Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Call for Guest Writers

I'd like to include a series of guest posts in the Lord of the Rings Read-Along (which begins around Sept. 26).  If you have an idea for a LOTR-related post, say so here!  I know my hubby is writing about the economics of the Orcs (and what he's writing is way more interesting than it sounds), and James the Movie Reviewer wants to write at least one post about the books versus the movies.  (James, would be you willing to do three posts, one for each book & movie pairing?).

I think it would be especially fun to have posts highlighting individual characters.  If you have a favorite character or two (or least favorite), you could write a quick biography of them, and an explanation of why you love the character.  If you want to include a favorite photo or twelve from the movies, you're certainly welcome to do so :-)

Obviously, we've got about a month before the read-along starts, but I want to get people thinking about this now so I can post guest pieces as we go.  So comment on this post if you're interested, even if you don't have a subject in mind yet!  I can always suggest some.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

"Lady Macbeth's Daughter" by Lisa Klein

I read Lisa Klein's young adult novel Ophelia a year or two ago, and liked it quite a lot, so when I spotted her Lady Macbeth's Daughter at the library, I figured I'd give it a try.

I'm so glad I did!  I liked this even better.  Which I didn't expect, since I love Hamlet and very much dislike Macbeth.  But maybe that's why I liked this better -- both books change the story and characters a little from what's told in Shakespeare's plays, and since I'm terribly attached to a lot of characters in Hamlet, I was a little miffed by how a couple of them turned out in Klein's book.  But here, I have no such attachments, so I was perfectly fine with what she did.

And what she did is create a brand new character, Albia, the daughter of Macbeth and his lady, who gets named Grelach here.  Albia is abandoned as a baby because of a birth defect, and raised by none other than the Wyrd Sisters, who are less witches and more Celtic Wiccans, or at least that's how they felt to me.  There's a lot of stuff about pagan beliefs and practices here, mostly of the lore-telling and herb-drying variety, but still, just warning you.

Anyway, Albia ends up getting embroiled in the fight to unseat her father from Scotland's throne, and she picks up a tentative love interest along the way, though romance is far from the central theme here.  It's got some exciting swordplay and such, but also a lot of pondering on what family and duty mean.  I found it insightful and thought-provoking, and I like it a hundred percent better than Macbeth.

If this was a movie, I would rate it:  PG-13 for violence, war-related imagery, and magic stuff.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Book Spine Poetry

The ever-inspirational Kara posted about this here, and I thought the idea was too fun to pass up.  Stacks of books with titles forming a coherent (?) whole -- what could be better?  So here are what I came up with, pulling from my own shelves and a couple of my hubby's.

Lost in a good book
Under the lilacs:
A gathering of days
In the company of others.
Strangers to these shores.

Desolation island,
A gathering storm,
Battling the elements.
Dirty hands,
An antic disposition...
Trouble is my business.

Kind of like magnetic poetry, only with whole phrases to work with.  And not nearly enough verbs.  Definitely felt the lack of verbs!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Get Your Party Buttons Here!

The Tolkien Blog Party of Special Magnificence is only one month and one day away!  Can you believe that?  I'm getting really excited.  I have ten prizes lined up for the giveaway:  five for worldwide, and five for USA-only.  So far.  May end up with more by the time the party starts!  I've also nearly finished writing up the questions for participants to answer on their own blogs, and I'm working on a game or two as well.  

But never mind all that -- I promised party buttons, didn't I?  So here they are:  four lovely buttons for you to choose from.  My friend Emily created the first two, and I threw together the second pair for people who are fans of the movies as well as the books.  

The first three are 200 pixels wide, and the last is 150, if you care to know.  

