Saturday, September 22, 2018

A Tolkien Blog Party -- 2018

Greetings, my very dear Bagginses and Boffins, Bracegirdles and Tooks, Hornblowers and Brandybucks, Cottons and Proudfoots.  


Today is Bilbo and Frodo's birthday!!!  And that means my sixth annual Tolkien Blog Party shall now commence.

If you are indeed here on party business, then pour yourself a cup of Old Winyards, Entdraught, or even beer from the Green Dragon if you so desire, and get busy filling out the latest blog tag.  Copy these questions to your own blog, answer them there, and then come back here with a link to your post.  Put that link in the widget below so we can all enjoy getting to know you and your opinions on these very important matters!  Feel free to use any of the buttons I shared on this page to dress up your post.

Tolkien Tag 2018

1.  What's your favorite Middle-earth story/book?

2.  Do you have a favorite subplot?

3.  What's your favorite theme in Tolkien's books?  (Can be in one specific story, or overall.)

4.  Do you have a favorite weapon from Middle-earth?

5.  Would you like to be a hobbit?

6.  Do you have a favorite romance/couple?

7.  What's your favorite Middle-earth creature?  (Can be "real" or "imaginary.")

8.  What character do you look the most like?

9.  Are there any books about Middle-earth or Professor Tolkien (but not written by him) you recommend?

10.  List up to ten of your favorite lines/quotations from the Middle-earth books and/or movies.

Here's the widget for you to add your link to.  And don't forget to comment on this post so people know there's a new set of answers to read!  The best part of this party is meeting new Tolkien fans.

Now that you've filled out the tag and left your link here, maybe even found a new friend or two by reading their posts... go enter the giveaway!  And check back all week to participate in the games and read other Tolkien-related blog posts.

Giveaway for the 2018 Tolkien Blog Party

YES!  Time to unveil this year's giveaway prizes! 

This year, I will give away NINE prizes.  Why nine?  Nine companions in the Fellowship of the Ring... nine Nazgul... 9x9=81, and it's the 81st anniversary of The Hobbit being released... why not nine prizes?

TWO winners will EACH receive a set of 6 Tolkien-themed bookmarks, as pictured above.

TWO winners will EACH receive a set of 4 Tolkien-themed stickers, as pictured above.

ONE winner will receive a bookmark that says "Not all those who wander are lost."

ONE winner will receive a tiny Hobbit-like door, perfect for a miniature garden or terrarium.

ONE winner will receive a NEW copy of The Children of Hurin by J. R. R. Tolkien.

ONE winner will receive a Hobbit Hole spiral-bound notebook/journal.

ONE winner will receive a USED copy of Middle-Earth Puzzles by Tim Dedopulos.

This giveaway is open WORLDWIDE. I'm mailing these all myself, and most of them are small, so no matter where you live in this wide world, you are welcome to enter.

The main way to gain entries is to participate in the party, in other words, to copy the questions I posted here and answer them on your own blog, then add your post's link to the Mister Linky widget at the bottom of that official party kick-off post. But that isn't required! You can also earn entries by telling me your prize choices and by commenting elsewhere on my blog. I do my best to match winners with their choice of prizes, but that doesn't always work out -- that's why I ask for your top three choices.

This giveaway runs through the end of Friday, September 28. I will draw the winners on Saturday, September 29 and post the names of the winners that day, as well a notify them by email.

PLEASE make sure your information for the giveaway widget includes your current email address so that if you win a prize, you'll get the email informing you that you won! If you don't reply to my email by Saturday, September 30, I will choose another winner and award your prize to them instead.

Here's the widget:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don't forget to check back throughout the week to participate in the games and make new friends!

Friday, September 21, 2018

"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" by Roald Dahl

I hadn't read this book in more than twenty years.  Man, is it ever still really funny.

I'm teaching literature for our local homeschool group this year.  Three different age groups: preschool through first grade, third through sixth grade, and high school.  It's been GREAT so far!  I teach twice a month, and we have been having a blast.  Yesterday, the third-through-sixth-graders discussed this book, and their enthusiasm was awesome!  And I'm not just saying that because two of the kids are mine :-)  They loved talking about the candy, of course, but I was impressed by how well they understood the characters.  We talked about motivations, whether anybody in the book was always bad or always good, and how Charlie changes by the end of the story.  Good stuff.

I actually read this book out loud to my kids over the past couple of weeks because I knew my first-grader would enjoy it too.  I did this crazy, high, squeaky voice for Willy Wonka that I regretted after like one chapter with him because it killed my vocal chords... but they got such a kick out of it, I kept doing it for the rest of the book.  My third-grader later told me her favorite thing about the book was Willy Wonka's funny voice, hee.

I think my favorite part of this book is just how very, very poor Charlie Bucket gets rewarded for being a sensible, kind, obedient boy in a super-fantastic way.  I remember as a kid making up all these stories about poor orphans getting adopted by rich people, or rich people going around buying up hotels and then letting homeless people live in them, and I know this book played into those stories in a big way.

Would anybody be interested in me doing a post about how I teach lit to our homeschool group, what books we're reading this semester, and so on?

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  G.  Good, clean, silly fun.

This is my 21st book read and reviewed for the Classics Club and my 6th for the Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

"A Song Unheard" by Roseanna M. White

Well, I didn't like this as well as A Name Unknown, and that is entirely because of the characters.  Specifically, because of Lukas De Wilde.  I eventually ended up liking him okay, but wow, the dude did not understand the meaning of the word 'no,' did he?

