Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Another LOTR Read-Along: Treebeard (TTT 3, 4)

This is such a relaxing chapter after all the tense excitement of the last few. I think my favorite image is Treebeard standing under his waterfall shower as Merry and Pippin go to sleep.
"The lights died down, and the glow of the trees faded; but outside under the arch they could see old Treebeard standing, motionless, with his arms raised above his head. The bright stars peered out of the sky, and lit the falling water as it spilled on to his fingers and head, and dripped, dripped, in hundreds of silver drops on to his feet. Listening to the tinkling of the drops the hobbits fell asleep" (p. 467).
The Ents are so original, aren't they? Wizards, goblins, orcs, giant spiders -- you find them other places. But Ents? Totally just Tolkien. However, with their non-hasty ways, they do frustrate me sometimes. I want to jump up and down and yell, "Get on with it already!" Which they would not appreciate, I'm sure.

I find the story of the loss of the Entwives terribly sad. I always want there to be some bit in the Appendices saying that they returned. I think because I can identify with the Entwives, who "desired order, and plenty, and peace (by which they meant that things should remain where they had set them)" (p. 465). I desire that too, especially the last bit. In a house with three kids, far too many things don't remain where I set them.

Interesting that Trolls are counterfeit Ents created by the Great Enemy, even as Orcs are mock versions of Elves.

Treebeard had never heard of hobbits. Merry and Pippin had never heard of Ents. And yet, they begin to trust each other when they learn that all three of them are friends of Gandalf. This reminds me so much of how, when I meet a new person at church, I'm generally much more at ease around them than I am around strangers in other settings. The fact that we both know Jesus gives us something so wonderful in common! (I'm not saying Gandalf = Jesus, I'm just saying this reminded me of that.)

Random other fun thing I found on the internet:

Favorite Lines:

Treebeard rumbled for a moment, as if he were pronouncing some deep, subterranean Entish malediction" (p. 462).

" is easier to shout stop! than to do it" (p. 463).

Discussion Questions:

Do you find the Ents sensible in their slow, cautions ponderings? Or do you want them to get a move on?

Do you yourself often consider decisions for a long time, or do you make up your mind quickly?

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

"No Middle Name" by Lee Child

It's official:  I want to be Jack Reacher.

That basically never happens to me.  Only once in the bluest of blue moons do I encounter a fictional character I want to be, but Jack Reacher is one of those.  I've read two novels about him, The Enemy and The Affair.  And now I've read this collection of short stories, which span his life from his teen years to present, and zowie!  I loved this book.  And this character.

Rather than try to review each story, I'll just tell you my five favorites, and a little about each of those.  They are:

+ "Second Son" -- Thirteen-year-old Reacher solves big problems for his dad and his older brother.  I loved how fiercely intelligent he is, and yet still believable as a teen guy.

+ "High Heat" -- Sixteen-year-old Reacher takes on a New York City mafia boss.  He's so confident, and yet not entirely sure of himself, still growing into himself.

+ James Penney's New Identity" -- Reacher changes a man's life.  Most of this one focuses on a new character, and Reacher only comes into the story at the end, but in an awesome way.

+ "Everyone Talks" -- Reacher takes on a small-town mafia.  I loved the twists to this story.

+ "No Room at the Motel" -- Reacher gives strangers a merry Christmas.  Just sweet and adorable.  He deserves a hug.

Why do I want to be Jack Reacher? I suppose because he possesses a very specific skill set that I don't, he's honorable and kind, and he champions those who need a champion.  But mostly that first bit.

Particularly Good Bits:

At nearly seventeen Reacher was like a brand-new machine, still gleaming and dewy with oil, flexible, supple, perfectly coordinated, like something developed by NASA and IBM on behalf of the Pentagon ("High Heat," p. 115).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for most stories due to violence and a few bad words, but R for "High Heat" due to sexual content.  "No Room at the Motel" would be a G.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Another LOTR Read-Along: The Uruk-hai (TTT 3, 3)

This is one of the most tense chapters for me. Poor Pippin and Merry, in the grip of a foe so fierce even Boromir couldn't withstand them. What chance do two little Hobbits have?

