Tuesday, April 29, 2014

LOTR Read-Along: The Muster of Rohan (ROTK Ch. 3)

Okay, so we need to discuss the word "fey" for a minute.  I always thought it meant that you had gone a bit... not crazy, but sort of not-quite-here or acting oddly.  Kind of high on fairy dust, I guess.  But here Eowyn describes Aragorn as being fey "like one whom the Dead call" (p. 780).  So I Googled "fey" and discovered here that although it can mean "being in unnaturally high spirits," it can also mean "marked by an apprehension of death or calamity."  Huh.

Anyway, isn't Merry great in this chapter?  He starts out feeling oppressed by all the mountains and "long[ing] to shut out the immensity in a quiet room by a fire" (p. 774).  He's sad because his friends "have all gone to some doom" (p. 779), and I get kind of melancholy myself over the course of this chapter.  But he doesn't let that sadness get him down -- he refuses to be left behind, and when Theoden says he can't ride to war with the Rohirrim, he says, "It is a long way to run; but run I shall, if I cannot ride, even if I wear my feet off and arrive weeks too late" (p. 784).  Sad and lonely, but undaunted.  Dear Merry.

Favorite Lines:

Now all roads were running together to the East to meet the coming of war and the onset of the Shadow (p. 774).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Theoden says, "In the morning counsels are best, and night changes many thoughts" (p. 783).  Do you like to sleep on decisions?  Or once you've made up your mind, does the passing of a night or two not change your decisions?

Monday, April 28, 2014

"Jimmy Stewart and His Poems" by Jimmy Stewart

Hannah reviewed this book on her blog, "Reading in the Dark," a few months ago and I couldn't believe I'd never heard of it!  Jimmy Stewart is one of my favorite actors, and I love that he wrote some poetry and actually published it in a cute little book.  So when I found it at the used book store a couple weeks ago, I snapped it up.  April is National Poetry Month, so I decided to read this right away instead of letting it sit on my TBR shelf for a while, which is what usually happens to books when I buy them.

Anyway, this is a sweet, slim volume, with about as much text devoted to Stewart's reminiscences of how he came to write each poem as there is to the poems themselves.  There are only four, and they are by turns humorous and poignant.  The final poem, written after the loss of his beloved dog Beau, moved me to tears.  

If you're like me and you've seen oodles of Stewart's movies, you can probably hear his voice reading these poems and musings.  You might think this is a sort of stunt, an elder actor bored and finding a new way to get his name back in circulation, but I don't think that's the case.  Stewart writes very well, with the same dry, understated delivery that graced his movie acting.  His poems rhyme, but never devolve into sing-song or predictability.  I'm pleased to add this to my poetry collection.

If This Was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for an unexpected un-genteel word or two.

Friday, April 25, 2014

LOTR Read-Along: The Passing of the Grey Company (ROTK Ch. 2)

I love when Halbarad and the other Dunedain Rangers arrive -- it's such a bright spot of joy for Aragorn amidst all this Very Important Stuff that's been going on.  And it's so cool that Elrond's sons, Elladan and Elrohir, come too.  They're quiet, but intriguing.  And have grey eyes.  You knew I was going to mention that, of course.  And I did.

Interestingly, Aragorn says that the Men of the Mountains "had worshipped Sauron in the Dark Years" (p. 765).  As far as I can remember, that's the only time the word "worship" gets used in this whole trilogy.  They talk about power, they talk about Sauron having control of places and people, but I do not recall any other place where someone is said to have worshiped him.  Hmm.

Poor Eowyn.  She yearns for Aragorn so much, and he keeps trying to tell her that his heart is not available.  He even tells her, "Were I go to where my heart dwells, far in the North I would now be wandering in the fair valley of Rivendell" (p. 766).  And yet, she still keeps hoping.  She really makes me so very sad -- I'm glad a happy ending awaits her!  Still, maybe Aragorn could have been a little more direct and said, "I'm in love with someone else."  Stopped paying her compliments like, "I walked in this land ere you were born to grace it" (p. 766).

