The Hobbit {my favorite book}

I wanted to republish one of my most popular blog posts in light of the state of the world today. This was originally published in February 2018 on my blog.

You’d be surprised how many times I get asked what my favorite book is. It’s on blog tour signups, it’s quizzes in my online groups, it’s just random questions. I usually have a hard time picking a favorite, but not with books. There’s always one I can give as an answer:

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The first time I walked into a hole in the ground, I was five. Maybe six. My dad read it aloud to me and my four brothers, and I was hooked for life.

See, I was a fearful little girl. I wanted to be brave and important and save the world, but I got scared by the shadows in my closet and bright lights and by people talking too loudly around me.

I learned about being wild from the boys I grew up with. They challenged me to jump off cliffs (literally), to climb trees (I am terrible at it), to run all out and not be scared of tripping and falling (I still have scars on my knees). They encouraged me to take a couple steps and throw myself out, trusting to the water to catch me and cradle me.

But there were some things they couldn’t do.

They couldn’t teach me not to be afraid of the darkness.

They couldn’t teach me about the dragons I would have to face.

We were only little kids, after all. They didn’t know about those things either.

Later – much later – I learned far too much more about fear. I learned about the monsters that lurked, not under my bed or in my closet, but inside my mind. I learned about grief. I learned about being ripped apart. I learned about being wrong. I learned about being hurt. I learned about death.

I learned all that and more, and I almost lost myself in the middle of it.

By that point, The Hobbit movies were being filmed and everyone in my family was buzzing with excitement. I got out my book from the bottom of the stack on my bedside table – even during the time when I didn’t read it every six months, it never quite made it to the shelves – and I read it again.

I found myself inside the pages. I was Thorin, brave and loyal and proud. Too proud. I was Smaug, my own monster. I was Gollum, clutching to things I couldn’t keep.

Most importantly, I was Bilbo, small and afraid and unimportant.

But I learned something, and the movies helped me see it clearer.

I learned that even the small, seemingly unimportant ones are needed. I learned that sometimes what the world needs is a little more home. Sometimes it needs another pocket handkerchief.

The beauty of The Hobbit is that Bilbo doesn’t try to be Thorin or Gandalf or Beorn. Bilbo is simply himself, and that is enough. He becomes, over the course of the story, a better version of himself… but he is still himself. He is a hobbit. He likes his books and his armchair and clean handkerchiefs. Tea is at four.

Image: Pinterest

I learned more about being from reading or listening to The Hobbit approximately 200 times in the last fifteen years than I ever learned in church or listening to sermons or preachers. I learned more about life, my own and life in general, from this little book than I have from almost anywhere else. I sometimes think this book saved my life. I don’t really know, but I do know that it has shaped me in ways I wouldn’t have thought possible.

I love C. S. Lewis’s quote on stories for children because it sums up my relationship with The Hobbit so well:

Image: Pinterest

So if you ask me what my favorite book is, I might tell you the title of one I just finished… I might protest at having to pick favorites and how difficult the entire concept is… I might rattle off a list that’s three miles long… or I might tell you The Hobbit.

-Annie

Copyright 2018 by Annie Louise Twitchell
Annie Louise Twitchell at 4:58 PM Friday, February 23, 2018

stop waiting for ideal

My ideal writing environment is the following scenario:

I have a couple hours free in the morning. I drive over to The Orange Cat Cafe, get my breakfast, and occupy a seat in the back room of the cafe. I pull out my laptop and work for an hour or so, pausing between paragraphs to nibble my quiche or sip my coffee.

I was writing on my phone this day, but it still counts.

I’ve done that maybe six times in the last year.

Sometimes this is what it looks like, darlings. Sometimes writing means scraping together a few minutes in waiting rooms, just before you go to sleep, while you eat breakfast, while you cook supper.

Messy, real, unfiltered and unedited, this is where I knocked out 307 words while I waited for my pots to boil.

I’m sure we all have our ideal writing environment, but if we wait for our ideal, we’ll have a really hard time getting anything done.

I’ve been learning that the hard way in the last year. I started working and being away from home a lot, plus overnight trips to the city for my mom’s neurologist visits and physical therapy appointments. I had to get good at writing in two and five and ten minute stretches.

I had to get good at being flexible. At making the best out of a bad job.

I had to decide what was more important: getting the work done, or getting it done the way I wanted to get it done.

