Wednesday, September 23, 2020

"Roverandom" by J.R.R. Tolkien

I hadn't even heard of this charming little book until earlier this year.  So if you hadn't heard of it before either, don't fret!  It was first published in 1998, though Tolkien had actually hoped to publish it after The Hobbit.  But his publishers didn't want more funny and whimsical fantasy stories for kids in general, they wanted more of The Hobbit in particular.  So Tolkien shelved Roverandom even though he had revised it repeatedly and made lovely illustrations for it, and wrote The Lord of the Rings instead.

This story began, like The Hobbit, as something Tolkien made up for his children.  His second son, Michael, lost a little toy dog that he loved dearly while they were at the beach, and Tolkien made up a whole series of adventures for the dog to help his son process the loss.  His sons all enjoyed them so very much, he told them over and over, and expanded on them, and eventually wrote them down.

I learned all of that in the extensive introduction in the hardcover volume I have, as pictured here.  The introduction and end notes make up about half of the book, as Roverandom only has 5 chapters.  In it, a real dog falls afoul of a wizard, gets turned into a toy dog, is bought for a little boy who then loses him on the beach, is rescued by another enchanter and sent to the moon to have adventures, then has more adventures under the sea before everything winding up very happily.

A lot of this book reminded me of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.  That same exuberant make-believe feel about fantastical realms coexisting with our own, you know?  But it lacks the melancholy of The Little Prince, which suits me just fine.  I like dog books that end happily, and I'm very glad this one did.

(From my Instagram)

Particularly Good Bits:

"You never know what will happen next, when once you get mixed up with wizards and their friends" (p. 67).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: G.  Nothing potentially objectionable here whatsoever.

This is my third book read and reviewed for my third Classics Club list and my 36th for #TheUnreadShelfProject2020.  And it is also a contribution to this year's Tolkien Blog Party :-)

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Tolkien Middle-earth Relatives Quiz

Time for our second game for this year's Tolkien Blog Party!  I did something similar a few years ago, but I'll try to make it different enough that it will still be challenging AND so no one can go hunting back through old party posts and cheat off that one.  Mwahaha!

Note: some of these are related by blood, others by marriage.

Submit your answers in the comments, and I'll post the answers and everyone's scores at the end of the week.

1. Eowyn is Eomer's ___________.

2. Prince Imrahil is Boromir's ___________.

3. Legolas is Thranduil's ______________.

4. Frodo is Bilbo's ____________.

5. Celeborn is Galadriel's _________________.

6. Gimli is Oin's _____________.

7. Prince Imrahil is Eomer's ___________________.

8. Bergil is Beregond's ____________________.

9. Bard is Bain's __________________.

10. Galadriel is Arwen's ________________.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Hobbit Family Name Unscramble

Our first game this year is an unscramble.  Try to figure out what Hobbit family names (surnames) these are!  Put your guesses in the comments, which I've put on full moderation until the end of the party, and I'll reveal the answers and everyone's scores on Saturday.

Most of these do get mentioned in the movies too, not just the books.

1. froopdout
2. okto
3. gotmag
4. sibgang
5. browhelnor
6. tontoc
7. drynuckbab
8. brubg
9. glober
10. snydanma
11. greedclarib
12. maggee

Good luck!

Sunday, September 20, 2020

A Tolkien Blog Party 2020 -- Kick-Off Post

Can you believe this is the eighth year we've gathered here virtually to celebrate J.R.R. Tolkien's timeless stories and all things Middle-earth?  I think that's pretty cool, to be honest!

I just posted my giveaway a minute ago, so be sure to check that out and enter if any of the prizes strike your fancy.

As always, there's a tag below that you can copy to your own blog and answer there, then put the link to your post in the linky widget at the bottom of this post. Like last year, you can also contribute ANY Tolkien-related post to the party, as long as it is new. (Don't link to stuff you posted like two years ago or something.)  Anything Tolkien-related is fair game, whether it involves Middle-earth or not. Review one of his books, talk about the movies, devote a whole post to your favorite character, whatever! There's no sign-up sheet, just post what you want to and then share your post via the link-up in this post.

