A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

I am usually one of the last to any party, especially when it comes to interesting books and music. This is one such time. I learnt about the existence of this book by seeing the many fantastic trailers for the film adaptation that has recently been made. From these trailers I was totally hooked and had to find out more! Lo and behold there was a book! Totally made my day as whenever I see a film that looks great if there is a book behind it then it is usually awesome. I wasn’t wrong about this.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

“The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.
But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…
This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.
It wants the truth.” 
(Goodreads)

Now, without giving too much away,A Monster Calls by Patrick Nessthe basic story of this book is of a 13 year old boy who is dealing with
the ongoing serious illness of his mother. In this horrific time he conjures a monster, a being from the ancient world, who goes with him through this journey.

I found the story compelling and the writing undeniably brilliant, in the early pages it reminded me a lot of The Hobbit. The way that Patrick Ness deals with the everyday, the fantastic and the serious in factual, simple and yet humorous language is irresistible. Written for teenagers I think the balance of the language strikes a good mix of being simple and direct enough for the younger ages, whilst still being irresistible for young adults and older.

Being someone who has lost a close family member to cancer, having been through it step by step, a carer and a fighter alongside them, this book inevitably struck a serious and painful chord for me. The book did it in such a powerful way that it made me proud of the way it deals with the topic. It made me want to go out and give a copy to anyone I know who has been through such a situation. It is important because it deals with such serious themes, but doesn’t diminish the situation or patronise the reader. Yes it was painful, yes the last 40-60 pages of my copy are now tear and snot stained but at the end I heaved a great sigh and felt like a kind of poke-the-bruise, cathartic therapy.

You may now be thinking, this is not the book for me – too mushy – too emotional – too serious – too painful – I’m too raw for this. Quite simply put, you are wrong. This book is a must read. I am starting to realise I am saying this a lot recently, but I’ve just been spoilt with fantastic choices! I can honestly say I am so glad I picked this up and have no doubts that my copy will now be doing the rounds of my close family and friends – but I will make sure that I get it back and revisit it again, probably many times over!

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

British Book Challenge 2017

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After You – Jojo Moyes

I’ve long been pumping myself up to reading Me Before You’s sequel – After You by Jojo Moyes. After literally shedding pounds in tears whilst reading Me Before You it has taken me half a year to get to reading this, mainly because I feared the emotional scaring and not because I didn’t want to.

After You by Jojo Moyes

“Lou Clark has lots of questions.
Like how it is she’s ended up working in an airport bar, spending every shift watching other people jet off to new places.
Or why the flat she’s owned for a year still doesn’t feel like home.
Whether her close-knit family can forgive her for what she did eighteen months ago.
And will she ever get over the love of her life.
What Lou does know for certain is that something has to change.
Then, one night, it does.
But does the stranger on her doorstep hold the answers Lou is searching for – or just more questions?
Close the door and life continues: simple, ordered, safe.
Open it and she risks everything.
But Lou once made a promise to live. And if she’s going to keep it, she has to invite them in…” Goodreads()

I fell back into the world of Lou and co quite easily, like putting on a pair of comfy joggers – well except for all the heartbreak and pain. Falling in with Lou a year or so after Will died gives you enough time to get past the pure, raw pain of loss and on to the nasty, complicated way of figuring out daily life.

Moyes cleverly introduces new characters with the ease, presenting undeniable personality with the ease of an undeniably fantastic writer. Trying not to give too much away! But I was totally hooked by Sam and found myself zooming through pages to find more of him and never left wanting (sort of).

I read somewhere – sorry I’ve been struggling to find the link – that After You by Jojo Moyes showcases Moyes skill at portraying the day to day minutae of life and making it irresistable and this is completely true of After You. There are of course a few stand out events which you hope don’t happen to you, but its the every day stuff which has you hooked.

