[Book Review] The Girl On The Train

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This has been compared again and again to Gone Girl, a book which, in my opinion, is cheesy as hell, but about as thrilling as it gets.

It is, however, no Gone Girl. The Girl On The Train (Paula Hawkins, 2015, 325 pages, Riverhead Books) starts with the same premise: nothing is what it seems, people are deceiving, a crime that gets weirder and weirder. Unlike Gone Girl, though, there isn’t a single charismatic bone in any of the character’s bodies: everyone is about as unlikable as it gets, including the main narrator, Rachel. People don’t even act like normal people, doing things just for the sake of the plot, making it difficult for the reader to truly immerse themselves into the story.

It also alternates chapters between characters, which is a great way to keep a thriller’s pacing frenetic, as we’ve been shown again and again by Dan Brown, for example. A technique that is basically incapable of not working in a crime book fails to work here, for the very simple reason that the author doesn’t understand that, in order for a reader to actually crave that narrator’s next chapter, you pretty much need a cliffhanger by the end of every single one. Just read any Brian K. Vaughan comic book and you’ll see how effective that can be.

And the ending, oh, the ending. You can see it coming from about a third into the book, which means everything that comes afterwards should be a balls to the walls collection of crazy events, something that Gone Girl does very effectively. Yet the same patterns are repeated, characters keep doing stupid things just so they can come back to bite them in the ass and deliver a dozen more pages, everyone involved is completely oblivious to basically everything you’ll have picked up a hundred pages before.

As if the predictability weren’t frustrating enough, by the time the book reaches its climax it goes on and on and on, repeating things again and again, in such an annoying way that it is an actual relief to get to the end of it. If the reader already knows who did it, you might as well give them something really crazy, thrilling and unexpected to hang on to later. The comparison keeps showing up, but isn’t that what Gone Girl does most effectively?

Of course, it still is good enough to keep you going until the end. But let’s face it: if you have limited hours of reading in your life, you should probably be spending them on something that is better than a “good enough” book.

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It’s time for a change

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I’ve changed.

Hell, I’m changing.

These past months have been an endless emotional roller-coaster, leading me to work a lot on learning about myself and finding peace with my demons.

In the process, I have neglected this blog a bit, partially because of having my mind elsewhere, partially because this whole way of reviewing simply wasn’t working for me anymore. I bought a Kindle and gave up trying: I downloaded tons – TONS – of books and now read a lot more than I used to. Since I was downloading them all already, I started buying books compulsively again. Reviews weren’t written because there were just so many to write.

And the thing is: who cares? Isn’t being a book addict the least of my problems? The least of anyone’s problems? It turns out I can finally say that I’m ok with buying too many books. Being a bookaholic is part of who I am. It’s not a situation that needs an intervention; I won’t go bankrupt or anything and I’ve been reading more than ever.

So here’s what we’re gonna do: I’ve changed, so this blog will change. I say to hell with rules. I will buy what I want whenever I want to, read whatever pleases me and review everything in a more concise way, keeping things shorter and easier. With that purpose, I’ll sometimes group book reviews together, as I have tried once or twice already. Easier, simpler, more readable.

And I’ll feel no more guilt. I am no longer a girl in her desperate attempt to buy less and read more. I am a girl in her desperate attempt to read everything she can.

No more rules. May the fun begin.

[Book Review] Wedding Night

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Few things are more frustrating than disliking a new book from a favorite author. After months (or years) of anticipation, you hope they will not disappoint you and deliver something that at least equals their previous works. So you order the new book, you wait for it to be delivered, you look longingly at the cover before you get started and set your expectations up high from page one already.

Liking Sophie Kinsella so much was one of the reasons I was extremely disappointed with Wedding Night (The Dial Press, 446 pages). The book alternates chapters between two sisters, Lottie and Fliss, as the second tries to stop the first from an impulsive marriage after Lottie breaks up with her previous boyfriend.

It is extremely difficult for a chick-lit fan to criticize Sophie Kinsella, who is one of the best authors of the genre. Her plots are usually well built, her writing is very good, her talent to write comedy will make you laugh out loud in public and embarrass yourself. In Wedding Night, however, the same joke is explored to exhaustion throughout at least three quarters of the book, leaving the reader impatient for it to be over or at least for something new to happen. This would have been much better if it were 100 or 150 pages shorter.