Anyway, this is the chapter where I really start to be a Pippin fan. Up to now, he's just kind of there, being a bit silly and adorable now and then. With Merry knocked on the head and mostly out of commission, Pippin steps up and shows he has considerable wits and courage of his own. He cuts his wrists free and then makes it look like they're still tied, thinks of dropping his brooch to show any followers that he and Merry are still alive, remembers they can eat lembas for strength if they escape, and messes with Grishnakh to make him think they're carrying the ring. Way to go, Pippin!

And we also learn that Merry is quite fierce -- before Boromir came to their aid when they first encountered the Uruk-hai, "Merry had cut off several of their arms and hands" (p. 434). Wow! I'm impressed.

Favorite Lines:

"What good have I been? Just a nuisance: a passenger, a piece of luggage" (p. 435).

Evil dreams and evil waking were blended into a long tunnel of misery, with hope growing ever fainter behind (p. 440).

Discussion Questions:

Who do you like better, Merry or Pippin? Or do you like them both equally?

Saturday, January 27, 2018

My Life in Books Tag + Vlog

I've seen this tag all over the place, most recently on Coffee, Classics, and Craziness.  Though I haven't been tagged with it, I thought it would be a fun one to do with a vlog!  Ever since I posted those vlogs for the AMA answers on my other blog, I've been looking for something else to do a short vlog for.  My phone camera wasn't behaving the greatest, though, so I ended up answering only three questions in vlog form, each one individually with little, short videos.  Which was fun too.  So here we go! 

(Photo by Hamlette)

The Questions:

Find a book for each of your initials.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Laura by Vera Caspary
Kim by Rudyard Kipling

Count your age along your bookshelf... What book is it?

Pick a book set in your country.

I'll go one better and pick a book set in the state where I currently reside.  Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry takes place in Virginia.

Pick a book that represent a destination you'd love to travel to.

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery!  I'd love to visit PEI someday.

Pick a book that is your favorite color.

Which book do you have fondest memories of?

Probably The Littlest Snowman by Charles Tazewell.  I made my parents read it to me ad infinitum when I was little.  When they didn't have time (or patience) to read it to me yet again, I would just stare at the pictures.  This was my favorite:

Which book did you have the most difficulty reading?

It's a toss-up between Hood by Stephen R. Lawhead and Papillon by Henri Charriere.  Both of them took me MONTHS to get through, which is ridiculous considering that neither of them were particularly long or difficult.  But I had trouble staying interested in both of them.

Which book on your TBR pile will give you the biggest accomplishment when you read it?

Thanks for reading and watching!  I hereby tag anyone who wants to do this tag :-)

Friday, January 26, 2018

Another LOTR Read-Along: The Riders of Rohan (TTT 3, 2)

The title of this chapter has a smiley face beside it in my copy. It's another of my favorites, as you'll see by how many fave lines I list below.

I'm always so glad that, immediately after taking away my Boromir, Tolkien introduces another of my favorite characters. I am, of course, referring to Eothain, that paragon of charm and tact and good cheer. Open-hearted, kindly, friendly Eothain.

You're right, I'm totally not referring to Eothain. He's kind of a jerk. I mean Eomer, of course! Wonderful Eomer, "in manner and tone like to the speech of Boromir, Man of Gondor" (p. 421). Hmm, no wonder he's one of my favorites! Also, Eomer seems to have met Boromir, as he talks about seeing him, calls him "a worthy man" (p. 425), and laments his death.

Side note -- I love so much how every time someone learns about Boromir's death, they loudly mourn his loss. Here, Eomer says such lovely things that I can't resist quoting them:
"Your news is all of woe!" cried Eomer in dismay. "Great harm is this death to Minas Tirith, and to us all. That was a worthy man! All spoke his praise. He came seldom to the Mark, for he was ever in the wars on the East-borders; but I have seen him. More like to the swift sons of Eorl than to the grave Men of Gondor he seemed to me, and likely to prove a great captain of his people when his time came" (p. 425).
(And here you thought that once Boromir had died, I would shut up about him. Nope! Not gonna happen.)

Know who else is wonderful in this chapter? Aragorn. Isn't he cool, listening to the ground to hear how far away the orcs are? And when they've been hunting for simply days, he's described the same way here as he was back in Moria. It says here that "Aragorn walked behind [Gimli], grim and silent" (p. 418), and back in "A Journey in the Dark" it says, "In the dark at the rear, grim and silent, walked Aragorn" (p. 302). It seems I really love Aragorn when he's being grim and silent, as I both that chapter and this are some of my favorite sections.

