Friday, February 26, 2016

The Silmarillion

The Silmarillion. J.R.R. Tolkien. Published posthumously by Tolkien's son, Christopher, in 1977. George Allen & Unwin Publishers Ltd. Pages: 365. [Source: Borrowed from the Library].

"There was Eru, who in Arda is called Ilúvatar; and he made first the Ainur, the Holy Ones, that were the offspring of his thought, and they were with him before aught else was made. And he spoke to them, propounding to them themes of music; and they sang before him, and he was glad."

"Then those of the Ainur who desired it arose and entered into the World at the beginning of Time; and it was their task to achieve it, and by their labours to fulfill the vision which they had seen. Long they laboured in the regions of Eä, which are vast beyond the thought of Elves and Men, until in the time appointed was made Arda, the Kingdom of Earth. Then they put on the raiment of Earth and descended into it, and dwelt therein."


When I borrowed The Silmarillion from the library, I knew that I would probably struggle through it since Tolkien wrote it like a history textbook more than a story.

And rightfully so - The Silmarillion is basically the history textbook for Middle-Earth, so it doesn't flow like normal fiction at all. There are three more tomes out there that delve even more into the world that's Middle-Earth - but this is a book review for The Silmarillion, so I'm not going to talk about them.

Now, there's a lot about this book that I liked. The only parts I found that I didn't like was the fact that there was bad guys and evil and that it seemed like, whenever something beautiful was made it was destroyed by the evil. But there's always evil where there's good, unfortunately.

Eru Ilúvatar (air-u ill-oo-va-tar) is basically Middle-Earth's/Arda's Aslan/Emperor across the sea (if you compared Arda to Narnia). He's the one who was behind the creation of Middle Earth, though he didn't create it directly. Instead, he bid a group of angelic beings, the Ainur, to sing it into existence. I compare the Ainur to angels because Melkor, an Ainur, eventually turned against Eru, thus becoming Arda's Satan. I compared the events of the story while I was reading it to those of the Bible because Tolkien took a lot of inspiration from and made sure that there was a Christian message woven into his stories.

Reading The Silmarillion was very informative, and I found that it helped me to piece together a lot of events that occurred in The Lord of the Rings. In my opinion, it's a book I would like to own so I could go back and read over the stories when I want to - and I would get a newer edition where the letters were bigger so I didn't end up reading the same sentence more than once. And I'm definitely not reading it all in one go, ever again, lol.

I would give this book a rating of 4/5, since I felt like I was in Middle-Earth, watching from the sidelines, but it's not something I would want to read again for a very long time.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Book Review: Cold Shot

Cold Shot. Dani Pettrey. Chesapeake Valor Book 1. 2016. Bethany House Publishers. Pages: 336. [Source: Netgalley/ebook from Bethany House Publishers' review program]

In college, Griffin McCray and his four best friends had their lives planned out. Griffin and Luke Gallagher would join the Baltimore PD. Declan Gray would head to the FBI and Parker Mitchell would go on to graduate school as a crime scene analyst. But then Luke vanished before graduation and their world - and friendship - crumbled.

Now Griffin is a park ranger at Gettysburg, having left life as a SWAT-team sniper when a case went bad. The job is mostly quiet - until the day he captures two relic hunters uncovering skeletal remains near Little Round Top. Griffin just wants the case to go away, but charming forensic anthropologist Finley Scott determines that the body is modern - a young social justice lawyer missing since spring - and all evidence points to the work of an expert sniper. When FBI agent Declan Gray takes over the case, past and present collide. Griffin soon realizes he'll need to confront some of the darkest days of his life if he - and those he cares about - are going to escape a downward spiral of murder that crosses continents. - Synopsis


Cold Shot is the first novel I've reviewed for a publisher in many years. Did I love it? Unfortunately, no. It was an interesting story, but I found many faults that impeded on my ability to enjoy it.
The characterization was pretty good, and I was able to picture the characters as living beings. The relationships were real between Griffin, Declan, and Parker, but I found the relationship between Griffin and Finley to be a little bit strange.

Once they realized that someone was after them, the moments of suspense were impeccable - my chest tightened whenever Griffin and Finley stepped out into the open with the prospect that a sniper might be watching them through a scope from a thousand or more yards/meters off. That's one of my greatest fears - the fact that someone could be watching you, but you don't know where they are or if you're even being watched at all.  It doesn't allow you to relax.

But I'm afraid I'm going to have to be a bit of a grouch now.

There were several aspects of the story where I felt a little bit irked at how it was put together. For one, Finley seemed a little too perfect for me. At one point Griffin and her go out to a shooting range and every man turns to look at her and gawk over her beauty as if she was God's gift to men. Then, when she shoots at a target, she hits the bullseye with her first shot, even though she's never picked up a gun or shot one before. And Griffin seems to stop and think: "Wow, she's hot" (in general terms) as soon as he lays eyes on her. I honestly have to say that it almost feels like the author forgot that "love at first sight" is more like "infatuation at first sight" - which is really how Griffin felt about her and how it was described. In my opinion, it wasn't all that realistic with how Griffin seemed to like every aspect about her almost right away.

In my opinion, she teeters too close to point of being able to achieve the label of "Mary-Sue". I'm sad to say that I didn't seem to read about enough of her faults to help balance out all of her attributes.

I found Griffin's desire to resist temptation revolving around Finley's beauty to be rather admirable, and the Christian message contained between the lines was powerful. It screamed to me: this is a story about trusting in God to protect you and guide your paths. God protected Griffin, Finley, Declan, and Parker in this novel.

There were some plotholes in the story, but I'll leave it to you to find them for yourselves, lol ;)

One more thing bothered me - in a scene where Finley is running an autopsy of sorts on the body found on Little Round Top, I found the examination to be a little plain and rushed. But that could be just me and the fact that I took Forensic Science in high school. 

As a note, I would like those who read this review to know that you, yes, can find the gender of the skeleton through the shape of the skull and the pelvic bone, but you cannot simply find out the race of the individual through the shape of the face of the skull (though it is possible). According to my FS textbook, there are three types of skull characteristics: Negroid, Mongoloid, and Caucasoid. 

The victim in Cold Shot was most likely Caucasoid, as it was described in the book, but there is a chance for Mongoloid to be mixed in since Native Americans are descended from those who came over from Mongolia and the Asian continent. All I am saying is that the author should have been a little more specific since Finley is a forensic anthropologist. It could have been a little more specific without being gory or gritty.

All in all, Cold Shot was okay (in my opinion), but wasn't what I was looking for when I wanted to read a mystery/suspense novel.

The Situation With Mt. Kilauea in Hawaii

It has been several days since Mt. Kilauea started erupting ferociously. I don't think I've ever seen it erupt as bad as it is now...