Long chick-lit books are perfectly enjoyable, though, as long as the main characters are charismatic and relatable: it’s hard to root for a couple if you dislike them both. That was my problem with 50 Ways to Find a Lover and now, with Wedding Night. From chapter one I wanted to shake Lottie by her shoulders and tell her to control herself: she is whiny, self-centered and inconsequent, irresponsible and thoughtless, demanding and, what’s worse, unbelievable. It’s not that I expected her to be perfect – it would have made her completely unreal –, but is it too much to ask for a character both likeable and credible? Both the boys surrounding her are also damp and colorless to the point I can’t even remember their names.

The one good part of the book are the chapters written from Fliss’s point of view, especially because of Lorcan, a friend of the groom who helps her stop the couple. Lorcan and Fliss are the only characters to whom Kinsella gave an actual voice, even if it’s difficult to accept the degree to which Fliss interferes in her sister’s life, leaving the reader also only half-heartedly rooting for her. Lorcan is, in the end, the only reasonable person in the entire book, and he barely appears in it.

(Lorcan is also sexy as hell. Feel free to imagine him as Benedict Cumberbatch. I did. Only thing that saved the book.)

As if it weren’t enough, include a predictable plot twist and a cheesy ending to this mess and you’ll have a good idea what reading this felt like. Even if Kinsella’s writing makes the book flow despite of its flaws, it’s a shame that we’ll have to wait longer to have another great story from someone so talented in warming hearts and causing laughter. If you want to read Kinsella, don’t get started with this one.

[Book Review] The Ocean At The End Of The Lane

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Reality can be scary as hell.

You can have zombies, vampires and werewolves living inside a magical forest or a medieval make-believe town. You can have ghosts possessing children and sending them down the stairs in an exorcism film. You can have crazy giant cyborgs destroying a city.

But nothing – nothing – is as scary as the fear reality can provoke. The reason children are so scared of monsters is the fact that they can imagine them inside their bedrooms, where they should be comfortable and safe, where the rules of the adult world should also apply.

Which is why The Ocean At The End Of The Lane (Neil Gaiman, paperback by Harper, 192 pages), like most other Gaiman’s works, gave me goose bumps all over. The book is written as to sound almost like an autobiography, leading us through the visit of an adult man to his hometown for a funeral and the half-forgotten story he remembers as he sees the pond at the back of a farm at the end of a road, a farm where he met Lettie Hempstock and lived a story too scary to be true.

The result is beautifully scary. The introduction of fantastical elements into a realistic story, when properly done, has the effect of making everything possible and nothing seemingly real. Gaiman has the very unique ability to turn every chapter into a child’s dream, every line into a faint smell long forgotten. This is quite possibly my favorite of his – fast, thrilling, colorful, yet dark, this book is childhood in words.

Speaking of words, the man is their ultimate master, perhaps a magical creature just like the ones he loves to write about: every line is gorgeous, every character shines, everything seems impossible to improve. It always takes me a while to finish his books because of the beauty of his writing; I feel compelled to reread every other bit again and again, like someone throwing wine from one side of the mouth to the other, until I have tasted his words in every way I can. I believe exquisite is the best word I can use. His writing is simply exquisite.

Good books, much like good music, can touch your heart’s strings without asking it for permission or letting it know in advance. And I imagine the feeling provoked by this book is so difficult to describe because of how indescribable the bliss of childhood itself is for every person and, therefore, for every reader. I could write thousands and thousands of words and would still not be able to explain why or how this book is so good, the same way you could write the best of autobiographies and would never reproduce your childhood’s magic

(Unless, of course, you happen to be Neil Gaiman. In which case, hi, Neil. You’re awesome.)

All I can say is please read this. It’s short, fast, beautiful and I bet you’ll be touched. This was quite possibly my favorite book of 2013 – and I dare say it’ll continue on my list of favorite books ever for a long time, especially as I read it again and again in a desperate attempt to keep living inside of it for a little bit.

“Adults follow paths. Children explore”. And Mr. Gaiman writes dreams.

[Book Review] Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

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Action movies have led many of us to believe that espionage is the combination of explosions, soft killings, six-packed agents and the thrill of the chase.

Reality is, however, a bit less exciting. Hell, a lot less exciting. Reality is, most of the time, about making sense of what seems like tons of meaningless information in order to find patterns – and while that doesn’t sound exactly like a blockbuster movie on the make, it sure can translate well into a novel when the job is well done.