Because the way I wanted to get it done wasn’t an option.

But you know what? The more flexible I got, the more I got to experience my ideal. My ideal shifted. Now, my ideal is a cup of coffee and something to nibble, period. That sometimes means the cafe, and that sometimes means sipping a cold cup of coffee and typing four sentences on my phone while I wait for a soccer game to start. I’m happy there. I’m writing, I’m in an environment I enjoy and take delight in, and I can work well there.

Still working on taking delight in the ‘laptop on the kitchen counter’ environment, but hey, at least I’m writing.

I first wrote this up in a post in the Go Teen Writers Facebook group.

fifty activities with little to no screentime

A list of 50 activities you can do while social distancing that use minimal or no screen time, from an introverted extrovert with lots of experience with small children and cabin fever. Most are child friendly.

  1. Read a book.
  2. Listen to an audio book.
  3. Read a book out loud—you don’t have to read TO anyone. Just read to yourself or a pet. Exercise your voice.
  4. Play a board game.
  5. Play a card game.
  6. Do a coloring page.
  7. Make a drawing.
  8. Make a painting—don’t underestimate children’s watercolor palettes.
  9. Write a letter.
  10. Start a journal.
  11. Do a jigsaw puzzle.
  12. Study maps.
  13. Learn to crochet.
  14. Learn to knit.
  15. Learn to weave.
  16. Learn knot tying.
  17. Learn to eat with chopsticks.
  18. Sing—it can be terrible.
  19. Go for a walk.
  20. Wave at someone.
  21. Start a garden.
  22. Start a mini garden.
  23. Start a single plant pot on a sunny windowsill.
  24. Practice calligraphy.
  25. Doodle.
  26. Learn Cat’s Cradle.
  27. Practice jumproping.
  28. Try yoga or pilates.
  29. Bake bread. If it fails, try again.
  30. Wash the windows so you can see outside clearly.
  31. Make candles.
  32. Hug a pillow or a stuffed animal.
  33. Build a blanket fort.
  34. Build a city out of legos, duplos, or building blocks.
  35. Play an instrument—it can sound terrible, just try.
  36. Write a bucket list.
  37. Write a poem.
  38. Trace the alphabet in a thin layer of cornmeal or sand on a cookie sheet.
  39. Bake some cookies.
  40. Make Playdough.
  41. Make slime.
  42. Make cornstarch gak.
  43. Roll a single dice and record the number of each roll—enjoy the randomness.
  44. Play Solitaire.
  45. Learn to swing dance.
  46. Try meditation.
  47. Make bath bombs.
  48. Take a bubble bath.
  49. DIY facials and manicures.
  50. Call a relative or neighbor or friend, and chat.

Reader Notes: The Worst Best Man

The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa

2020 reads: book five

3/5

⭐⭐⭐

I think this just wasn’t my book. There was quite a bit of language, which I don’t really mind but it did seem out of place or excessive, and there were several graphic steamy scenes that I skipped over. I hadn’t expected that content based on the summary, and found it jarring. I don’t mind a little well-done heat but again, it felt excessive and I skipped the scenes.

But Max and Lina were so sweet and precious that I had to keep reading to find out if they got their Happily Ever After. And the last couple of chapters… oh, those were beautiful.

Was amused by the old car breaking down. Also confused. Does Lina not have AAA? 🤪

I appreciated the author’s ability to weave a compelling story… I just think I’d be happier sticking to YA and NA rather than adult romcoms.

As Many Nows As I Can Get

As Many Nows As I Can Get by Shana Youngdahl

5/5 stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

2020 reads: book four

I very much enjoyed this one. It made me think, and made me feel, and made me evaluate my own measure of humanity the same way Scarlett had to. The actual writing is very curious, with hopping around in time, but I didn’t have the trouble I often have with a non-linear timeline.

Scarlett, Mina, David… they’re very real in my mind. I feel as though I could find Scarlett, touch her shoulder, and say, “I know what it’s like, I’m here.” But as we weave our way through the story it becomes plain that Scarlett is here, too, and that she’ll come out okay.

(That ending. I cried at my little brother’s soccer game.)

Due to subject matter I’d recommend for 17-18+. Definitely a higher end of the YA spectrum and deals with some challenging subjects in a way that doesn’t disguise or belittle them, but presents them honestly–openly–as the fact of the matter.