After You by Jojo Moyes

Overall, I enjoyed the book but I struggled a bit at first as I was constantly referring and comparing back to Me Before You which is inevitable in a sequel. To be honest with this in the back of my head i was a bit disappointed and longing for Will and their always fascinating exchanges, this is something that After You misses out on. BUT THATS THE POINT!!! Once i’d gotten this through my thick skull, that it should be harder because you are going through all the pain with Lou then i found it so much easier and really enjoyed the book.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone who has read the first book as a necessary follow up, I will also definitely be visiting Me Before You and After You by Jojo Moyes again in the future!

British Book Challenge 2017

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Mind Your Head by Juno Dawson

Mind Your Head by Juno Dawson was another book recommended by Chelley Toy from Tales of Yesterday Book Blog, it is by the Author of the Month book for January for the British Book Challenge 2017. I wasn’t too sure at first as I never quite manage to finish non-fiction books, however the subject of this one intrigued me – even more so after I’d read the Amazon sample.

Mind Your Head by Juno Dawson

We all have a mind, so we all need to take care of our mental health as much as we need to take care of our physical health. And the first step is being able to talk about our mental health. Juno Dawson leads the way with this frank, factual and funny book, with added information and support from clinical psychologist Dr Olivia Hewitt. Covering topics from anxiety and depression to addiction, self-harm and personality disorders, Juno and Olivia talk clearly and supportively about a range of issues facing young people’s mental health – whether fleeting or long-term – and how to manage them, with real-life stories from young people around the world. (Goodreads)

At the tender age of 27 and as someone who works within the Great British education system I found the premise for this book interesting, a way to talk about, outline what it is and potentially help those with mental health issues. This is definitely the topic du jour at the moment in the press, whether for good or bad. I was curious if this book could honestly and openly discuss these issues without being patronising, generalising, stereotyping, judging, or just down right preaching – and you know what? It did and I was very impressed.

As a young adult I struggled with my own serious mental health issues and fought my way through some very dark days and I often wonder if this experience colours how I see and react to the information that is now in the press about those who struggle with illnesses such as Depression and Anxiety. After reading Mind Your Head I can honestly say that each page resonates with me and I found myself nodding, agreeing and laughing along with Juno Dawson. Yes, laughing, you read that right. One of my favourite part of the books was the screenshot above, the one explaining that yes mental health issues are serious and tough to deal with, but they are a health issue and just like a broken wrist – sometimes a bit of humour is needed to help us deal with them and find ways to cope. Making something special or unique or only discussed in a quiet whisper in a private back room makes them harder to deal with, not easier.

So! The book! The reason I often struggle with non-fiction is the lack of pace and movement, I feel like i’m reading a text-book at school again and that was never fun. With Juno Dawson’s Mind Your Head I didn’t think that once, the writing is engaging and moves at a steady natural pace from topic to explanation to discussion to personal experiences and on again to the next. The voice is lighthearted and amusing, but also compassionate and serious where needed and they tackle some extremely difficult issues in a very impressive manner. The addition of explanations and opinions from Dr Olivia, personal experiences and stories of other people and glossary terms throughout give the feel of sitting in a chic London coffee shop all chatting and exchanging experience, help, advice and most importantly an understanding ear.

The resources used in the book, that is the links to websites and companies currently available to help people in the UK is invaluable. In other cases of texts like this it often simply refers you to the GP or school counsellor as a place to get help, Juno looks at more than just these two resources and honestly analyses what help they can give and what other resources are out there, indeed linking to them and sharing experiences.

The bit I want to stress most about this book, the bit that I think is the most important is that it is honest and kind, it addresses the very real issues that young people today are dealing with and could honestly help someone understand what it is they are feeling. Covering everything from recognising every day stress to eating disorders to self harm to drug and alcohol use. I can honestly say that this is a book I will be strongly recommending to my friends, those who may benefit from its help personally, those with children, my colleagues who work with children to young adults alike and yes, those who have no idea about any of “that stuff” and maybe just need their eyes opening a bit. A very useful book and definitely much needed in today’s society!

British Book Challenge 2017

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Gilded Cage by Vic James

I downloaded Gilded Cage by Vic James on the recommendation of Chelley Toy from Tales of Yesterday Book Blog, it is one of the Debut of the Month books for January for the British Book Challenge 2017. And I am so glad that I did! From start to finish I didn’t put the book down once, even for my scrumptious tea cooked by my long-suffering husband.