Speaking of the tag questions, here they are!

1. What Tolkien character do you think you're the most like?
2. What Tolkien character do you wish you were more like?
3. What would your dream home in Middle-earth be like?
4. You get to make a movie of the story of Beren and Luthien!  Who do you cast as the leads?
5. Have you ever marathoned the LOTR or Hobbit movies?
6. Do you have a favorite song or track from the movie soundtracks by Howard Shore?
7. Which of Tolkien's characters would you like to be best friends with?
8. Who of the people in your real life would you want in your company if you had to take the ring to Mordor?
9. Have you read any of Tolkien's non-Middle-earth works?
10. Is there a book by Tolkien you haven't read yet, but want to?

Don't forget to add a button to your post.  They're all snippets of Tolkien's own artwork this year!

And here is the link-up widget.  Remember to add all your party posts to this so we can all visit them!

Come back tomorrow for the first of two games I have planned!  I'll also be posting a review of Tolkien's children's book Roverandom later this week.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Giveaway for the Tolkien Blog Party 2020

I cannot host a Tolkien Blog Party without giving away a few mathoms in true hobbit style!  So here are this year's prizes, which are of more special magnificence than usual because I feel like everyone needs an extra lift this year.

Prize 1: Two 4-oz candles I bought from Midnight Flame, one called Second Breakfast and one called Shieldmaiden of Rohan.  Both have some loose dried flowers on top of the candle for extra scent and beauty.

Prize 2: Four bookmarks I bought as a PDF file from Mirkwood Scribes that bear poetry and images from The Hobbit.  I printed them myself and laminated them with contact paper so they will last longer.

Prize 3: Two 2-oz candles I bought from Plot Twist Wicks and Flick the Wick, one called The Shire and once called Misty Mountains.  It's hard to tell in this photo, but the Shire candle is glittery on top.

Prize 4: All three original soundtracks for the Lord of the Rings trilogy films from New Line Cinema, composed by Howard Shore.  These are USED discs -- they play in my devices, but I can't guarantee they will work for you.

Prize 5: Three stickers featuring the Three Hunters: Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli.

Prize 6: Four stickers featuring the four hobbits from LOTR: Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin. 

I bought all of these from We the Dreaming Designs.  They are each about 3"x3".

Prize 7: One wooden bookmark I bought from Sweet Sequels that features original artwork of the map of Middle Earth and a stack of Tolkien's books.

Prize 8: One 4-oz candle I bought from Salty and Lit called The Prancing Pony.

Prize 9: One journal I bought from Crabapple Books that says "I'm Going on an Adventure" on the front and has a hand-drawn design of mountains and trees that wraps around to the back of the book.  This 6"x9" paperback journal has 100 lined pages.

Prize 10: the winner's choice of any one Tolkien-related ceramic mug from A Fine Quotation!  This prize is being donated by shop owner Carrie Brownell, and she will only ship it to a US address because it is heavy, so please don't request it if you live outside the United States.

This giveaway is open worldwide EXCEPT for Prize 10, the mug from A Fine Quotation, which is US-only.   

As always, the main way to gain entries is to participate in the party by contributing a post, such as your answers to the official tag or another Tolkien-related post, then adding your post's link to the Mister Linky widget at the bottom of the kick-off post (which is also where you'll find the tag questions).  But that isn't required!  You can also earn entries by doing other things like commenting, following, and telling me your prize choices.  

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. 

Also, please be aware that international mail is slow these days. I will ship all prizes via the USPS, and they do not ship to every country right now, so please check this official list to see if your country is still receiving mail sent via the USPS.

This giveaway runs through the end of Friday, September 25. I will draw the winners on Saturday, September 26 and post the names of the winners on this blog, as well a notify them by email, no later than Sunday, September 27.