And I love Legolas in this chapter, don't you? Seeing such impossible details of things very far away. I always laugh when Aragorn spots the Riders of Rohan, and we're all impressed that he can see things that are so far away. And then Legolas casually one-ups him with, "there are one hundred and five. Yellow is their hair, and bright are their spears. Their leader is very tall" (p. 420). Cracks me up.

And I love Gimli here too. He's so sweet! First he says, "The thought of those merry young folk driven like cattle burns my heart" (p. 414). And then he's so sad over the fact that Merry and Pippin are probably dead that he says, "My legs must forget the miles. They would be more willing, if my heart were less heavy" (p. 418). This, from the stoic Dwarf, is a lot of emotion.

I think one of the reasons that the Rohirrim are my favorite culture in Middle Earth is pretty well summed up by Eomer here: "we desire only to be free, and to live as we have lived, keeping our own, and serving no foreign lord, good or evil" (p. 423). That's a pretty good description of how I want to live my own life.

And we find out here once and for all that the Rohirrim are not giving or sending horses to Sauron. The Orcs have stolen some, but that is all. Finally we can put that evil rumor to rest. Whew.

Favorite Lines:

"Ah! the green smell!" he said. "It is better than much sleep. Let us run!" (p. 414) (I sometimes say this when I'm hiking in the woods with my kids. And then regret it, because they take off running and I have to run to keep up.)

"Not idly do the leaves of Lorien fall" (p. 414).

...Legolas was standing, gazing northwards into the darkness, thoughtful and silent as a young tree in a windless night (p. 416).

"What news from the North, Riders of Rohan?" (p. 421).

"Do we walk in legends or on the green earth in the daylight?" (p. 424).

"Return with what speed you may, and let our swords hereafter shine together!" (p. 429).

"There are some things that it is better to begin than to refuse, even though the end may be dark" (p. 430).

Discussion Question:

Eomer says that "the Men of the Mark do not lie, and therefore they are not easily deceived" (p. 424). Do you think that makes sense? Or would someone practiced at lying be better at spotting other people's deceit?

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Another LOTR Read-Along: The Departure of Boromir (TTT 3, 1)

You'd think this would be my least-favorite chapter, right? Except it's so glorious and brave and wonderful, that I don't hate it. At all. It just makes me cry and mourn and frown and glower a lot.

Even in death, Boromir is still magnificent. He's "pierced with many black-feathered arrows" and "his sword was still in his hand" (p. 404), which means he went down fighting to the last, and oh my goodness, how much I love him here. He killed at least twenty Orcs, trying to save the Halflings that he'd taken such good care of all along.

What are his first words to Aragorn? A confession. "'I tried to take the Ring from Frodo,' he said. 'I am sorry. I have paid'" (p. 404). In fact, this whole scene is a beautiful enactment of confession and absolution. Boromir realized his sin and repented of it earlier, and now he confesses it and is forgiven. Aragorn tells him, "Be at peace!" (p. 404), an absolution and benediction in one. I'm getting all tingly just re-reading it to type this up.

And this is the scene where I go from liking to loving Aragorn. He blames himself for everything going wrong, when he could so easily have denounced Boromir and blamed him. But he doesn't. He says, "All that I have done today has gone amiss" (p. 404), while "[t]he last words of Boromir he long kept secret" (p. 409). Wonderful guy, Aragorn.

And so they commit Boromir's body to the river and set off after the Orcs.

And here we encounter another of my favorite themes: doing what needs doing whether you have any hope of success or not. Aragorn says here, "With hope or without hope we will follow the trail of our enemies" (p. 410), echoing what he said when Gandalf fell in Moria: "'We must do without hope,' he said. 'At least we may yet be avenged'" (p. 324). This theme will pop up again later on, too. I find that so interesting, the idea that having no hope can strengthen your resolve. It's not how it's supposed to work, right? You're supposed to keep morale high and encourage people so they won't give up in despair, right? But it also feels quite true that when you have nothing left to lose, not even hope, you are willing to do almost anything.

Favorite Lines:

"An evil choice is now before us!"

"Then let us do first what we must do," said Legolas (p. 405).

"Maybe there is no right choice," said Gimli (p. 406).

The River had taken Boromir son of Denethor, and he was not seen again in Minas Tirith, standing as he used to stand upon the White Tower in the morning (p. 407).