Gilded Cage by Vic James

Our world belongs to the Equals — aristocrats with magical gifts — and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of the noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty, but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy? (Goodreads)

When I read the Goodreads summary for Gilded Cage I wasn’t particularly excited, but within 5 minutes of reading this book I knew that I was hooked and would greedily devour the trilogy without a second thought. The story is based in a sort of alternative reality for the world today, same countries, regions, traditions but with one big difference – the presence and influence of Skill in the world. Skill is magic for want of a better word and the aristocrats of England have it they are the Equals, the commoners are those without skill and those who must give up a decade of their lives in slave labour (think national service). This difference has led to a gaping difference in how society has grown and developed.

It is in this new society that we meet our main characters, you are first introduced to this world through Luke, a commoner, who is about to be dragged from his comfy family life and into the slavetown of Millmoor. His family has made the decision to complete their slavedays now, all together, but of course something goes wrong. So whilst Luke’s parents, sisters Abi and Daisy head off to the grand estate of the Parva-Jardines Luke heads to what is essentially a work camp. There he meets a ragtag group of revolutionaries and his story unfolds. I liked Luke, he is a believable character and you do warm to him easily. You feel his pain as he takes the beatings from the guards, his worry and concern for his family, his determination to make a difference no matter how small.

As for the rest of the family, their plan for all of them to serve their slavedays at Kyneston estate didn’t quite turn out. Instead Abi, Daisy and their parents are delivered to this grand family as a broken unit, Abi feels she is to blame as she sought out this assignment for the whole family in the first place and now they are split and Luke is alone. Curious about the world of those with Skill, Abi, a clever but naive girl has spent too long reading romance novels which seems to steer her in the wrong direction. Despite being accepted to medical school and having more than enough brains, it is this schoolgirl fantasy of forbidden love which gets her into trouble. I found Abi harder to warm to than other characters, flitting from determined and level-headed to girlish and just downright silly.

However, the characters that most fascinated me were those with Skill; the Equals. You are supposed to be fascinated by them, they are different, secret, holed away in their estates with the power to delete the memories and knowledge of any commoner who finds out something they shouldn’t. The development of these characters was what I found the most addictive part of the book, you start with impressions and ideas and some of them are wholly flipped on their head and some characters you just keep learning more and more about them.

The book is told from multiple first person narratives, switching between protagonists at a brisk pace keeping you interested and eager to find out what happens next. There are plenty of twists and turns, some of which you see coming and some that you don’t and leave you sat with your gob open like a right sexy minx. Overall, there is a dark and gritty feeling that you aren’t quite expecting from the opening few pages and it draws you into their world in such a way that its impossible to escape, it becomes your reality whilst you read. This is undoubtedly why I picked up and finished this book in under 6 hours, I cant honestly say another book has gripped me like this for quite a while.

Whilst I’m not a hardcore fantasy reader, I do like to get stuck into the big stories and as a fan of Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner and more this is a trilogy I am really looking forward to getting my teeth stuck into!

British Book Challenge 2017

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Escape by Kate Cann

Kate Cann was one of my favourite Young Adult Fiction authors and I read quite a few of her books in my mid to late teenage years, so when I spotted Escape as one I had missed I was very excited to pick it up.

Escape by Kate Cann

Rowan thinks spending her gap year in the USA will be the best thing she’s ever done. Her family’s driving her mad, and she desperately needs to get away from the relentless what-are-you-going-to-do-with-the-rest-of-your-life? parental pressure.

America, land of the free here I come…

But after starting to work for psychotic Sha and her hot-housed kid in Seattle, Rowan feels more trapped than ever. Enough is enough. Taking Iggy the unloved iguana with her – he deserves some freedom, too – she hits the road. Suddenly, with only a rescued lizard for company and California in her sights, she’s sure escaping to America was the best thing to do after all… (Goodreads)

As usual Cann’s writing style is easily accessible and instantly engaging. Escape is pure escapism – sorry I had to say it – bringing you into Rowan’s world and whilst this isn’t as fun when stuck in the cramped Nanny room, once you get to the lake its pure heaven. Cann has you drooling over scents, landscapes, food and *ahem* men in this story the way only a good story-teller can. So whether you are snuggling under a duvet in December or sunning it on a sandy white beach in August, this is the perfect book to warm you up.

