First up, The Silmarillion.
I did a sort of review almost a month ago, and after finishing it, I'll still agree that the comments the Rifftrax guys made in the FotR movie were amusingly accurate:
"Ah, he's reading The Silmarillion and trying desperately to pretend he's enjoying it."
"Ughh... 'Fëanor imprisoned the light of the two trees that illuminated Valinor'... oh god, I can't make it through this thing."
Don't get me wrong, this is definitely a book worth reading for a Tolkien fan, but it was hard, and that's coming from someone who has a degree in English and wants to become a literature professor. I was determined to get through it since I gave up last time, and after over a month (never has it taken me so long to read such a short book!) I finally finished it. Where the trilogy has interesting and developed characters (by now everyone knows that's the main thing I look for in a book) and even some humor (The Hobbit definitely has humor), The Silmarillion reads like a dry history book and none of the characters are developed enough to really be interesting. It doesn't help that so many of the characters have names that sound alike and each one has about three names a piece, and each location has about three names, as well. Yes, there's an index in the back of the book, but after a while it got annoying to have to keep flipping back there for the hundredth time to figure out who or what something was. I know I'm bad with names, but when they're Elvish names, forget it, I don't have a chance remembering who anyone is.
I think on future rereads I'll be able to appreciate the book better and catch more of who everyone is, but this first time around it only earned 3 1/2 stars out of 5. I am glad I finally read it, though; I felt like such a lousy Tolkien fan, being a fan for twenty years and never having read this. The story does give you lots of information about Middle Earth and characters that show up in the trilogy (as well as a little bit at the end about what happens in said trilogy), so that was really what made me enjoy it at all. Still, I much prefer the trilogy and The Hobbit, but now I feel justified in saying that since I gave this one a chance. ;)
The other book I finished recently was Magic Tails.
Let's just say this was definitely a good choice after something heavy like The Silmarillion! Magic Tails is an anthology of short stories all about cats; my friend lent it to me because she knows how much I love fantasy and cats and figured I'd like it, which I did. Some of the stories were better than others, but that's to be expected when a book is a collection by different authors. There were two stories in here that were retellings of Sleeping Beauty told through a cat's eyes, and I think those two, as well as the story called "Pharaoh's Cat" (I'm a big fan of ancient Egypt- I even took a class on it in college) were my favorites.
I really enjoyed this book and I'll recommend it to anyone who likes fantasy and cats. I'll give this 4 1/2 stars out of 5; it probably deserves a bit lower than that since it's not like this was epic fantasy or anything, but it was just so much fun to read that it gets a high score from me. :)