But moving right along, there's one thing about the whole Paths of the Dead section that has always bugged me.  Legolas says he will go with Aragorn because he "[does] not fear the Dead" (p. 764).  And when they reach the Dark Door, it says "there was not a heart among them that did not quail, unless it were the heart of Legolas of the Elves, for whom the ghosts of Men have no terror" (p. 769).  But what about Elladan and Elrohir?  They're Elves too!  Has Tolkien totally forgotten about them for a while?  I kind of feel like he has, because a few paragraphs later, Gimli says, "Here is a thing unheard of... An Elf will go underground and a Dwarf dare not!" (p. 769).  Shouldn't he say, "Three elves will go underground" instead?  And then at the end of the chapter, it says, "No other mortal Men could have endured it, none but the Dunedain of the North, and with them Gimli the Dwarf and Legolas of the Elves" (p. 772).  AND Elrohir and Elladan!  (I actually have that written in my copy.)  Is he just lumping them in with the Dunedain?  I know Elrond is Half-Elven, but wasn't his wife Elvish?  So then his kids are... three-quarters Elven?  Legolas does remark earlier that "they are fair and gallant as Elven-lords" (p. 759) -- does that mean they're not Elven-lords?  I am so confused.  That's our Possible Discussion Question for this chapter:  what is going on here????

One last thing:  I so sympathize with Gimli.  As they walk the Paths of the Dead, "he was ever hindmost, pursued by a groping horror that seemed always just about to seize him" (p. 770).  That is exactly what chases me up the stairs if I have to be the last one going to bed at night.

Favorite Lines:

"He was tall, a dark standing shadow" (p. 757).

More than ever he missed the unquenchable cheerfulness of Pippin (p. 762).

And she answered:  "All your words are but to say:  you are a woman, and your part is in the house.  But when the men have died in battle and honour, you have leave to be burned in the house, for the men will need it no more.  But I am of the House of Eorl and not a serving-woman.  I can ride and wield blade, and I do not fear either pain or death" (p. 767).

Monday, April 21, 2014

LOTR Read-Along: Minas Tirith (ROTK Ch. 1)

Time to get back to Middle Earth!  Now that Easter is over, with all its attendant busy-ness, I'm ready at last for The Return of the King.  Which seems very fitting, now that I think of it, since Easter is all about King Jesus returning from the dead.  Randomly great timing!

Here we are at Minas Tirith at last.  This chapter makes me a little melancholy, first because it should be Boromir returning to aid the city he loves, and second because Minas Tirith is a very sad place.  It's half empty, even before the women and children leave, a withering place filled with long grief.

Anyway, we get to learn about about one of my favorite minor characters:  Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth!  Tolkien says that his folk are "tall men and proud with sea-grey eyes" (p. 734).  How sea-grey eyes are different from just grey eyes is beyond me, but maybe they're got a bit of blue to them?  My husband and my 2-year-old have blue-grey eyes, so maybe they're descendants of the people of Belfalas :-D  Later on in the chapter, Prince Imrahil arrives, and we also learn he's a kinsman of Denethor.  In fact, if I recall correctly, he had a claim to the stewardship of Gondor if Denethor and both his sons had fallen.

But getting back to Boromir.  Gandalf says that Denethor "loved him greatly:  too much perhaps; and the more so because they were unlike" (p. 737).  That's such a relief to me!  Denethor is this dreadful, lurking spider sort of person and I really can't stand him, so I'm very relieved that we get an explicit report here that Boromir was unlike him.  Also, I just this minute realized that meant that, who knows, Gandalf may have met up with Boromir before!  He's been to Minas Tirith before, obviously, and so... this is just my fanfic-writer self flaring up and getting all pleased at imagining a brief encounter between the two, possibly so inconsequential Boromir doesn't even remember it later, but that gave Gandalf insight into his character even before he "journeyed far with him and learned much of his mood" (p. 738).