You warm to Rowan easily, which is handy as a main character, you feel her frustration, excitement, trepidation and go through her romance woes right along side her. Although at times you feel like screaming at her its part of the pull of the story, you have to see if she gets through it.

I loved the addition of Iggy the iguana, he gives another dimension, another pull to the story and although used mainly as a catalyst I love his cheeky character.

One thing that stood out to me about Cann’s books when I first started to read them was the sex scenes, at the age I started reading them this was a new addition as my previous young adult fiction had skirted round the edges of an age group not quite ready for this. Cann focusses on the 18-21 character age group, so sex is starting to be a key point of their life and she uses this in her writing to explore and understand the characters further. In Escape, these scenes are written well with no awkwardness and add to the story well – not to mention a very enjoyable bit of escapist sizzle…

Overall, this is a great easy read book that is well written and provides a great opportunity for escapism. As a fan of Kate Cann’s writing this book was as expected and I thoroughly enjoyed it, looking forward to many more from this author (including the ones I’ve already ordered and got stashed in the corner).

British Book Challenge 2017

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Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Mrs Dalloway is a book that I have started, put down and started and put down a thousand times. After graduating with a degree in English I am not quite sure how I managed not to read it until now but, now that I have ill have a go at reviewing it.

Mrs Dalloway Cover Image

So just to start with, here is a quick summary from my Wordsworth Classics copy –

Virginia Woolf’s singular technique in Mrs Dalloway heralds a break with the traditional novel form and reflects a genuine humanity and a concern with the experiences that both enrich and stultify existence. Society hostess, Clarissa Dalloway is giving a party.

Her thoughts and sensations on that one day, and the interior monologues of others whose lives are interwoven with hers gradually reveal the characters of the central protagonists. Clarissa’s life is touched by tragedy as the events in her day run parallel to those of Septimus Warren Smith, whose madness escalates as his life draws towards inevitable suicide.

I did find the book a little difficult to get into at first and so had to return to some advice my mum gave me as a kid when I started reading Lord of the Rings at aged nine. “If a passage confuses you, read it twice and then move on – if its important it’ll slot in, if it’s not it won’t matter.” It was the best advice I was ever given for tackling new texts. This was a tactic I had to employ a lot with Virginia Woolf’s novel, not because the text was necessarily difficult but because of how it was written. Mrs Dalloway is written from the point of view of each of the characters switching from one to the other in a stream of consciousness style. This can make it difficult to get into when reading it, however once you have settled in to the style you are transported and are well and truly in the minds of Woolf’s characters. A true form of escapism into someone else’s world.

The imagery throughout is beautiful, taking you into little corners of London and showing it in ways you had never thought of before. The writing really truly does draw you in to the world and time of Mrs Dalloway and her contemporaries. You see the world from their point of view, through their memories and personalities, from Septimus’ depressive and manic states to Hugh’s ambition and pompousness.

I have to say, although I found the book difficult at first as a reader who enjoys chapters and structure (even though I write more like Woolf) I became inevitably sucked into this world. I enjoyed learning more about the characters, their pasts and the way this influenced how they see their lives and the world around them. I’m going to leave the academic reviews and insights into the meanings and interpretations of Woolf’s texts and characters to those much cleverer than me. Overall it was a fascinating way to travel London in the summer of 1922 and I would recommend this book.

British Book Challenge 2017

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Personal Reading Challenge 2017

Personal Reading Challenge 2017

For 2017 I have set myself a personal challenge to read a book a week or 52 books before the end of the year!

British Book Challenge 2017

This is also linked in with me taking part in the British Book Challenge 2017. Which is being hosted by Chelley Toy at Tales of Yesterday Book Blog.