"In Minas Tirith they endure the East Wind, but they do not ask it for tidings" (p. 408).

Discussion Questions:

Aragorn and Legolas sing a song about Boromir as they set his body adrift. Aragorn calls him "Boromir the Tall" and "Boromir the Bold," and Legolas calls him "Boromir the Fair." What do you think those descriptions say about Aragorn and Legolas themselves? Like, how did their choices of description for him reveal what they thought about him, or what they valued in him?

Do you think I'm going to shut up about Boromir now?   ;-)

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Joining the Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge 2018

I thought I wasn't going to join any more reading challenges this year, but... a lady can change her mind, right?  I'm hereby signing up for the Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge hosted by Read-at-Home-Mom.  I'm aiming to read 10 children's books published before 1980.  Junior fiction, mostly, and I know some of it will also count for my Classics Club list and/or for the Mount TBR challenge.  So yay!

Top Ten Tuesday: What Was That About, Again?

Top Ten Tuesday has moved!  It's now being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.  This is my first time participating since the move.  This week's topic is "Books I Really Liked but Can’t Remember Anything/Much About."  These are all books that I liked enough to buy a copy of and keep on my shelves, intending to reread them one day, but which I really can't remember much about anymore.

Jack and Jill -- Louisa May Alcott  (Read this as a tween, no clue anymore what it was about.)

The Wish Giver -- Bill Brittain (I vaguely remember it involved a carnival?  Read it over and over as a kid, and have the lingering feeling that I Must Keep This Because It Is Awesome.)

Playback -- Raymond Chandler  (I read about one of Chandler's books a year, so it takes me a while to cycle through them, and eventually I kind of forget what they're about.  Which makes them fresh again the next time I reread them.  I like that.)

The Tale of Despereaux -- Kate DiCamillo (I read this in my twenties and I LOVED it.  Laughed so hard over this book.  And yet, I really only remember it's about a mouse.  Time for a reread.)

Calico Bush -- Rachel Field (I have no memory of this book.  But I know I've read it.  Weird.)

The Whipping Boy -- Sid Fleischman (One of my favorite authors, and I gobbled up his books when I was a tween/teen, but I just don't recall what this one was about.)

Friday, the Rabbi Slept Late -- Harry Kemelman  (I want to read the entire series of Rabbi Small mysteries in order, maybe next year, so I'll reread this one eventually, as it's the first.)

The Heather Hills of Stonewycke -- Michael Phillips and Judith Pella  (Actually, of the six Stonewyck books, the only one I remember the plot much for is Shadows Over Stonewycke, which happens to be my favorite.  And is the only one I've read more than once.)

Catriona -- Robert Louis Stevenson  (I know it's the sequel to Kidnapped, and is also sometimes titled David Balfour, but I really don't remember anything else about it.)

In the Best Families -- Rex Stout  (I've read a couple dozen of Stout's mysteries starring Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin, and their plots often disappear from my brain after a while.  This is nice for rereads.)

Well!  That was harder than I'd expected.  I actually remembered the gist of most of the adult books I own, and had to go hunt through my junior fiction to find enough books to fill up this post.

How about you?  Any books you remember liking even though you no longer recall much about them?  Did you do a TTT list this week?

Monday, January 22, 2018

Another LOTR Read-Along: The Breaking of the Fellowship (FOTR 2, 10)

This is such a sad chapter. Boromir falls under the ring's power entirely, and Frodo spends most of the chapter being afraid to do what he must. Gloom and doom, doom and gloom.

I was rather surprised that, when everyone is giving Frodo some thinking time, Legolas not only announces he wants the decision to go to a vote, but declares that he would vote for going to Minas Tirith! I had completely forgotten that, and it just... I don't know. It feels somehow out of character, to me. Legolas is usually sort of aloof from the whole affair, just going along to help however he can, and now he's calling for votes and getting almost bossy. Maybe this another instance of "the evil of the Ring [being] already at work even in the Company" (p. 392), as Frodo put it?  Changing people's behavior, even an elf's?

But I love Sam at the end of the chapter, when he explains to everyone just what Frodo's struggle really is, and then figures out Frodo's plan to leave alone and thwarts it. Dear, dogged Sam. I especially love this part: "I'm coming too, or neither of us isn't going. I'll knock holes in all the boats first" (p. 397). I so want to hug him there.