Darling Rose Gold

Reader Notes: a mini review

My Elli Girl

2020 reads, book 3: Darling Rose Gold, Stephanie Wrobel’s debut novel.

Releases March 17, 2020.

Dark. Gripping. Sharp. 5/5 stars.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I don’t usually go for psychological thriller type books but I picked this ARC up at my library, and oh. my. word. I read the last third of the book in an hour yesterday afternoon which had orginally been planned for a nap, but I started reading and couldn’t put it down until I got to the end and figured out what was going on.

My new kitten, Emma Indie

Wrobel’s story telling is incredible. She flawlessly captures the flawed nature of humanity. She peels back the layers of human relationships and human behaviours and makes no conclusions, merely lays the pieces before you. She made me think with this book; I had a ‘book hangover’ for the first time in a while with this one.

Recommended for thriller fans 18+

The Two Lives of Lydia Bird

Reader Notes: a mini review

2020 reads, 2 – The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver.

I got an ARC of this book from one of my libraries, and I’ve just been eating it up. This is one I would go back and reread for the sweet, poignant prose and the beautiful story. Lydia walks us through the question: what would you do if you had more time with the person you love?

This story spoke clearly about love and loss and the transformation that comes with healing. You never quite get over the hole they leave, but you can go forward anyway.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

5/5 stars for a brilliantly done novel. This beautiful story releases on March 3rd, 2020, and if you’re interested in a sweet adult romance, I’d recommend this for 17+.

A Thousand Perfect Notes

Reader Notes: a mini review

2020 reads: book 1, A Thousand Perfect Notes by C.G. Drews

January 11, 2020

Oh. My. Heavens.

This book is sweet and bitter and I can’t tell if it feels like 90% dark caoco, or like I got hit in the mouth and am tasting blood. It’s deep and dark and golden and violently beautiful and it feels like the deep woods that I’ve only haunted a few times but are always calling me back. This book is elegant in its catastrophe, and devastating, and simple, and just STUNNING.

My favorite quote:

He likes her because there’s sunshine in her eyes and she knows the secrets to smiling.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (five out of five stars)

Turtles All the Way Down

 

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

About the book: 

“Wrenching and revelatory.” An instant #1 bestseller, the widely acclaimed Turtles All the Way Down is John Green’s brilliant and shattering new novel.

“A tender story about learning to cope when the world feels out of control.” – People

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.

 

 

My Review: 

 

Five stars

It’s been a month since I finished reading this one and I still don’t have words for it. So sorry.

felt this one more than his others, and a little like Jack Black in Jumanjii, I forgot that he’s not, in fact, a teenage girl. It was that kind of relatable.

I thoroughly enjoyed it, but the language and some of the content means I recommend for 16+.

Love and the Sea and Everything in Between

Love and the Sea and Everything in Between by Brian McBride

About the book:

WINNER OF WATTPAD’S 2016 WATTY’S AWARD 


For fans of Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being A Wallflower and John Green’s The Fault in Our StarsLove and the Sea and Everything in Between shines a light on some of the darkest places of human struggle. Heart-rending and raw, it reminds us that love has the power to bring healing to even the most broken places.

College Freshman Adam West’s world has been falling apart for a long time. Broken, betrayed, abandoned, alone… there’s nothing left for him but a handful of mental illnesses. He’s tired and ready to end it all. Then, Elizabeth Richards comes along. All it took was the kindness of a stranger to make Adam’s world a just little bit brighter. For the first time in a long time, as they travel the West Coast together, he’s starting to see that there are still some adventures worth living for. But pain isn’t easily forgotten. And the past doesn’t just disappear. Sometimes the only way to come alive is to fight and wrestle through all the darkest places.

 

 

My Review: 

Five stars

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading this.

It’s not a perfect book. The best ones rarely are. It’s a story about broken people and about edges and lines and humanity. It’s a love story in the rawest sense, and I wish I could explain it better. Love is so much more than romance and this book captures that well.

I’m torn, really, between loving and hating this book. It’s good because it’s a beautiful snapshot of humanity and it’s terrible because there’s no filter, no softening of the edges, but that is also good… This is not for the faint of heart.

I cried over this book because there is so much honesty here, but it’s given so gentle and so lovingly that I feel as though I’ve spent a few hours unburdening myself to a good friend, and it’s a relief.

 

Recommended for 17+.