Tales of Yesterday

In this post i am going to link to each of the 52 books i have read and reviewed, another way to make sure i do it!!!

  1. Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
    • For The Fat Girl’s review click here
    • For Goodreads reviews click here
  2. Escape by Kate Cann
    • For The Fat Girl’s review click here
    • For Goodreads reviews click here
  3. Gilded Cage by Vic James
    • For The Fat Girl’s review click here
    • For Goodreads reviews click here
  4. Mind Your Head by Juno Dawson
    • For The Fat Girl’s review click here
    • For Goodreads reviews click here
  5. After You by Jojo Moyes
    • The Fat Girl’s review to come shortly
    • For Goodreads reviews click here
  6. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
    • The Fat Girl’s review to come shortly
    • For Goodreads reviews click here
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A Christmas Day At The Office by Matt Dunn

A Christmas Day At The Office by Matt DunnA Christmas Day At The Office by Matt Dunn was advertised on my Kindle Unlimited homepage over the last few weeks (I wonder why?) and as I’d enjoyed the prequel A Day At The Office so much I decided it was definitely worth a whirl. To prep for this I reread the first in the series and you can read my review of this here. Other than that there wasn’t much to do except pop my headphones in and huddle down with my new gryffindor cushion, fluffy dressing gown and a comfy chair.

The book is refreshingly familiar to those who have read Matt Dunn’s other works and jumps into the lives of Sophie, Julie, Mia-Rose, Mark, Nathan and Callum – albeit ten months later – without issue. Okay doing my best to avoid spoilers here’s my summary.

We fall back into a familiar rhythm with the secret crushes, trysts and love schemes of our main six characters. Julie and Mark have finally got themselves together, sort of, and life is starting to throw unexpected things at them to test their new relationship and still not quite confirmed feelings for each other. Sophie is single again and on the hunt for love, or at least a relationship and if the two aren’t necessarily exclusive then so be it. Nathan seems to have gotten past his doom and gloom anti love sentiments and although newly single, he isn’t shutting himself away and instead is open to all possibilities whether they be new or old. Callum, my favourite, is as ever as adorably hopeless and clumsy in trying to find a way to have that big conversation with Mia-Rose although he isn’t sure whether she will be happy about it. 

There’s plenty of appropriate cliff hanger moments or almost moments where major plots are about to unwind but in true romcom style they veer off at the last possible moment with comedic and frustrating consequences. For those who love those moments this book will delight you, but if you’re like me and are a much more “oh god just kiss her/dump him/propose/sell him your sister” kind of person there will be lots of indignant huffs and palm slaps to the forehead. All of this my husband finds very amusing about me, but come on why read an escapist book if you aren’t going to escape into their lives completely?

There were a few moments of the book that did frustrate me on another level, the mocking of the minor characters and jokes about weight and looks seemed a lot more cut throat this time around. A bit like the original versus revisit of the Gilmore Girls, it was the same old characters and same old jokes just harsher and it didn’t sit quite right. For example, ‘Eggs’ Benedict had been a joke in the first instalment but this time it seemed to go a bit too far and the jokes about poor Mary and her failed dieting attempts just seemed a bit too personal. But I suppose it could be argued that as the book is written from the characters perspective that it was true to people’s actually thought process? Perhaps the bit that annoyed me the most were the consistent references to Callum and Mia as a “big” couple who would have “big” babies and can’t be missed on the dance floor etc etc.

Overall A Christmas Day At The Office by Mark Dunn was a fun read, a great way to pass a cold December afternoon and one I would definitely pick up again – just like the prequel.

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A Day At The Office – Matt Dunn

A Day At The Office

I read A Day At The Office by Matt Dunn a while ago and after seeing its sequel A Christmas Day At The Office available online and I decided to read it again; I’m glad that I did. It’s not often these days I indulge in a feel good rom com, but this is a good choice if you fancy something that isn’t too sickly sweet and has a good range of characters. An easy way to explain this book is a literary version of the Love Actually format, several characters with their own story lines and all linked together in some twee fashion – in this case they all work together!

