meet Frodo and the gang on the road. And movie budgets being what they are, we cannot really cast a whole slew of Elves simply for the purpose of getting Frodo and company from the border of the Shire to Bree.

Speaking of which, Crickhollow has been completely sidestepped. There does not seem to be any attempt at subterfuge for Frodo leaving in the movie. He just goes. In the book, he takes months, and even sells Bag End! But in the movie, he’s off in the dark of night without a word to anyone. Imagine how that trashed his reputation.

Throughout the movies, there are small things that are blended together or otherwise changed – lines end up in another scene, or actually come from someone else’s mouth. Every now and then as I am reading, I catch one of these, and I can just about hear it in the movie, from some other character. Most of The Two Towers, being basically a walk through the countryside or marshes, did not suffer much in translation. But The Return of the King has been largely truncated, I think in part to move the action along faster. We get a lot less of the Rohirrim roving about the place, and in fact, Aragorn goes into Dunharrow with Theoden’s full knowledge. I think some of these changes were good. The one thing that I wish I could have seen more in the movie was the Houses of Healing. There is so much that happens there that is important to the story, including Aragorn using athelas as the legend says the king will be able to do, and we get another catchy bit of legend that talks about “the king’s healing hands.” Also, this is where Eowyn and Faramir meet. I think there is one scene in the extended version of The Return of the King movie where we see them at a window (I haven’t watched that yet this month), but it is not nearly as tender or gratifying as it is in the book. Their meeting gives us hope for the future, almost sure knowledge that Rohan will be all right, blended with the line of Stewards.

There are many other things that do not appear at all or appear differently in the books. Prince Imrahil is deleted, and instead of him rescuing Faramir, we get the very dramatic scene of Faramir being dragged back to the city by his horse. There are various times when someone is written to be in one place, but appears at another place in the movie. Ultimately, this can be seen as a way to be more efficient and use fewer characters and sets.

Then, finally, the end of the movie does not depict that final chapter, The Scouring of the Shire. Therefore, some deaths had to happen earlier, and the ending was more focused on Aragorn’s coronation. Recently I have seen some people find fault with the last chapter in the book, as it really does take away that fairytale ending that so many books strive for. We get the ‘after’ of what our heroes have to endure. They don’t just ride off into the sunset. Except in the movie, where they get on ships.

Certainly, books contain more than most movies could ever show. This is a problem as old as the industry. And when you are dealing with a book as iconic and well-loved as The Lord of the Rings, it has to be a bit unnerving to make these kinds of choices. I have barely touched on the differences here. I am overall a huge fan of the movies, and I even like some of the choices made by Peter Jackson and company better than what was in the book. I applaud the work that was done, and the more I read about the behind-the-scenes work, the more impressed I am.

But please. If you have only ever watched the movies, do yourself a favor, and read the books.

Titles and resources suggested for those wanting a behind-the-scenes look at the movies include The Sketchbook of Alan Lee, the book The Art of Lord of the Rings by Gary Russell, various issues of Newsweek’s special Tolkien editions, the websites www.theonering.com/ and www.lotr.fandom.com and others, as well as numerous online and print articles. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, but the ones I know about. And the above is not a comprehensive list of changes, just the ones that struck me the most.

What is one thing you would have changed in any of the movies? Something you would have liked to have seen depicted or something that you didn’t like? Or what is your favorite change in the films? I would have liked to have seen the Barrow-downs, and I was very pleased with Arwen rescuing Frodo. I also loved the way the Dunharrow ghosts were depicted in the film.

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A lifelong reader and long-time book collector, Linda is also a writer and worked in publishing for many years. She can be found on Instagram @lindabookmania where she loves to talk Tolkien, Agatha Christie, and all things bookish. She runs the blog BookManiaLife and is now revising her first novel. When not reading or writing, she might be gardening, hiking or dabbling in book arts and scrapbook journaling.

Find me at www.bookmanialife.com and https://www.instagram.com/lindabookmania/ and on Twitter @LindaWonder

The Richness of Tolkien’s Female Characters: Lobelia Sackville-Baggins

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Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme is Nature and Industry. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring a number of guest posts!