We get some cool insight into Gandalf and his purpose in Middle Earth here too.  He tells Denethor that "the rule of no realm is mine, neither of Gondor nor any other, great or small.  But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care.  And for my part, I shall not wholly fail of my task, though Gondor should perish, if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come.  For I also am a steward" (p. 742).  I love that idea of Gandalf as the steward and caretaker of all Middle Earth.

Also, I think my favorite moment in this book is when Gandalf laughs suddenly, and Pippin looks up at him and sees that "under all there was a great joy:  a fountain of mirth enough to set a kingdom laughing, were it to gush forth" (p. 742).  I think that might be the moment where Gandalf first became one of my favorites.  I love happy people, being overall quite cheerful myself, and that joy lurking under his solemnity is so delightful.

And here at last is the answer to my question about Faramir's ability to "read" Gollum back in the last book!  Gandalf says that "the blood of Westernesse runs nearly true" in both Denethor and Faramir, and that Denethor "has long sight.  He can perceive, if he bends his will thither, much of what is passing in the minds of men" (p. 742-43).  I assume since Faramir has an equal amount of Westernesse-ness with Denethor, he can do the same.

Goodness, this is getting long!  And I haven't even mentioned Beregond and his splendid son Bergil.  Such a meaty chapter!  (And a long one.)  I really like Bergil -- he's just about the only youngster in this book, isn't he?  And he's such a cheerful kid.  I'd like to hang out with him myself.

Favorite Lines:

"Courage will now be your best defence against the storm that is at hand -- that and such hope as I bring" (p. 733).

"If you have walked all these days with closed ears and mind asleep, wake up now!" (p. 737).

"The Darkness has begun.  There will be no dawn" (p. 755).

Possible Discussion Questions:

When Gandalf and Pippin are still on their way to Minas Tirith, "Shadowfax paused in his stride, slowing to a walk, and then he lifted up his head and neighed.  And out of the darkness the answering neigh of other horses came; and presently the thudding of hoofs was heard, and three riders swept up and passed like flying ghosts int he moon and vanished into the West" (p. 732-33).  What is that all about?  Who are those three riders?  What and who am I forgetting here?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

"Edmund Bertram's Diary" by Amanda Grange

Sigh.  I suppose that if Jane Austen herself couldn't make Edmund Bertram interesting to me, there wasn't much hope that Amanda Grange could.  Still, I had hoped.

Oh well.  This is a very nice book, if not one that I clasped to my bosom with exclamations of joy.  And that's all I really expected:  a nice retelling of Mansfield Park from Edmund's point of view.  It's not Amanda Grange's fault that Edmund is an extremely dull person.  She did her best with what she had to work with.

This is the sixth book I've read and reviewed for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  G.  Very clean and proper.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

We Have a Winner!

Congratulations, Heidi P, Lady of Anorien!  You won the book of Tolkien Trivia!  I'm emailing you right now to ask for your address.

All yours, Heidi!

Everyone else who entered -- better luck next time!

Monday, April 14, 2014

"Jane Austen's England" by Roy and Lesley Adkins

I'm not entirely sure how well I liked this book.  On the one hand, it was as thorough a look at life in England during the late 18th and early 19th century as I could have ever wished.  On the other hand, it wasn't tied to Jane Austen's life and books nearly as much as I had expected.  They did include things from her letters quite a bit, and occasionally her books, but there were several times where I thought, "Hey, that's like something that happened in such-and-such book," and they never mentioned it.  Also, many of the chapters ended very abruptly, without so much as a sentence or two of wrap-up, which made the book as a whole feel a little disjointed.

However, if you want to learn a whole lot about what life was like in upper, middle, and lower classes in England of that day, this would be an invaluable tool.  If you happen to be writing a book set during that time, I would highly recommend it.  And if you love discussing whether or not a movie adaptation of an Austen book gets all the minor details of hair, clothes, dancing, decorum, farming, etc. correct, you would probably learn a lot of useful stuff here.  However, if you're hoping to learn more about things specifically mentioned in Jane Austen's books, this is not the book for you.  Go read What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew instead.