Time and again, Willa Forsythe told him she was not romantically interested in him, and time and again he ignored that and insisted on wooing her anyway.  If a notorious playboy singlemindedly pursued a girl today, we'd call him a stalker or a creeper, but because this is historical fiction, it's supposed to be okay?

Nope, rubbed me wrong.

Willa herself didn't really win me over either.  I like con artists, but I don't like liars, and she did too much lying and too little conning for me to really warm to her.

Now, once she told Lukas the truth?  I settled right in and liked this book from then on.  It helped that Barclay was on the scene then too, and he elevated the story from oh-can't-they-just-either-get-together-or-give-this-up tiresomeness to something I dug.  I really am looking forward to reading An Hour Unspent, which I hear focuses on Barclay instead of one of his sisters.

I also very much liked Lukas' little sister Margot -- her habit of praying by using numbers really intrigued me.  God understands every language and created mathematics, so of course you could pray with numbers if that makes sense to you.  I'd just never thought of it!  So I liked that.

The basic plot of this is that thief Willa Forsythe is charged by the mysterious V to find and steal a secret code from famous Belgian violinist Lukas de Wilde, who has escaped the German occupation of Belgium and is raising money in Wales to help other Belgians.  Lukas' mom and sister are still in Belgium, he knows not where.  Willa is a violin prodigy herself, and I did enjoy lots of the musical content of this book.

(From my Instagram account.)

Particularly Good Bits:

She felt, as she listened to the ninety musicians following the motions of the maestro into a frenzy of musical bliss, as though she were seeing true beauty for the first time.  She felt bigger and smaller all at once.  More alive.  Closer to death.  Fear and peace, love and sorrow.  She felt like she never had before.  And it left her with energy coursing through her veins, stinging her fingertips (p. 115).

"My mother always says that the one you're meant to marry is simply the one you do marry -- it's not a matter of romance, it's a matter of deciding to love and make it work" (p. 122).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for veiled references to Lukas's playboy past, spending nights with random women, as well as for violence and suspense.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

"Gone-Away Lake" by Elizabeth Enright

I love this book.  I loved it as a kid, and I love it now.

I read Gone-Away Lake over and over as a pre-teen, and I vaguely could remember now what it was about -- some kids who find an abandoned village -- but I really didn't recall the particulars.  My son found this on my shelves a couple of years ago and fell in love with it too, and he's nearly destroyed my copy with his love.  But neither of my daughters wanted to read it on their own.

When we got home from vacation, I decided this would be the next book I'd read out loud to my kids because it's such a good summer story.  July and August were frenetic and hectic, so it took me two whole months to read it aloud to them.  But we finished it just at the beginning of September, which was perfect timing because the last couple chapters take place at the beginning of September too.  And we all loved it so much, I'm going to read the sequel to them next week.

Yes, there's a sequel!!!  I was entirely unaware of that fact until a year or so ago when we spotted it at the used bookstore.  I haven't read it yet, but I'm excited.

I really didn't remember a ton of this book while I read it, which surprised me.  Usually books that I read multiple times as a kid still feel very familiar.  And certain scenes did come back to me as I read, but not the book as a whole.  However, I realized while reading it that this book is a HUGE part of why I am somewhat obsessed with abandoned places.  And why I generally find abandoned buildings beautiful and inspiring, not creepy.  I do vividly recall wishing that there was an abandoned house somewhere near where I lived that was sound enough still for me to clean up and take over as my own clubhouse like Portia and Julian get to do in this book.  I still wish that.  I love old, neglected houses in a "let me rescue it and give it love" sort of way, and I see now that this book certainly fed into that, though I can't tell if it caused that interest.

Anyway, this book is about two cousins, Portia and Julian, who go tramping around in the woods and stumble on an abandoned cluster of summer homes.  But they're not entirely abandoned -- two delightful elderly people, brother and sister, still live there.  Julian and Portia befriend them, and they have a jolly summer together.  I love it.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  G.  It's clean and wholesome.  There's a tense chapter where someone gets stuck in quicksand that might be hard on kids under 6.

This is my 5th book read and reviewed for the Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge and my 20th for my second go-round with the Classics Club.  (Do I count this book as a classic?  Yes, I do!  It was written in 1957 and should be read by every child.  It's a classic.  So there.)

Sunday, September 9, 2018

The "Dancing and Doughnuts" Giveaway Winners!

My book tour officially ended yesterday, and so did the giveaways associated with it.  This afternoon, the Rafflecopter widgets have spoken, so I can announce the winners!!! 

The winner of the blog tour prize pack, shown above, is...

Betsy Waggoner

Congratulations, Betsy!  

I also held a giveaway open only to those who hosted blog tour stops, and the winner for that is...

Annie from The Western Desk

Annie will get to choose either autographed copies of both Cloaked and Dancing and Doughnuts OR a $15 Amazon gift certificate.  Congratulations to you too, Annie!

Everyone else, I'm sorry you didn't win :-(  I guess you'll just have to buy your own copy, or convince your library to get it, or put it on your Christmas list.  Right?  Right!

Friday, September 7, 2018

The Silmarillion Awards

Do you love fantasy fiction?  Are you finding it hard to fill your days while you wait for the Tolkien Blog Party to begin?  Check out the Silmarillion Awards, which are open for nominations through the end of today.  They're for characters in fantasy books, and I don't think it matters if it's a new book or a classic -- as long as it's fantasy, it's good to go.  

Ten different blogs are involved in this, each blog responsible for one Silmaril award.  Follow these links to get in on the nominations and watch for the voting to begin next week!