J. R. R. Tolkien has received much criticism over the years both for the lack of female characters in The Lord of the Rings and for their characterization. Some readers, for instance, may feel that even though The Lord of the Rings does include a handful of interesting women from Goldberry to Galadriel to Eowyn to Lobelia, they do not get enough page time or, if they do, they do not quite meet modern feminist standards. However, Tolkien’s women are varied, rich, and intriguing, just like his male characters. The difficulty? Readers generally do not get the story from their perspectives, and so do not have more direct information about their internal lives and motivations. Lobelia’s story, for example, is told in retrospect from a secondary character; readers do not get to follow her in her footsteps, as they do with Sam as he approaches Mordor on his own. Without this direct focus, it is easier to dismiss Lobelia, her character, and her actions.

However, if readers take the time to look more deeply into The Lord of the Rings, as well as Tolkien’s other writings on Middle-earth, the richness of his female characters becomes more apparent. Even though they may be few in number, Tolkien’s women are often powerful movers of events, their intelligence, wisdom, and courage on par with or even exceeding that of their male counterparts. This series of posts will take a look at a few of Tolkien’s female characters and explore their character development, and what it can tell us about Tolkien’s vision for Middle-earth.

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Seemingly present mainly to add a bit of comedy to Tolkien’s stories, Lobelia Sackville-Baggins is a character easily dismissed. In The Hobbit, the Sackville-Bagginses are notable largely for their desire to live in Bag End and their (presumed) theft of Bilbo’s silver spoons. In The Lord of the Rings, Lobelia initially appears as a disagreeable woman who shows up prematurely to claim possession of Bag End from Frodo’s sale, then suspiciously makes Frodo go through all the contents of the house before he departs. By the end of The Lord of the Rings, however, Lobelia proves one of the few Hobbits bold enough to defy Sharkey’s men and their destruction of the Shire. Though her role is small, Lobelia exemplifies the hidden depths of individuals, their secret courage and sense of fairness, that sometimes arises when things become difficult. Lobelia reminds readers that strength can be found in the most unlikely people, and that everyone has the chance for a moment of redemption.

Initially, Lobelia functions as sort of a comedic foil to Bilbo and Frodo. Where Bilbo and Frodo are kind, gracious, and generous, Lobelia is haughty, suspicious, and greedy. At the end of The Hobbit, readers learn that the Sackville-Bagginses are so angry at Bilbo’s return, they refuse to acknowledge his identity and they are “not on friendly terms” with him ever again. They want his house so much they wish he were dead! Lobelia’s first appearance in The Lord of the Rings does her no credit, either, as she shows up early to claim Bag End, and suggests that she thinks the Gaffer is likely to steal from her in her absence–perhaps because she herself is evidently given to thievery. Indeed, Lobelia’s very name, Sackville-Baggins, indicates to readers that she is not a real Baggins, not anyone worthy enough to live in Bag End or to be associated with the heroic Bilbo and Frodo.

Lobelia’s unpleasant character makes it easy for readers sympathize with Bilbo and Frodo’s dislike of her. When readers learn that Bilbo would use the Ring to avoid her, and that Frodo and his friends rudely left behind all their dirty dishes for her to clean up when she finally moves into Bag End, most readers likely smile and believe that Lobelia deserves it. By the end of The Lord of the Rings, however, when Lotho begins calling himself the “Chief” and keeping the bounty of the Shire to himself, the behavior of the Sackville-Bagginses has clearly moved beyond comedic pettiness, and readers may be wondering how much Lobelia knows about or condones her son’s behavior. Certainly she nurtured the greed that leads him to become a minor tyrant. And, at first, maybe she even benefited from his greed.

Importantly, however, even Lobelia Sackville-Baggins’ greed has limits. When Sharkey and his men take over the Shire (supposedly in Lotho’s name), she challenges their wanton destruction, their desire to put up ugly and unnecessary sheds near Bag End. She cries, “You dirty thieving ruffians!” at the Men and advances on them with her umbrella, her own version of a sword. Her umbrella becomes a symbol of her heroic resistance, a spirit that few of the other Hobbits match as they docilely accept Lotho’s rule and then Sharkey’s. When she is at last released from prison, the Hobbits clap and cheer her, recognizing her bravery in their defense.

Lobelia’s experience with Sharkey’s men, her time in prison, and the news of Lotho’s murder all change Lobelia, who, instead of deciding to live out her last days in the much-coveted Bag End, returns to live with her family. She even leaves all her money and Lotho’s to be used to Hobbits “made homeless by the troubles” after her death, signifying that she, at last, is able to give up her material wealth and think of others.