That is precisely what Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (John le Carré, read on paperback, Sceptre, 448 pages) is all about. The plot follows George Smiley, an MI6 (or “Circus”, as it’s referred to throughout the book) agent, in his attempt to find a mole that, during the Cold War, is on the high ranks of the British Intelligence while feeding the KGB with inside information.

I find it necessary to make something very clear to anyone interested in reading TTSS: the book is boring. Yes, boring. Not only because it moves slowly, but because it is subtle in every discovery, making the readers wonder if they have correctly understood what has just happened. Every revelation is a small victory and you have to pick the pieces throughout the book in order to make sense of what has happened in the past, so don’t expect crazy-running-around-solving-clue-after-clue Dan Brown action. You won’t have any of it.

It is, however, absurdly satisfying. The fact that it is slow means the reader has a chance to read with Smiley and watch him as he finds every tiny secret that leads to the climax. I am still quite intrigued by how it can be such a good read when it’s so – again this word, but there really is no other – boring. The final result is delicious, just as solving a puzzle or winning a game is, because the process is so realistic it makes you crave for the discovery just as much as Smiley does.

Smiley is a portrait of the modus operandi used to find the mole and tell the story: slow, simple, kept-together, unpretentious, but highly intelligent. Smiley is a boring, gray, sad character, which only makes his surname more brilliant. You will root for Smiley as you would root for a stray dog as you watch him do tricks you wouldn’t expect him to know. No one is better to spy on spies than a man who doesn’t look like one at all.

This is, in the end, a great, great book. The story, once one finishes reading it, is perceivably well plotted – it gives neither the annoying feeling that the author kept all the secrets to himself, which ruins plot twists, nor the chance to figure it all out with a fifth of the book read. Beautifully written, the reader immerses himself into Smiley. And what else could be more explosive than to feel, for once, like you are actually a spy?

[Book Review] 50 Ways To Find A Lover

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I like chick-lit as a genre. I really, really do; ever since I read The Princess Diaries back when I was 13, I have gone from Meg Cabot to Sophie Kinsella and back so many times I have a hard time keeping track of which ones I have and which ones I haven’t read. That does not mean, however, that every chick-lit is fantastic. Hell, it doesn’t even mean it’s entertaining. And sometimes, even though everything about a book makes you hope for classic, simple, sweet romance with a failed main character finding her “Prince charming”, the result is such a disaster you can’t help feel a tiny bit frustrated about love stories for a while.

That is precisely what I felt as I read 50 Ways To Find A Lover (Lucy-Anne Holmes, paperback by Pan Books, 328 pages): frustration. It all begins the moment you have to get over the title and explain again and again to anyone who sees you carrying the book around that no, this is not self-help literature. I understand they must have decided on it as a funny little joke, as if it somehow made the novel more sophisticated because of its mock title, but it is more embarrassing than it is cute.

Then comes the plot: a complete and absolute mess. I can’t remember reading a novel with such poor organization or fluency since Jane Green’s Mr. Maybe, also classifiable as chick-lit. The main character, Sarah, has been single for more than three years (imagine that! Being single! The horror!), is almost turning 30 and becomes desperate after she asks a balding bartender out, but he decides he’s better off watching the new Narnia movie at home. She then joins a reality show after her family and friends enter her name, which sounds like an interesting idea for a chick-lit novel, but is dropped right at the beginning of the book and is completely and absolutely useless. Then she decides to start a blog, trying out fifty different ways to find a lover (whoa, look at how clever that title is) and reporting her success.

From this simple summary one can already gather how absolutely chaotic this plot is. Not only is the part about the reality show useless, it is also obvious from the simple fact that the book is 328 pages long that the aforementioned fifty methods will not be fully executed. The book, released in 2009, has a character in her twenties who had never heard of a blog. Entire chapters could have been cut off without changing the story in the slightest; characters could have been written off and made it a much more pleasant experience. I really hadn’t read anything this bad in quite a while.

Two things annoyed me the most, though, and they were precisely the two key elements to a decent chick-lit novel: the main character and “Prince charming”. While no one can endure reading about a perfect main character to whom one can’t relate, it is equally irritating – or at least so it is for me – to read about someone who simply cannot make a single decent choice, who can’t take a single rational decision and who behaves so recklessly. As to the “prince”, I can only say this man was such an obvious choice and a boring character I had actually convinced myself that Sarah was going to end up with the only interesting, charismatic, polite man she meets in the whole book. By the end of it, I hated Sarah so much I was seriously happy to see her ditch him and end up with the boring boy. It’s the first time I’ve seen chick-lit in which I root against the main character, which is, of course, absurd.