This is a meticulously researched book, with exhaustive citations that I wish had been footnotes, but instead were all end notes.  That meant I had to have a second bookmark so I could flip back constantly to see if there was any extra info included or if it was just a citation.  But that's a minor quibble.

All in all, I think this was well-researched, if not always well-written.  Parts of it nearly made me cry, especially descriptions of how horribly young children of the lowest classes could be treated, forced to work in coal mines, factories, as chimney climbers, etc.  Horrifying.  I'm so glad I live now instead of then!  

In fact, that might be the best recommendation I can make for this book:  that it's a must-read for those who read Jane Austen's books and watch movie adaptations of them and think that those characters lived in an elegant, refined, gentle, world that was in all ways superior to ours because life and people were just nicer back then.  When, as this book shows, the truth is that even the rich lived in what we would now consider to be dirty and unsanitary conditions, wearing the same clothes over and over, bathing very seldom (if at all), and in many recorded cases, only changing their undergarments when they rotted.  They often ate food we would now throw away because it's disgusting or dangerous, didn't understand the importance of not polluting drinking water with human waste, and received indifferent or downright destructive medical care, many dying young and often painfully.  To quote Thomas Hobbes, life in Jane Austen's day was mainly "nasty, brutish, and short." 

I am so, so glad I didn't live back then.

If This Was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for discussing scary, gross, and sexual aspects of life.

This is my second book read and reviewed for the History Reading Challenge, and my fifth for the Mount TBR Challenge.

Friday, April 11, 2014

"The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" by Robert Louis Stevenson

Wow.  I'd never read this before, and it was not what I was expecting!  I mean, I knew the basic story (nice Dr. Jekyll creates a potion that turns him into evil Mr. Hyde), but I had no idea how introspective and philosophical it would get about human nature.

Yes.  I'm thirty-three, I've been reading classics since I was a little kid, and I'd never read this novella.  In fact, until a few years ago, I thought it was written by H. G. Wells!  Which is probably why I thought it would be both more sci-fi and more scary than it is.  This is not a scary book.  Well, not today.  I do like imagining what it must have been like to read this when it was first published.  When you didn't know the basic story, and you got to that reveal where Hyde turns into Jekyll before another character's eyes -- how freaky was that?

We're kind of used to the idea now.  The normal, nice, helpful guy with the rage monster inside him.  I've long thought that the whole idea of the Incredible Hulk draws heavily on this story.  Like Dr. Jekyll, Dr. Bruce Banner delves too greedily and too deep into the mysteries of science and medicine.  By so doing, he unleashes a beast from within his own self.  Like Mr. Hyde, the Hulk acts mostly from his primitive instinct to protect himself.  Now, unlike Dr. Jekyll, Dr. Banner can choose to unleash his inner Hulk.  And unlike Dr. Banner and his freak gamma ray accident, Dr. Jekyll chose to transform himself into the loathesome Mr. Hyde.  He enjoyed it, he deliberately transformed over and over -- at first.  And unlike Mr. Hyde, the Hulk isn't a homicidal maniac.  But both Dr. Banner and Dr. Jekyll had that monster within themselves all along.  Dr. Banner is always angry.  Dr. Jekyll has always enjoyed indulging in secret pleasures and vices. 

In fact, that's what I find the most interesting about this book:  the way it explores the idea of original sin.  If you're not familiar with the term, it's the Christian concept that all humans have inherited a sinful nature from their parents.  The Bible says, "Surely I am sinful from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me" (Psalm 51:5).  We all are capable of evil -- we all sin every day.  Maybe we can hide it, maybe we can fool ourselves into thinking it doesn't matter.  But it's there.  Dr. Jekyll created an elixir that could distill his evil nature, make his "better self" disappear while his "worse self" came to the foreground.  But that worse self had always been there, it had merely been disguised.