The authors of Finding God in the Lord of the Rings, Kurt Bruner and Jim Ware, point out that people "were not made to bear the burden and experience the joys of life's journey alone. That's why God has given us the gift of companionship. The Scriptures talk of a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Such was Sam to Frodo" (p. 48). God gives us all companions to help us through life -- people obviously think about husbands and wives when they hear the whole "it is not good for man to be alone" thing in the Bible, but I don't think that refers only to finding a spouse. Into our lives come many companions. Parents, siblings, friends, spouses, co-workers, teachers, and so on. Yes, God gave Adam a wife, but he also gave Moses a brother. He gave David a best friend. He gave Elisha a mentor. He gave Naomi a daughter-in-law. All of those were companions who helped them on life's journey.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up." We'll see many instances of this verse's wisdom in the coming books, and not just relating to Frodo and Sam, but regarding other companionships too. Something to keep your eye out for.

And hey, check it out! We finished The Fellowship of the Ring!

Favorite Lines:

"Is it not a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt for so small a thing?" (p. 388)

"It would be faithless now to say farewell" (p. 393).

Discussion Questions:

Which two towers do you think the title of the next book refers to? There's this whole section in this chapter, where Frodo is seeing the world from Amon Hen, and he sees Minas Tirith, "beautiful: white-walled, many-towered, proud and fair upon its mountain seat" (p. 391). And then it says that "against Minas Tirith was set another fortress, greater and more strong" (p. 391), which turns out to be Barad-dur, Fortress of Sauron. And I kind of feel like those are the two towers. What do you think?

This book doesn't end in the same place that the movie ends. Why do you think Peter Jackson and the other writers chose to go a bit farther with their story?

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Another LOTR Read-Along: The Great River (FOTR 2, 9)

Oh my goodness. One chapter left and we'll be done with The Fellowship of the Ring!!!

Okay, anyway, this is NOT a favorite chapter of mine. And that's solely because it's where the ring begins to take serious hold of Boromir and he gets all weird. Muttering and biting his nails and arguing about everything. My poor Boromir! To quote Hamlet, "O, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown" (III, 1). Makes me all sad for him, being seized by the power of this evil thing.

Still, lots of cool stuff going on here. Especially the Argonath. I love them in the book, I love them in the movie. So majestic and grand.

I really like Aragorn in this chapter. He's the one who fears "that the Dark Lord had not been idle while they lingered in Lorien" (p. 371). I've been worried about that this whole time, with all the lengthy pit stops they keep making. Finally, someone else agrees! Time's a-wastin' here, folks!

Also, we learn here from Aragorn how Mordor has been getting horses from Rohan: he says he's heard that lately, orcs "have dared to cross the water and raid the herds and studs of Rohan" (p. 372). Why didn't he say so back in Rivendell when Gandalf was recounting Gwaihir's passing along of the scurrilous rumor that Rohan pays a tribute of horses to Mordor? Back then, Aragorn just said he was sad to hear it, and it was Boromir who stood up for Rohan, saying he would never believe such a thing because "[t]hey love their horses next to their kin" (p. 256).

But anyway, we also have a grand moment here where Legolas shoots one of the Fell Beasts. Hooray for Legolas!

Favorite Lines:

"Time flows on to a spring of little hope" (p. 379).

"It is not the way of the Men of Minas Tirith to desert their friends at need" (p. 380).

Discussion Questions:

Aragorn says, "How my heart yearns for Minas Anor and the walls of my own city!" (p. 384). We learned earlier that Minas Anor is the original name of Minas Tirith, which is the capitol city of Gondor now, but was once the capitol of the whole realm. Should Aragorn become king, he would sit there on the throne that Boromir's father Denethor has been keeping as Steward.

So my question is this: do you think when Aragorn says "the walls of my own city," he means Minas Tirith/Anor is his home town in a way, and he yearns for it because it's a place he belongs, or does he more mean that he yearns to have a city to call his own? To have his own city?

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Another LOTR Read-Along: Farewell to Lorien (FOTR 2, 8)

At the beginning of this chapter, they decide to leave. It takes them eleven pages in my copy to actually do so. Lothlorien must be a very charming place indeed!

I always feel so very sad for Sam here, because he missed out on learning how the Elves make rope. A completely missed opportunity, one he's obviously not going to have again, and one he didn't even have the chance of either accepting or rejecting. It's just, "Oh, you like making rope? Too bad we didn't know." Makes me kind of depressed on his behalf.