So we have Sophie, Julie, Mia-Rose, Callum, Nathan and Mark all just trying to survive Valentines Day and all the corny crap that comes with it. We find out about Julie and Mark’s secret hook up at the works Christmas do, Sophie’s crush on Nathan and her plans to woo him, Callum’s date with the mysterious Emma, oh and of course all of their messed up pasts and how these effect their ongoing love lives.

In some of these rom-com style books you can get a bit fed up of the characters and the twee-ness of the way in which they interact and yet in Mark Dunn’s book A Day At The Office the characters are likeable, realistic and amusing. It’s easy to read and to relate to, no out of the ordinary (ish) stunts and no completely unbelievable love story endings. The writing is clever and to the point, not too flowery and yet it still manages to get some beautiful imagery and descriptions across. My favourite parts being following Julie on her runs across familiar parts of London and Callum’s antics in prepping for his mystery date.

The story has enough suspense in it to keep you interested and curious about the characters fate, even enough for this rom-com cynic is still wanting to read the sequel and see what happened afterwards. Overall I would definitely recommend this as a nice Sunday afternoon, bath time or holiday read or even maybe something more if you fancy an alternative to the crap on TV (which is likely if you are anything like me). Go get it, crack it open and enjoy – I’m off to start A Christmas Day At The Office.

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J.R.R. Tolkein – A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter

I feel like I need to put a disclaimer on this post. So here goes –

I am a Tolkein nerd, I can measure my life by my first and each successive time of reading Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. I will forever be more than a little bit gutted that I wasn’t born early enough to meet the man who wrote these great works. So you could say that I’m a bit biased. 

Now with that over, I will try and objectively review this book.


It’s not very often I will read a biography and since leaving university there are very few times that I successfully finish a non-fiction text. I usually pick them up fascinated and eager to read but about half way through I lose interest and venture back to pure escapism. But, with Humphrey Carpenter’s attempt at a biography I didn’t feel this; instead I was hooked from the outset.

Until recently I wasn’t aware that this book even existed and at that moment I thanked god for Amazon Prime. Once it had plopped down on my doormat I quickly sped through the first 150 pages and ended up completely addicted. The book is well written and easy to read, which I imagine was no easy feet to achieve when you consider the subject. I felt (although possibly skewed) that Carpenter dealt with Tolkein’s character in a very respectful but still honest manner. He shows the good, the great, the odd and eccentric as well as the bad and possibly ugly of this great author.

The book moves on in a speedy fashion and relatively chronologically, bringing you from the Victorian era through to the end of the swinging 60s in what feels like the blink of an eye. You spend youth and innocence with John and Hilary in the rustic pastoral midlands, survive the loss of their mother. From there on to the boarding house where we enjoy flirtation and young love upon meeting Edith. Inevitably and heart breakingly we survive the First World War with all the loss and heartache it brings. After the war we ping pong up and down the country following Tolkein in his academic career. Finally settling in Oxford, we see Tolkein through his life as an academic and then on to retirement in Bournemouth. After the loss of Edith, Carpenter takes us through Tolkein’s final years and his death.

Obviously the biography is much more detailed and give us much more insight into the life and loves of Tolkein, into his mindset and experiences. But I don’t want to give too much away! With a good range of access to letters, diaries, written first hand accounts and memories of those who knew him and his family best; I found that I got to know a man as complicated as Tolkein as much as is possible in this style.

If you are just looking for a book that will tell you about the inspiration and writing of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, then this is not the book for you. As Humphrey Carpenter explains, there is no definitive experience or inspiration which created these mythologies – only a man with an immense imagination and an immeasurable talent for languages who spent his life working and reworking these texts. But it will undoubtedly leave you with a better understanding of how and why these texts came about, as well as a peep into the mind of Beren.

As an avid Tolkein fan I can wholeheartedly recommend this book to any of my fellow geeks, and to those with just a passing interest (if they really exist) this will always be an account into the life of an interesting man. He may have seemed to have lived the ordinary life of an English academic, but anyone who has read a word he has written will know that that cannot be the whole story.

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