Particularly Good Bits:

The inhabitants were all doing well, it seemed, and all emulously hoping to do better still, and laying out the surplus of their gains in coquetry, so that the shop fronts stood along that thoroughfare with an air of invitation, like rows of smiling saleswomen (p. 8).

"If he be Mr. Hyde," he had thought, "I shall be Mr. Seek" (p. 19).

It was a wild, cold seasonable night of March, with a pale moon, lying on her back as though the wind had tilted her, and a flying wrack of the most diaphanous and lawny texture (p. 48).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for oblique descriptions of sinful behavior and for mildly scary imagery.

This is my seventh book read and reviewed for The Classics Club and my fourth for the Mount TBR Challenge.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

"The Two Towers" -- Book vs. Movie: A Guest Post by James

Hello again, this is James The Movie Reviewer from the movie review and all around geek blog J and J Productions. Again a big thanks goes to Hamlette for giving me the chance to write another guest post for her blog. Today I will be discussing some of the more notable changes that Peter Jackson made to The Two Towers when adapting it into a film. All comparisons between the Book and Movie refer to the Extended Edition only, not the theatrical edition.

Two of the most notable changes made from book to film actually stem from one central aspect that affects how the entire story plays out to a degree: the power of the One Ring. While not obvious at first glance, the minute changes in how powerful the One Ring is in the film compared to the book drastically affects how the characters act.

Faramir, or as I like to call him "Faramir the Cheated," is one of the characters that has arguably been changed the most. However, this rather large change can be attributed to mostly one part, Faramir's encounter with the Hobbits. Not only did it redefine Faramir's character, it vastly changed the sequence of events. 

In the movie Faramir is greatly tempted by the Ring and starts to take Frodo and the Ring to Denethor in Minis Tirith. Conversely, in the book, he quickly decides to help Frodo and Sam on their journey. Unlike his brother Boromir, Faramir is shown to have great fortitude in the book, despite not being the "Favorite Son," which is a story aspect that played a large role behind his choices in the films. However, in the movie, Faramir is an antagonist. His character was changed for several reasons, one being that the Ring in the movie is portrayed as being even more powerful of an evil influence than the more subtle evil of the book, which works much better in the visual medium of film. If Faramir was able to resist the influence of the Ring easily it would have undermined the power of the Ring without extensive exposition. In the movie, even Aragorn was briefly tempted by the Ring and he is among the most noble of the human race. 

Possibly the most important reason for the change, which was even said by Peter Jackson himself, is that Frodo and Sam needed some form of conflict in the second film, since the conflict at Shelob's Lair was moved to the third movie. If there was no change, Frodo and Sam would have had a nearly uneventful journey to the pass of Cirith Ungol. Overall the change could have been handled better, but from a film-making standpoint it is mostly understandable.

Another highly controversial change that Peter Jackson made is the scene where Frodo commands Sam to leave his company and return to the Shire on their journey up the Stairs of Cirith Ungol. (While the entire event was moved to the third film this had little effect on the actual plot because The Lord of the Rings is one epic story split into three books for marketing purposes.)  In the book, Frodo and Sam are tricked by Gollum/Sméagol to travel up the Stairs of Cirith Ungol to Shelob's Lair. After reaching Shelob's Lair, Gollum sneaks away and leaves the Hobbits for Shelob to devour. Frodo and Sam are chased by the spider, and Frodo is then poisoned by Shelob's paralyzing venom. Sam follows close behind and fights off the creature to save Frodo. 

However, in the movie, Gollum/Sméagol takes the last piece of Lembas Bread and throws it off the cliff while the Hobbits are sleeping, thus framing Sam as the culprit. Because of this, Frodo forces Sam to leave and return home since Frodo believes Sam betrayed him. This is completely out of character for Frodo compared to the book; their friendship is much too strong for Frodo to even consider dismissing Sam. Again however, this is likely due to the more powerful nature of the Ring. Frodo is clearly entranced by the Power of the Ring when he sends Sam off. In the book, the Ring is certainly powerful and affects Frodo's judgment several times but it does not seem to have such a powerful aura of evil compared to the movies where almost everyone in contact with it is corrupted by its evil. Other than the more visible Power of the Ring, another likely cause for the change is to add more drama and suspense when Frodo enters Shelob's Lair. With the consideration of the Ring's more powerful nature in the film, the change is mostly reasonable, albeit not entirely necessary.