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, October 3, I will choose another winner and award your prize to them instead.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, September 18, 2020

"In Our Time" by Ernest Hemingway


Not my new favorite Hemingway, despite the presence of some of my favorite short stories of his.

In Our Time is a collection of vignettes about war and bullfighting that intersperse a lot of short stories, many of them featuring Hemingway's alter ego, Nick Adams.  The vignettes focus on gory, unpleasant, depressing events, and the short stories are similarly about death, loss, leaving, and things ending badly, all except the last two, which are "Big Two-Hearted River" parts 1 and 2. 

Only in those last two stories to we finally start to see someone finding peace and healing.  Until them, the focus seems to be on the elusiveness of happiness.  I think Hemingway is saying that you can't find happiness or healing when you're with other people, even your friends.  Only by going away from the rest of humanity can you find the peace and healing you need.  So bleak.  Oh, Hemingway, you make me so sad for you.

I think that young people today, the ones who are angry and railing against everything, should read Hemingway.  Especially this.  I think it would help them see that disaffection, disillusionment, and feeling lost and alone are not at all new.  They're present whenever people turn their backs on God and each other.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-16 for some bad language, violence, gore, oblique sexual references, and general depressingness.

This is my 2nd book read and reviewed for my third go-'round with the Classics Club and my 35th for #TheUnreadShelfProject2020.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

"Mr. Rochester" by Sarah Shoemaker

Head canon accepted.

Seriously.  This is so exactly what I wanted from a book about Mr. Rochester, the Byronic, enigmatic love interest from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  Which happens to be my favorite book.  It fills in gaps, explains little quirks and questions, and fleshes out even more fully the man who loves my favorite literary heroine.

(This contains spoilers for this book as well as for Jane Eyre.  You've been warned.)

This book starts when Edward Fairfax Rochester is just a boy, rattling around Thornfield Hall, lonely and wishing for notice or affection from his older brother Rowland and their father.  It traces his youth at an unusual boarding school, his growth toward manhood while learning to manage a business, and then his disastrous trip to Jamaica.  It's there that he's swept up into a whirlwind courtship of the stunning Bertha Mason, married to her almost before he's aware of what he's doing, and then gradually overwhelmed by her growing madness.

Shoemaker beautifully explains things like why Mr. Rochester would bring his mad wife to England, why he would keep her in his own home, why he insists that Jane call him Edward even though everyone else calls him Fairfax Rochester.  She even softens his attempted bigamy in a way I hadn't expected, giving him a possible way out of his marriage to Bertha (which does not quite come to pass after all) that prompts him to propose to Jane.  That also involved a twist I wasn't expecting, but that definitely worked with the original book.

I also liked that it showed by Mr. Rochester was not fond of his ward Adele, even to the point of rudeness at times.  In this book, she is most decidedly shown not to be his daughter, rather having him decide to become her protector after her mother died so that Adele would not be turned into a child prostitute.

If you like books showing another person's point of view of events in a well-known, well-loved story, and especially if you love Jane Eyre, this book will probably delight you too.  Be aware that this IS a book for adults, however, as I will detail below.

Particularly Good Bits:

"That settles it!" Miss Kent interrupted.  "Music and reading!  What better way to spend an evening" (p. 107-08).

I shall say this for her: certainly, unlike some women, her view of marriage was not dictated by the fanciful romantic vision of a Jane Austen novel (p. 407).  (This made me laugh because Bronte was not an Austen fan.  I happen to think Austen has a particularly clear-eyed view of marriage, more than Rochester himself, but still, made me chuckle.)

If This Was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  R.  It has numerous discussions of people having sex, though it is not explicit.  It deals with slavery and the fact that some slave owners would force themselves on their female slaves.  It also has two instances of the F-word and some other bad language.  And the descriptions of madness, of mad houses, and of the usual treatment of mad people at that time are a bit hard to take at times.  There is also mention of teenage pregnancy and children born out of wedlock.