Though a minor character, Lobelia’s characterization and transformation has echoes of Sam and Boromir’s character trajectories, showing both the hidden strength and courage within individuals, and their ability to repent and change. Sam is most often identified as the representation of the common man who rises up when necessity arises, the “small” person who, along with Frodo, manages “to shake the towers and counsels of the Great.” However, in her own way, Lobelia shows the same strength. Her actions might have a lesser effect–she ends up imprisoned rather than removing Sharkey’s men from the Shire–but that should not make her courage meaningless or unworthy of recognition. Rather, she is a continuation of Tolkien’s theme that “small hands” are often capable of great work, and that even the lowly possess amazing strength.

In the same way, Lobelia is also a continuation of the themes of repentance and transformation that Tolkien initially illustrates through the death of Boromir. Her fall may not be as great–she is simply a mean, disagreeable, selfish women her whole life–and her moment of change may not be as inspirational, either–she does not fall in battle or even save anyone. But she is not a prince or a mighty warrior, just an elderly Hobbit woman going about her life. Yet that does not mean she does not also possess depth of character or that the hope of a change of heart is denied her. Once again, Tolkien uses Lobelia to illustrate the belief that everyone is deserving of pity and empathy, because everyone has a seed of good in them. Everyone can ultimately repent.

Overlooking Lobelia’s transformation is easy because readers do not get to follow her journey, nor do they ever get her story from her perspective. What readers know about her is usually told secondhand, through the (biased) eyes of Bilbo, Frodo, and their friends, or through the stories of the other Hobbits. Readers do not see into her heart, as they see into Sam’s as he stands on the border of Mordor and wonders whether he has the strength to carry on alone, or the strength to reject the Ring and its power. What Lobelia may be thinking, feeling, and suffering is unknown–yet one can imagine that perhaps some of her bitterness and spite is of a cyclical nature. Perhaps she is mean because others are, in turn, mean to her. What readers can assume, however, is that Lobelia is a person, too–and thus more complicated and nuanced than may initially appear on the surface.

How Obsessed with The Lord of the Rings Are You? (Quiz)

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme is Nature and Industry. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring a number of guest posts!


Quiz: How obsessed with The Lord of the Rings Are You?

Instructions

Add up the points you earn from the actions below, then check the results to see how obsessed you are!

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Books

+1 point if you own copies of the books
+1 point if you have read the books more than twice
+1 point if you have listened to the audiobooks
+2 points if you own more than one edition of the LotR
+2 points if you have actually read the appendices (most of them, if not all)
+2 points if you can recite at least one poem from the book
+3 points if you own books about The Lord of the Rings
+3 points if you’ve read another book because of Tolkien (ex. Beowulf)
+5 points if you read LotR annually

Movies

+1 point if you have seen the movies
+1 point if you saw any of the movies in theatres
+2 points if you own the movies
+2 points if you own more than one version of the movies (ex. extended editions)
+2 points if you ever watched all three movies in a marathon
+2 points if you watched the extra material like cast interviews

Merchandise

+2 points if you own this year’s Tolkien calendar
+2 points if you own LotR stationery (bookmarks, notebooks, pens, etc.)
+2 points if you own LotR plushies, pillows, or tapestries
+2 points if you own a LotR Funko
+2 points if you own the soundtracks
+2 points if you a own LotR board game
+3 points if you own LotR jewelry
+5 points if you own any “large” merchandise (ex. replica swords)

+2 points if you own some other type of merchandise

Writing

+2 points if you have written a blog post about LotR that is not a book/movie review
+3 points if you have written LotR fanfiction
+3 points if you have written an academic paper about Tolkien

Other

+1 point if you’re touchy about the pronunciation of Tolkien’s name
+2 points if you follow any Tolkien-related social media accounts
+2 points if you’ve taken LotR-related personality or trivia quizzes
+2 points if you have a Tolkien-related autograph
+2 points if you’ve ever made a Tolkien-related craft
+2 points if you have attended a Tolkien-themed event
+2 points if you’ve named a pet after a LotR character
+2 points if you have any LotR-related screennames/emails
+3 points if you have thrown a Tolkien-themed party
+3 points if you’ve gone to a Tolkien exhibit at a museum
+3 points if you have a Tolkien tattoo
+3 points if you have cooked LotR-related food
+5 points if you have ever dressed up as a LotR character
+5 points if you’ve named a child after a LotR character
+5 points if you run a Tolkien-related social media account/podcast/web site
+7 points if you know Elvish
+7 points if you are literally a Tolkien scholar

+2 points if you have some LotR-related skill not mentioned here

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Results

0-10 points: You are not obsessed at all. You might have read the books or seen the movies, but that’s where where your interest ends.