Although purist fans of the Lord of the Rings books may be annoyed by changes made in the film adaptations, many of these alterations are reasonable when all aspects are considered, particularly the Power of the One Ring. While the books retain their respected position in fantasy literature, the director had to be guided by his goal to produce a suspenseful and visually stunning film. The enormous popularity of the three Lord of the Rings films is ample evidence of his success in this endeavor.

(Hamlette's note:  Thanks for another insightful comparison post, James!  Everyone else, if you want to read more movie and TV reviews like this, plus discussions of geeky things in general, check out his blog, J and J Productions -- he's one of the most prolific bloggers I know!  And don't forget to enter my giveaway here.)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

LOTR Read-Along Giveaway #2

Well, here we are at the end of the second book.  Huzzah!  As promised, here's another celebratory giveaway.  Once again, you don't have to have participated in the read-along to enter, but you'll gain extra points if you've been involved at all.  

What am I giving away this time?  A cool little book called Tolkien Trivia:  A Middle-Earth Miscellany by William MacKay.  Here's a picture of the cover:

And here's what it looks like inside:

That shows you how it's set up, with questions on the right-hand page, and the answers to those questions on the reverse of the page so you can't cheat while reading it.  It's simply crammed with nifty tidbits -- I got my husband a copy for Christmas, and we both had so much fun reading it I decided to get another copy to give away here.  So, enter via the widget below, and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway runs from today through the end of Monday, April 14, 2014.  I'll draw a winner on April 15.  PLEASE be sure you've provided a CURRENT email address to this Rafflecopter widget so that when I email the winner, they actually get the notification that they've won!  This is open world-wide.  If the winner doesn't respond to my notification within one week (by April 22, 2014, in other words), I will draw a different winner and the first one will be out of luck.

LOTR Read-Along: The Choices of Master Samwise (TTT Ch. 21)

How far we have come.  More specifically, how far Samwise Gamgee has come.  He began as a humble gardener, a simple hobbit, but now, thanks to his "indomitable spirit" (p. 713) and his rage over what has happened to his dear Master Frodo, he not only faces down a terrifying monster, he prevails against her with "a fury... greater than any she had known in countless years" (p. 711).

And yet, once Shelob disappears, so does Sam's sudden transformation.  "Sam was left alone," (p. 713) and as he kneels beside Frodo, he says what I think are the saddest words in this whole trilogy:  "Don't go where I can't follow!" (p. 713).  That gets to me every time.  I'm tearing up all over again as I flip through the pages to write this post.

One thing I never noticed before in this chapter, though:  that Sam briefly considers trying to follow Frodo.  "He looked on the bright point of the sword.  He thought of the place behind where there was a black brink and an empty fall into nothingness" (p. 715).  WHY did I never catch on before that, for a moment, Sam wonders if he's more an antique Roman than a hobbit?  Of course, he instantly sees that "[t]here was no escape that way" (p. 715) and starts figuring out what he should do next.

And another interesting thing I never noticed before.  When Sam puts on the ring, Tolkien says, "[c]ertainly the Ring had grown greatly in power as it approached the places of its forging; but one thing it did not confer, and that was courage" (p. 717).  How interesting that having power -- even awesome, earth-shattering power -- doesn't give you courage.  Power is not courage.  Such a cool observation.

And... we did it!  We finished The Two Towers!!!  I always feel like this is the hardest one to get through, so it's all getting more fun from here on out.  But, just like when we finished The Fellowship of the Ring, I'm going to take a break for about a week... and host a giveaway :-)  Go here to see what the prize is and enter, if you like!