The Edge of the Precipice
<a href="" target="_self"><img src="" alt="The Edge of the Precipice" width="200" height="273" /></a>

The Edge of the Precipice
<a href="" target="_self"><img src="" alt="The Edge of the Precipice" width="200" height="200" /></a>

<a href="" target="_self"><img src="" alt="The Edge of the Precipice" width="200" height="200" /></a>

The Edge of the Precipice
<a href="" target="_self"><img src="" alt="The Edge of the Precipice" width="150" height="150" /></a>

To put one of these on your own blog's sidebar, copy the html gobbledygook under the button of your choice, then paste it into an "html/javascript" gadget in your blog's layout.  That should make the picture appear and make it link back to this blog.  If you have problems, please let me know!  You can also just save one of these to your own computer and then add it to your blog that way, but please link it to this blog so that people can find out where the party is going to be.  Thanks!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

"The Hound of the Baskervilles" by A. Conan Doyle

This is my favorite Sherlock Holmes mystery.  It's beautifully written and masterfully plotted, and I consider it the pinnacle of Doyle's Holmes stories.  It's also the first one I ever read, which might make me a teensy bit prejudiced in its favor.

(This review contains spoilage.  Stop here and read the book first if you want.)

The story, in case you don't know, concerns a legend about a spectral hound that haunts the aristocratic Baskerville family, killing them or scaring them to death.  When Sir Charles Baskerville is found dead outside the ancestral hall in Dartmoor, with the footprints of a gigantic hound beside him, his friend Dr. Mortimer consults Sherlock Holmes about whether the last of the Baskervilles, Sir Henry, should come from America and take over the family estate.  Holmes scoffs at the idea of a supernatural hound, but sends Dr. Watson to Baskerville Hall to observe and report whatever happens, and also to protect Sir Henry.  Holmes says he's too busy and has to stay in London, and so he's actually not in the majority of this book, though his presence looms over everything, much like the supposed presence of the ghastly hound.

I think what I like best about this book is the way the hound is a mirror image of Holmes himself.  Holmes and the hound both spend most of the book out of sight, hiding on the moor.  The hound is kept in an abandoned mine, while Holmes hides in an abandoned stone-age hut.  The idea of the hound and its supernaturality frightens the local people, and even Watson and Sir Henry Baskerville, while the idea of Sherlock Holmes and his keen investigative powers frightens the villain.  Once the hound is on the trail of a person, almost nothing stops it from reaching its foe, and once Holmes is on the trail of an evildoer, nothing stops him (usually).  Once we see the hound, it's even described with words like "gaunt" that Doyle also uses to describe Holmes.

I also love the atmosphere that Doyle evokes:  the mists and fogs of the moor, the loneliness of Baskerville Hall, the solemn solitude of everyone who lives there.  I would love to visit the moor some day, just to know exactly what it's like.

Particularly Good Bits:

"The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes."  (p. 593)

That cold, incisive, ironical voice could belong to but one man in all the world.  (p. 663)

A hound it was, an enormous coal-black hound, but not such a hound as mortal eyes have ever seen.  Fire burst from its open mouth, its eyes glowed with a smouldering glare, its muzzle and hackles and dewlap were outlined in flickering flame.  (p. 684)

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for suspense and scary images.

Friday, August 9, 2013

How Cool is This?

So, I've been soliciting prizes for the giveaway part of the upcoming Tolkien Blog Party of Special Magnificence.  And one Etsy store, AspieTees, is not only donating a prize (to be revealed later), but they're offering all of my readers a special 25% discount on all their merchandise through the end of September!  They have all kinds of Lord of the Rings-related stuff, like t-shirts, wall hangings, and tea towels.  And they have non-LOTR stuff too.  I'm really tempted by this shirt, and may end up using this discount to get it.

So, how do you use the discount?  When you're checking out, simply click on the "Apply shop coupon code" link under the payment options, then enter the word PRECIPICE in the spot provided.  

Thanks so much, AspieTees, for this cool offer!

(Also, check out that banner!  It's the first of many you'll be seeing, the ones my friend Emily created.)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

"The Ranger and Other Stories" by Zane Grey

And just when you were beginning to think all I read anymore are Jane Austen knock-offs and Sherlock Holmes stories, right?