Random thing that makes me happy: Boromir says, "I have myself been at whiles in Rohan" (p. 365). I love that he's been hanging out there -- he's such a staunch defender of the Rohirrim too, whenever anyone starts in on the whole "I think the Rohirrim have been sending horses to Sauron" nonsense. You know Boromir is my most beloved character in these books, but I'm not sure I've mentioned that I love Rohan more than the other cultures. Even above the Shire, for the most part. So I'm very pleased that my favorite character has spent lots of time where I myself would like to be. In fact, he borrowed a horse from the Rohirrim, possibly the one he says here that he lost when he forded the Greyflood. He doesn't say here that he borrowed a horse, but Eomer later mentions that they loaned him one, and that it returned riderless (p. 423).

And so everyone has one last Elvish feast, gets presents, and heads off down the river. Back on track, after yet another lengthy stay with new friends.

Last year, I read a book called The Lord of the Rings: The Mythology of Power by Jane Chance, in which I learned that not only did Tolkien follow the classic myth structure (which I'm endlessly fascinated by) for LOTR as a whole (which I could see), but he actually used it within each of the six books as well. I learned from Jane Chance is that each of the two books within each volume (so books 1 and 2 in FOTR, books 3 and 4 in TTT, and books 5 and 6 in ROTK) mirror each other. This kind of blew my mind, because once I read it, I could see it. So the lengthy sojourn here in Lothlorien after the long, dark journey in Moria... mirrors the hobbits hanging out at Tom Bombadil's house for a long time after their long, dark journey in the Old Forest.

Like I said, blew my mind. There are people who can write interesting stories.  I can do that.  And there are people who can write deep, layered, complex books that are Important, like Tolkien. I stand in awe of him.

Favorite Lines:

"Maybe the paths that you each shall tread are already laid before your feet, though you do not see them" (p. 359).

"...we put the thought of all that we love into all that we make" (p. 361).

"Memory is not what the heart desires. That is only a mirror, be it clear as Kheled-zaram" (p. 369).

Discussion Questions:

Gimli said that when he set out on the quest, he knew there would probably be torment and peril, and the thought of those did not hold him back. But that he "would not have come, had I known the danger of light and joy" (p. 369). How can light and joy be more dangerous, or more terrible, or harder to deal with, than torment and peril?

Monday, January 15, 2018

Another LOTR Read-Along: The Mirror of Galadriel (FOTR 2, 7)

So here we are at Lothlorien, hanging out, resting, learning about elves, mourning Gandalf, and seeing a bit of magic. Sam explains a little of why I probably wouldn't want to hang out at this particular Middle Earth location: "Nothing seems to be going on, and nobody seems to want it to" (p. 351). That's supposed to sound restful and contemplative, I think. To me, it sounds boring and wearisome. I actually like having things to do and getting them done.

Celeborn gets a lot more to say here than in the movie, doesn't he? Galadriel says that he "is accounted the wisest of the Elves of Middle-earth, and a giver of gifts beyond the power of kings" (p. 347). Totally not the impression the movie gives! Which is why, yet again, the books are just better.

Galadriel tells Frodo, "For the fate of Lothlorien you are not answerable, but only for the doing of your own task" (p. 356). What a major theme that is, the fact that each person is only responsible for their own task, their own life. Way back at the beginning of the book, Gandalf told Frodo, "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us" (p. 50). I feel like this is supposed to be comforting, that we don't have to try to do everything or be everywhere. At the same time, it's very sobering, because if we fail to do the task we have in the time we're given, we're failing those who come after us and are depending on us.

Favorite Lines:

The air was cool and soft, as if it were early spring, yet they felt about them the deep and thoughtful quiet of winter (p. 349).

Discussion Questions:

Would you look into the Mirror of Galadriel if you had the chance?

I find it interesting that Celeborn says that "though the world is now dark better days are at hand" (p. 346). I feel like that's one of the first times someone has spoken cheerfully of the future for a long time in this book. He says it about the renewal of friendship between elves and dwarves, and then pretty soon, Legolas and Gimli start hanging out together a lot. Do you think that's a sign that things are actually getting better already as a result of Frodo's determination to destroy the One Ring? Or am I reading too much into that?