11-20: You’re not obsessed, but you like LotR. You probably have some merchandise and really enjoy LotR as a story.

21-35: You’re starting to get obsessed. You have more than a passing interest in LotR and can probably share some fun facts about the books and movies.

36-50: You’re a big fan. Your friends know you love LotR and can count on you to get second breakfast with them any time.

51-65 points: You’re a super fan. You’re serious in your interest in Tolkien; you probably know a lot about his work and own a decent amount of merchandise. However, there’s still room for your obsession to grow.

66+ points: You are completed obsessed. You probably run a web site completely devoted to Tolkien and know Elvish. You are the go-to person for all things LotR.

Tell us: How obsessed with The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien are YOU?

Almost American Girl by Robin Ha

Almost American Girl

Information

Goodreads: Almost American Girl
Series: None
Source: Gift
Published: 20

Official Summary

A teen graphic novel memoir about a Korean-born, non-English-speaking girl who is abruptly transplanted from Seoul to Huntsville, Alabama, and struggles with extreme culture shock and isolation, until she discovers her passion for comic arts.

For as long as she can remember, it’s been Robin and her mom against the world. Growing up in the 1990s as the only child of a single mother in Seoul, Korea, wasn’t always easy, but it has bonded them fiercely together.

So when a vacation to visit friends in Huntsville, Alabama, unexpectedly becomes a permanent relocation—following her mother’s announcement that she’s getting married—Robin is devastated. Overnight, her life changes. She is dropped into a new school where she doesn’t understand the language and struggles to keep up. She is completely cut off from her friends at home and has no access to her beloved comics. At home, she doesn’t fit in with her new stepfamily. And worst of all, she is furious with the one person she is closest to—her mother.

Then one day Robin’s mother enrolls her in a local comic drawing class, which opens the window to a future Robin could never have imagined.

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Review

Almost American Girl is a moving and empathetic portrayal of growing up and finding one’s place in the world–something made even more difficult when the protagonist, Robin, finds herself unexpectedly uprooted from her home in South Korea and thrown into an American middle school. Unable to find much support from her new classmates and even her new family, Robin experiences plenty of tears, frustration, and anger, until the day her mother enrolls her in a comic class. This could be the start of something new for Robin. But how does one move forward when one’s heart remains somewhere else?

Finding friends in middle school could be its own sub-genre, considering the wealth of graphic novels dealing with this fraught topic. Almost American Girl brings a fresh perspective to a popular theme by depicting the experiences of a girl who leaves her home in South Korea and must learn how to navigate middle school while barely knowing the language, much less the customs, of her new home. Complicating matters is the fact that Robin is experiencing some (justified) anger at her mother, who never warned her of the impending move, but instead told her they were going on “vacation” in America. After her mom marries her new America “friend,” the two just never return home, leaving Robin furious that she cannot even tell her old friends what happened to her. And Robin’s new stepfamily? They are not interested in speaking with her in her own language, or helping her learn how to fit in. In fact, some of her new sisters seem downright delighted to watch her embarrass herself when she does not understand the teachers.

Watching Robin struggle to fit in can be hard, especially when it appears she is not receiving as much support as she should. One English teacher seems willing to listen, and to give Robin assignments that match her current mastery of English. Other teachers, however, get busy and forget that Robin may have trouble understanding them, and keeping up. Even Robin’s mom grows frustrated at her tears, as she thinks only of what a great opportunity she has given Robin, and fails to understand why a transition to a new life could be so difficult for an adolescent. Over time, however, Robin begins to make friends and to find her way. Seeing her transformation feels especially rewarding because readers have also seen what the transformation cost.

Almost American Girl is a powerful portrayal of both the difficulties and joys of moving to a new place, finding new friends, and starting over. Even readers who do not generally pick up graphic novels may want to give this beautiful memoir a chance.

4 stars