It's been years and years since I read a western.  Why?  I have no idea.  I love watching westerns, love writing them... so why don't I read more of them?  That's something I intend to change.

This is a collection of four novellas, each of them delightful.  I grabbed it off the shelf at the library, not knowing anything other than the title and author, as it's been rebound and I was being dragged bodily toward the children's section.  But I figured, "Hey, can't go wrong with Zane Grey, right?"


"The Ranger" concerns a Texas Ranger who's fallen in love with a coquettish Mexican-American girl much younger than he is.  She gets kidnapped, he's the Ranger who has to go after her, and lots of excitement ensues.

"Canyon Walls" features a cowboy on the lam after getting into trouble with the law.  He winds up at a ranch run by a Mormon woman and her daughter -- they take him on as a ranch hand, the ranch prospers, and he falls in love with the daughter despite his initial determination not to.

"Avalanche" is about a young man and his adopted brother who have a big quarrel over a girl and then wind up facing almost certain death when an avalanche seals them into a canyon for the winter.

"From Missouri" involves a young schoolteacher who comes to a ranch where all the cowboys -- and the ranch's owner -- all vie for her attention, as does a troublemaker from a nearby ranch.

You might be noticing a theme here, one that rather surprised me:  falling in love!  The first three are told from perspective of the male characters, but the fourth switches back and forth a bit.  And while they all have an exciting bit here and there, only "The Ranger" involves any kind of gunplay.  "Canyon Walls" has no violence at all, but the other two have fist fights.  Not what I particularly expected, I guess.

But don't let that make you think these stories are boring.  I spent the first three stories convinced throughout them that there was not way they could end well, but fervently hoping they would.  I'm hoping to re-read a couple of these before I take it back to the library to see if I can figure out how Grey wound the tension that tight, but yet set up a satisfying ending for each.

Particularly Good Bits:

He reflected that if he were blamed for the Green Valley affair, also, which was not improbable, he might find himself already an outlaw, whether he personally agreed or not.  ("Canyon Walls," p. 54)

Even so, Jake felt a monstrous hand at the back of him, propelling him toward something that he had gladly and sternly willed, yet against which at odd moments his soul revolted.  ("Avalanche," p. 136)

If this was a movie, I would rate it:  PG for mild violence.

I'll leave you with this song, which the story "The Ranger" reminded me of:

Monday, August 5, 2013

"Colonel Brandon's Diary" by Amanda Grange

It seems that the western novel I'm writing right now requires me to read Jane Austen-inspired books to keep my creative juices flowing.  This makes no sense to me, but whenever I read one of Amanda Grange's books, my writing output makes a significant jump.  Huh.

I couldn't decide if I wanted to read Henry Tilney's Diary or Mr. Knightley's Diary next.  So I chose this one instead and jilted them both.  Once again, I was delighted by Grange's writing and storytelling, and breezed through it in a few days.  These are the closest I'll probably ever come to reading fluffy romances, hee.

This book actually makes me like Sense and Sensibility better.  I never completely liked the pairing of Colonel Brandon and Marianne Dashwood -- probably because I like Elinor better than Marianne, and Brandon better than Ferrars, so I'd rather see Elinor and Brandon get together.  Edward Ferrars is, I'm afraid, rather boring to me.  Anyway, this showed how Marianne's liveliness gave Colonel Brandon a new appreciation of life after his earlier heartaches left him numb.  His love for her makes a lot more sense to me now.

Also, Grange gave Colonel Brandon a first name:  James.  Which happens to be my very favorite name ever.

So, a thoroughly enjoyable summer read, and very helpful to my novel-writing endeavors.

Particularly Good Bits:  

"I have been born to an extraordinary fate, have I not?" she said, stopping and turning to face me.  "For I have discovered the falsehood of my own opinions, and now it only remains for me to counteract them by my conduct."  (p. 293)

If this was a movie, I would rate it:  G.  Nothing objectionable here whatsoever.  Awesomeness!