Sunday, January 14, 2018

"The Torrents of Spring" by Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway doesn't often make me laugh.  Not with his fiction, anyway.  Once in a while, he makes me cry.  But man alive, did I laugh over this little book!

On a whole, The Torrents of Spring reads like an inside joke.  Hemingway is poking fun at stuffy, pretentious writing, particularly that of his erstwhile friend Sherwood Anderson (so I've learned -- I wouldn't have gotten the Anderson connection without looking this book up online after I finished it).  It's elaborately structured, with four different parts each begun with these long quotations from Henry Fielding that are increasingly unrelated from the story itself.

The story talks about two men who work for a pump factory in Petoskey, Michigan.  The first man, Scripps O'Neill, falls in insta-love with the waitress at a "beanery," a short-order restaurant.  They announce that they're married, and the waitress spends the rest of the book worrying that she'll lose him to this other waitress.  She tries to hold onto him by subscribing to high-toned literary magazines and talking a lot about her childhood in England.

The other man, Yogi Johnson, is trying to find a woman that will interest him.  He used to be interested in women, but during the war, he was betrayed by a Parisian girl and can't seem to care about women anymore.  Until he meets a naked Indian Squaw, that is -- then he's interested, all right, and walks off into the spring night with her and her baby.

If all that doesn't sound like it makes a whole lot of sense, well, like I said, the whole book feels like an inside joke.  I laughed a lot over it because it was absurd, and also because Hemingway stuck all these little notes to the reader in it here and there.  Those were far and away my favorite part, and I'll re-read this one day just for them.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for some bad language and hinted-at adult situations.

This is my 13th book read and reviewed for my second go-round with The Classics Club, as well as my first for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2018.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Another LOTR Read-Along: Lothlorien (FOTR 2, 6)

As you know, I love Rivendell. I think it sounds restful and quiet and calm -- like a library crossed with a woodland retreat center. But I don't love Lothlorien. It's a little too otherworldly for me, I think. Frodo thinks that "[i]n Rivendell there was memory of ancient things; in Lorien the ancient things still lived on in the waking world" (p. 340). To be honest, that kind of creeps me out. My brain says that it'd be cool to be able to interact with ancient things and people, but my instincts want nothing to do with it. So I don't blame Boromir and Gimli for hesitating to go there.

But anyway, there's one bit here that makes me laugh every time. When Haldir and his brothers encountered the fellowship, Legolas told Sam that "they say that you breathe so loud that they could shoot you in the dark," which seems really rude, but I just have to laugh because "Sam hastily put his hand over his mouth" when Legolas said that, and then when Legolas, Frodo, and Sam get invited up onto one of the elves' flets, it says "behind came Sam trying not to breathe loudly" (p. 333). And that amuses me to no end, the image of Sam climbing a rope ladder and spending more energy on breathing quietly than on climbing.

Also, I love the Elvish word for orcs: yrch. It sounds like someone saying 'yuck,' which is probably exactly what I'd say if I saw an orc. After I quit screaming and running away, anyway.

Favorite Lines:

"We must do without hope," he said. "At least we may yet be avenged" (p. 324).

"Indeed in nothing is the power of the Dark Lord more clearly shown than in the estrangement that divides all those who still oppose him" (p. 339).

"We live now upon an island amid many perils, and our hands are more often upon the bowstring than upon the harp" (p. 339).

"The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater" (p. 339).

On the land of Lorien there was no stain (p. 341).

Discussion Questions:

There's a poignant moment where Merry tells Haldir, "I have never been out of my own land before. And if I had known what the world outside was like, I don't think I should have had the heart to leave it" (p. 339). I'm reminded of what Elrond told Pippin when he and Merry didn't want to be left behind. Elrond said they wanted to go along "because you do not understand and cannot imagine what lies ahead" (p. 269). However, later on, Aragorn will disagree with Elrond's statement when he says of Merry, "[h]e knows not to what end he rides; yet if he knew, he still would go on" (p. 762). Who do you think understood the hobbits better, Elrond or Aragorn? Or does this reflect a change in Merry and Pippin, part of their character arcs?

Do you find Lothlorien kind of eerie or really cool? Or something in between?

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Winners!

Congratulations to these four lucky people! We will be contacting you today to get your mailing info so we can send you your prizes.

Cloaked by Rachel Kovaciny -- Kendra L.

October by J. Grace Pennington -- Faith B.