Favorite Lines:

Sam did not wait to wonder what was to be done, or whether he was brave, or loyal, or filled with rage (p. 711).

"Will he?" said Sam.  "you're forgetting the great big elvish warrior that's loose!" (p. 724).

Possible Discussion Questions:

When Sam learns that Frodo is still alive, he reprimands himself with this:  "The trouble with you is that you never really had any hope" (p. 723).  What on earth?  Sam's the most hopeful character here!  Does he not see that himself?  What do you think this part's supposed to mean?

Monday, April 7, 2014

LOTR Read-Along: Shelob's Lair (TTT Ch. 20)

You'd think this would be one of my least-favorite chapters, what with this having a giant spider in it and me loathing spiders so much.  But actually, I find it quite exciting.  Maybe it's just the change after all that endless walking and climbing?  It helps that even though the text talks about her enormous legs and that she's spider-like, my imagination kind of turns her more into a crab and saves me from getting too creeped out.

Anyway, I think I'm never fonder of Frodo than I am here, when he holds up Galadriel's Phial and his sword and advances toward Shelob.  Wow!  That's so courageous.  

I find the bit of backstory on Shelob really fascinating.  She "was there before Sauron" (p. 707) -- craziness!  I'm definitely going to read The Silmarillion later this year, after I've finished this trilogy.  Speaking of finishing... one more chapter, and we're done with The Two Towers!!!  Woo!  

Random other thing:  it says here that Sam is smaller than Gollum!  Not how I picture them (thanks to the movies).  Huh.

Favorite Lines:

They walked as it were in a black vapour wrought of veritable darkness itself that, as it was breathed, brought blindness not only to the eyes but to the mind, so that even the memory of colours and of forms and of any light faded out of thought.  Night always had been, and always would be, and night was all (p. 702).

Then holding the star aloft and the bright sword advanced, Frodo, hobbit of the Shire, walked steadily down to meet the eyes (p. 705).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Tolkien says Sam hides the Phial out of "his long habit of secrecy" (p. 709).  I don't recall Sam being secretive -- I tend to think of him as rather open.  Does this strike you as incongruous?  Or am I missing the secretiveness up until now?

Friday, April 4, 2014

I Got the Liebster Award!

Ruth at A Great Book Study has nominated me for the Liebster Award!  Thank you, Ruth :-)

The Rules:

*Thank the blogger that nominated you and link back to their blog.
*Display the award somewhere on your blog.
*List 11 facts about yourself.
*Answer 11 questions chosen by the blogger who nominated you.
*Come up with 11 new questions to ask your nominees.
*Nominate 5-11 blogs that you think deserve the award and who have less than 1,000 followers. You may nominate blogs that have already received the award, but you cannot re-nominate the blog that nominated you. Go to their blog and inform them that they've been nominated.

Here are my 11 random facts:

1.  My favorite pizza topping is pepperoni.
2.  I've never read a book by Leo Tolstoy.
3.  I really don't like the color orange.
4.  I love to swim.
5.  I've never turned a cartwheel.
6.  My two favorite TV shows lasted 5 seasons each and both have one-word titles (Combat! and Angel).
7.  I love thrift stores.  I tend to buy more books than clothes there.
8.  I like refilling the dishwasher, but I don't care for emptying it.
9.  I don't like fake vanilla scent, like candles and body sprays.  Blech.
10.  I love to wear t-shirts that relate to movies or books I love.
11.  I've done enough awards like this that I'm having a hard time figuring out new random facts about myself.

Here are Ruth's 11 questions for me:

1. Share a favorite quote from a book or author.

"I went out to the kitchen to make coffee.  Yards of coffee.  Rich, bitter, boiling hot, ruthless, depraved.  The life-blood of tired men."  from The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler.

2. Is there a book you have disliked immensely? Which one, and why?

I really can't stand Lord of the Flies.  I found it too weird and depressing and creepy.