I also need a couple of lines to point out something highly annoying about the idea of this book per se: why does Sarah even need a boyfriend in the first place? I imagined she would throughout the book find independence and notice she was born and would die as a perfectly functional woman who does not depend on the existence of a man, but no. Quite on the contrary: she is miserable until she finds her match. Also, what is the problem with being rejected by a balding man? Does the lack of hair on the top of his head mean he has to accept any girl who is interested in him? How can balding possibly be used as a symbol to decadence? If I were him, I would reject Sarah and spend my night watching Ben Barnes as Prince Caspian as well.

Don’t be fooled by the pretty little cover and the promise of romance: this is such a poorly developed story it hurts. If you don’t mind a poor plot, an annoying main character, a boring “prince”, bad writing and wasting hours of your life on something that basically goes nowhere, maybe, just maybe, you might actually care for it. I’m pretty sure, however, you probably won’t.

[Book Review] Will Grayson, Will Grayson

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In today’s world of information, exposure and judgement, going unnoticed might seem to be the high school equivalent to heaven. One’s clothes, one’s body, one’s very thoughts are judged by the harsh society that inhabits the very grounds in which the development of personal qualities should be done. No institution seems to repress diversity with more efficiency than schools: we go in as potential artists and come out as an employee of Chaplin’s Modern Times factory. Students are faced, at early age, with a question that is highly unfair: is giving up on being yourself better than to feel punished for being who you really are?

Will Grayson, Will Grayson (John Green and David Levithan, paperback by Puffin, 336 pages long) is bold enough to address that issue. The book tells the story of two boys, both named Will Grayson, who end up meeting by chance and affecting each other’s lives more than they ever imagined possible. Each Will Grayson has his own personality: one is a shy boy trying at his best to go by unnoticed while having a friend who feeds on attention; the other is a boy filled with anger at the world and trying to start a relationship with a guy he met online, Isaac.

Each Will Grayson was written by one of the authors: Will Grayson number one, by John Green, and number two (always written will grayson, without any capital letters on his chapters), by David Levithan. The idea, which might sound confusing at first, works splendidly well. Both authors impressed me for different reasons: John, by the constant quality of his writing, though there aren’t as many beautiful lines of his in this novel as there are on his other works. David Levithan shocked me at the complexity of his Will, who curses and spits, kicks and crumbles, but never gives in to the temptation of giving up on himself. Levithan seems to have tailored the words so they would fit his character perfectly – all the insults and shocking confessions of will grayson are even more compelling than those of John’s Will Grayson, which is a remarkable fact of its own.

With one Will so obsessed with fitting in and the other so desperately trying to be different, one might guess the book would risk being good by going cliche and leaving characters to fight against each other until the climax. Quite on the contrary: much like in real life, all these teenagers are able to learn from each other’s experiences and turn them into knowledge and wisdom. The secondary characters were so well built they deserve as much attention as the two Wills: my favorite character in the book, Will Grayson #1’s friend Tiny Cooper, is an overweight gay boy who doesn’t care in the slightest about anyone else’s opinion and has a self-confidence enviable by the vainest of people. Great main characters  give you a good premise; add great secondary characters and you’ll have the final touch for a good novel.

There is, however, one thing I disliked: the ending. I won’t spoil anything in this review (how annoying is it when people tell spoilers in book reviews?), but all I can say is that David’s last chapter sounded a bit like that final speech north-american movies seem to love so much, the one in which the main character stands up in the middle of an agog crowd and changes everyone’s lives with their words. I’ve always found those speeches more awkward than inspiring, more surreal than moving. The rest of the book had moved so incredibly well and in such a creative way I was left expecting a bolder finale than the one I got.

This is still, however, a nice book. Maybe it won’t touch the hearts of those who have always fit in, but it certainly gets it right for those of us who didn’t. Living in a society that encourages only small differences as a form of keeping reality from radical change, embracing our singularities may seem like a herculean and suicidal mission, but it is just the first act of courage needed in order to give our lives some purpose. If living isn’t faced as an endless attempt at building, constructing, changing ourselves and our whereabouts, it isn’t living at all. It’s killing time.

[Book Review] Anna Karenina

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What do we all live for? Do we live simply because we exist? Because we were sent into this planet by a God with a “bigger plan”? Does this question even matter?

In Anna Karenina (Liev Tolstoy, Vintage, 976 pages), that question is the essence of the entire story. The book follows mostly the story of two couples: Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky and Kitty Shcherbatsky and Constantine Levin. Without telling spoilers, I can say in advance that these couples are radically different in absolutely everything, especially on the development of their stories.

As I began reading this, I assumed it would be mostly about Anna and Vronsky and, I must admit, was a bit disappointed to find out that Levin dominated most of the book. Though he is quite an interesting character – it’s fascinating how much he changes throughout the book and how innocently he believes to be different from Moscow society when he actually isn’t –, I did grow impatient waiting for the focus to shift back to Anna. Levin, much like Tolstoy, questions everything, even himself; he judges everyone while not realizing how much wrong there also is in his behavior.

Anna, however, is one of those intoxicating characters that will make you take her side  and fight for it. She knows herself so well that she is ready to fight battles most of us wouldn’t be able to fight, to give up on what can’t be forgotten, to love when everything tries to keep her from loving. I loved everything about her, from beginning-of-the-book Anna to end-of-the-boo Anna, because she is more coherent than many people I know.

And Vronsky, oh, boy, Vronsky. Though he doesn’t even appear that much on the book, he is a constant presence on Anna’s behavior, shaping her every mood even if only on her mind. What makes Vronsky so remarkable is how human he is – unlike most “princes”, he has flaws and doubts, but also virtues and certainties. And don’t we all? That’s probably what made Anna and Vronsky into one of my favorite literary couples: the fact that their love, every time it was tested, came out stronger and deeper. Vronsky’s reactions to the facts around the story were, at least for me, better than anything Levin did on the entire story.

I must warn you about something, though. This is not an easy read. It’s nearly 1,000 pages long and there are about a gazillion characters, all with three Russian names and sometimes even a nickname. It’s also one of the best pieces of realism, so expect long (actually huge) chapters about Levin learning to mow, Levin learning to hunt, Levin learning about elections and – something highly frustrating if you’re an atheist like me – pages and pages about Levin finding God.

I promise, though, that it is worth every page. I began reading this because I wanted to know the story before watching the movie, considering it was such a long book and I might lose some interest after knowing the main events and, well, how it ended. It ended up surprising me completely: you learn to understand every side of everyone, whether you liked them at first or not. Just like us, these characters seem to be seeking the only possible answer to keep us living, the quest we fight for with more or less success, trying to touch it with clumsy hands: to be, even if for a moment, happy.

[Book Review] The Fault In Our Stars

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I have finished reading this book more than a month ago and only now have I gathered the courage I needed to write this review. Without spoilers, here’s why.

The Fault In Our Stars (John Green, 2012, Penguin, 336 pages) tells the story of a couple of teenagers, Hazel and Augustus, and their friendship, which begins after they meet at a support group for children with cancer. From there on, to use an expression that appears in the book, everything is “a roller coaster that only goes up”.

This is not your typical sad book. Yes, it’s sad – don’t go anywhere near it if you don’t want to cry. But what sets it apart from others is that this isn’t a story about disease, it’s a story about love. It’s very easy to gather a legion of fans by writing about a couple which is cute and does cute things together and has their lives dramatically changed and cries endlessly and will always love each other (I feel sick simply by writing this generic description). But what did they feel? What did they think? What did they question, what did they learn, where did they start and who did they become?

John Green answers those questions and manages to treat death as it is: natural. Painful, yes, but natural. Both Hazel and Augustus know – and it is clear to us, from what is written, that adults do not understand them – how much it hurts to see decades of future, a future that had been promised to you from the day you were born, maybe being taken from you. Stolen, even, by this disease without an easy cure. The pain is so great that depression goes unnoticed.

And that is where Green excels every expectation and delivers a work of art. His reading of human nature and his ability to empathize are only comparable, from what I’ve read, to Nick Hornby’s. There are no writing skills – though his are remarkable – capable of surpassing lack of content, which implicates that a great part of the perfection that is this book is attributable to the author’s delicate perception of his object of study, people.