3. Why did you start blogging? Has your purpose changed? How did you come up with the name for your blog?

I started my first blog (Hamlette's Soliloquy) as a way to share my thoughts about random things with whoever wanted to read them.  I started this blog here as a way to organize and collect my book reviews.  I now blog mostly so I can discuss movies and books with other people.  I named my first blog after my favorite Shakespeare play and the idea that a soliloquy is a speech a character makes to the audience, but not to anyone else in the play, which is a lot like a blog.  And I got this blog's name from an F. Scott Fitzgerald quote that I have on a bookmark -- I loved the quote even before I started reading Fitzgerald's work and enjoying his writing.

4. Have you ever counted how many books you own? If not, estimate.

I haven't counted them for a long time.  If you don't count picture books, but do count junior fiction and YA as well as novels, history, poetry... I'd guess around 900 by now.

5. Which author have you read the most?

Hmm.  Most individual books by would probably be Patrick O'Brian or Rex Stout.

6. Which book have you reread the most?

Probably The Black Stallion by Walter Farley.  For years, it was my absolute favorite book, though I recently realized I love Jane Eyre and The Count of Monte Cristo more.

7. Do you have a memorable childhood book?

I adore The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins by Dr. Seuss.

8. Have you ever imagined an actor/actress to play a character in a book you were reading? (For example, I always thought Sharon Stone would make a great Dominique Francon in the Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.)

Not counting books that have been made into movies, I assume.  I kept seeing James Drury as Lassiter in Riders of the Purple Sage -- that's the most recent instance I can think of.  But I'm always seeing actors/actresses in different roles, it's kind of second nature to me.

9. Is there a book you would like to see in film version, permitting they kept it true to the book.

That's never had a movie version?  I'd LOVE it if they made The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society into a movie.  Especially if they cast Chris Hemsworth as Dawsey Adams.

10. Name a character from classic lit that you would love to be neighbors with.

I'd love to live next door to Lucy and George Emerson.  I think they'd be lovely to be friends with, and we could take turns having each other over for supper.

11. What book are you avoiding, and why?

I'm avoiding a lot of books.  I'm going to take this to mean a book I feel like I ought to read, but can't get myself to start, and for that I'll go with War and Peace.

And now, I hereby nominate the following bloggers for the Liebster Award:

Brona Joy at Brona's Books
Elizabeth at The Borrowed Book
Kiri Liz at A Hundred and One Titles
Lily at Authoress in the Making
Livia Rachelle at Rose Petals and Faerie Dust

Here are my 11 questions for you to answer:

1.  Who is your favorite poet, and why?
2.  What movie character would you recast if you could?
3.  Do you think mice are nice?
4.  What "universally beloved" fictional character do you not care much for?
5.  Do you prefer sci-fi or fantasy?
6.  Have you ever been in a police car?
7.  Are there any movies or books you thought you'd hate, and discovered you liked instead?
8.  What's the oldest book you've ever read?
9.  What's the oldest movie you've ever seen?
10.  If you could live in any fictional house/mansion/dwelling, where would you like to live?
11.  How many books have you read so far in 2014?

Okay, that's it.  If you want to play, go for it!  If you don't, I won't be crushed :-)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

LOTR Read-Along: The Stairs of Cirith Ungol (TTT Ch. 19)

I have nightmares like this chapter.  Impossibly steep steps, winding trails going through mountains -- but usually someone's chasing me in those dreams, and at least no one's directly chasing Frodo and Sam here.  Still, it's very tense and nail-biting-inducing.  

And I'm very sad over the moment where Gollum comes up to the sleeping Frodo and is almost a hobbit-like creature again, quiet and old and pitiable.  And then Sam wakes up and speaks less-than-kindly too him and, without knowing it, pretty much sets Gollum's feet irretrievably on the path to doom and giant spiders.  Phooey.

Favorite Lines:

Frodo and Sam were plodding along with heavy hearts, no longer able to care greatly about their peril (p. 688).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Can you believe we're only two chapters away from the end of the book?  This went a lot faster than I was expecting, to be honest!