These people who are, in fact, the best part of the book. From Hazel’s religious obsession for a fictional book to Augustus and his videogame character suicides, every tiny thing is there on purpose; every detail adds up to creating complete, thorough personalities. Emotions aren’t there for the creation of climaxes or making readers cry: they are there because this is what real people, flesh-and-boned creatures, feel. And what are characters but depictions of us?

And the writing, oh, the writing. The pace is perfect, the phrasing is perfect, the choice of words is perfect. John’s latest is quite possibly his best, simply because it takes his skills to a whole new level. There are so many metaphors and symbols all over this – the book author, the videogames, the cigarettes, the endless saga of fictional war stories, the use of the words “Augustus” and “Gus” – I would dare say this will become a classic. Much like Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Green manages to make a book that is not only delicious at first, but discoverable at each read, a book other books should be written about and accessible to all audiences, who will the touched by the metaphors even if they aren’t clear at first. I have always felt that the smallest details could sometimes do a better job at telling a story than a hundred pages might. I’m not the biggest crier when it comes to books, but this remarkable author, with his words well chosen and feelings well exposed, made me randomly sob because of beautiful sentences lost between chapters, as diamonds to be found in a sea of pearls.

To use a line from the book, “my thoughts are stars I can’t fathom into constellations”; I would be able to go on about this forever and would still never do it justice.  The main reason, now that I think of it, is probably that, like love, everything that changes our hearts is partially unexplainable and surpasses all boundaries to become a personal experience. This book, as all good books, feels like more than reading. It is pure living.

[Book Review] The Hobbit

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When I was around 11 years old, I got a The Lord of The Rings copy from my parents. It was (is, I guess – I still have it and love it) huge, especially on my then tiny (ok, still tiny) hands. 1200 pages long, it included all three books, translated to Portuguese, and a huge picture of Gandalf on the cover, then intact, now rugged with age and flicking.

So is it too strange that I see LOTR as a childhood friend? After being seduced by Harry Potter, I went on to find out that these books, these much more complicated, dense, descriptive stories, caused a whole new level of reading satisfaction on me, and that Frodo Baggins and his companions were multifaceted, complex characters who would teach me more about life than many real adult figures ever managed to.

The reason I love LOTR so much is also the reason why I, ten years later, didn’t expect much of The Hobbit (J. R. R. Tolkien, read on Harper Collins’ paperback, 400 pages). I thought it would be more of the same and, being older, perhaps I wouldn’t be as interested, considering most of my favorite characters weren’t in it – and the fact that I had just read The Great Gatsby, which then became my favorite book. My mistake. I think I might have actually enjoyed this more than LOTR.

The Hobbit follows Bilbo Baggins on his adventure out of the Shire and throughout Middle Earth, joining Gandalf and a group of dwarves as they try to reclaim a treasure of their people from the claws of terrible dragon Smaug. And it is fun. While LOTR is such a serious journey that you feel yourself growing weary with the characters, Bilbo’s story is light, easy, funny at times, a simple, pure adventure – in fact, if I had to pick a word to describe this, I would really pick light. I flicked through pages and found myself having to save some of the book, in one of those moments in which something you read is so, so good that you need to put every word on your mouth, mentally say it twice, close your eyes and smile with joy. Probably the best storytelling skills I have ever found.

Another great part of this book are its characters. Bilbo lives every reader’s dream of running around, breaking barriers and living an adventure no matter what cost. Isn’t that what reading is all about? I do believe we read partially because it feels so good to live what the characters live, to dream higher and higher and still believe in it, to run around and slay dragons and kiss princesses and win the world. People who don’t enjoy reading must never have discovered that reading is actually feeling, and I feel sad for anyone who hasn’t experienced falling in love with characters. Bilbo and the dwarves are the perfect mix of crazy and smart; they are small, but they conquer it all. Gandalf is wise, but lets everyone make their mistakes and learn from them. Smaug is a dragon with more personality than a lot of people I know. All secondary characters are so perfectly created – and described – you keep wishing for spin-offs for every single one of them.

Every song Tolkien wrote, every new species he created, every short, fast-paced adventure that keeps you holding your breath is nothing but the expression of a master on the arts of heart touching and story telling. Whatever you do, whoever you are, I promise you’d finish this book with a smile on your face and the feeling of a whole journey lived. Bilbo is the ultimate improbable hero, who, by leaving his tiny little house on his tiny little feet, showed the entire world that, with wit and heart, anything is possible.

(This review is dedicated to my friend Raphael, who I hope will always keep one foot on the Shire and one running after Smaug)