Before it's Love by Michelle Pennington -- LaNique D.

With Blossoms Gold by Hayden Wand -- Mikayla H.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Another LOTR Read-Along: The Bridge of Khazad-dum (FOTR 2, 5)

Another of my favorite chapters. Really, my favorite section of this vast story is the part where the unbroken fellowship is having their adventures. So basically the two previous chapters and this one. Not that I don't love the rest, cuz I do, but this is what I love the best.

How calm Gandalf is at the beginning of this chapter. Everyone gets trapped in the Chamber of Mazarbul, and Gandalf says, "Here we are, caught, just as they were before. But I was not here then" (p. 315). It must be so cool to be Gandalf, knowing you can make that big of a difference.

So then we get lots of excitement as we battle some orcs. And Sam kills one! "Boromir and Aragorn slew many" (p. 317), Gimli gets one, and then Gandalf takes over and gives them time to flee down the stairs. He did make all the difference after all!

The Balrog is just insanely cool. Horrid and dreadful, of course, but so, so fascinating. I love how Tolkien describes it: "Something was coming up behind them. What it was could not be seen: it was like a great shadow, in the middle of which was a dark form, of man-shape maybe, yet greater; and a power and terror seemed to be in it and to go before it" (p. 321). It's vague and formless, so scary because you can't really make out what it is. Also, it has wings? Very scary and horrible.

And man, Gandalf's last stand still gets to me, even though I know what happens. I've got goosebumps again just thinking about it. This part is especially awesome: "It stepped forward slowly on to the bridge, and suddenly it drew itself up to a great height, and its wings were spread from wall to wall; but still Gandalf could be seen, glimmering in the gloom; he seemed small, and altogether alone: grey and bent, like a wizened tree before the onset of a storm" (p. 322). I love how that one image kind of encapsulates the whole book: one tiny, seemingly helpless bit of resistance against a towering, seemingly all-powerful foe. Awe-inspiring, I have to say.

Favorite Lines:

There was a rush of hoarse laughter, like the fall of sliding stones into a pit (p. 315).

"You cannot pass," he said. The orcs stood still, and a dead silence fell. "I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udun. Go back to the Shadow! You cannot pass" (p. 322).

Aragorn smote to the ground the captain that stood in his path, and the rest fled in terror of his wrath (p. 323).

Discussion Questions:

Why do you suppose Aragorn picked up Frodo and carried him with them, when he thought Frodo was dead? Wouldn't it be easier to just grab the ring and carry it, not a whole hobbit?

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

"Scarlet" by Stephen R. Lawhead

Overall, I liked Scarlet about ten times as well as I liked Hood.  It still took me months to read, but this time it was because I had to set it aside to read a few things that I had a deadline for.  However, this book was exciting and enjoyable, with a great mix of danger and emotion, and even some fun here and there. 

This book is narrated by Will Scatlocke, aka Will Scarlet, whom I became very fond of indeed.  He was such a cheerful, sensible guy!  He tells most of it to a scribe while he's in prison.  I got closer and closer to the end and started worrying that the whole book would end before Will ever got out of prison, but happily, that totally didn't happen.  While in captivity, he relates how he joined up with Rhi Bran Hud's band of Welsh rebels even though Will isn't himself Welsh, how they fought against their oppressors by every means possible, and how he got captured.  He also talks about gradually falling in love with one of the rebels, a widow named Noin. 

The last hundred pages or so were extremely awesome, and I read them in one day.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for violence and a little bad language.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Another LOTR Read-Along: A Journey in the Dark (FOTR 2, 4)

A quick house-keeping note:  Starting today, I will be bumping our pace up to at least 3 chapters a week.  I got very busy AND very lazy over the holidays, but I'm back into the swing of real life now, so we will not be meandering through these books anymore, but marching steadily along.  (I hope.)

Every time I read this chapter, I decide I should thereafter sign everything as "one stray wanderer from the South" (p. 288). Totally my favorite description of Boromir. Just so you know.

This chapter has lots of exciting parts, with the wolves, and then the watcher in the water, and then all the wandering around in Moria. And once again, I don't have lots to say. Hmm. And yet, this and the previous chapter are one of my favorite sections of the book.

Gandalf says that he "once knew every spell in all the tongues of Elves or Men or Orcs" (p. 299) that were used to open enchanted doors. So... there must have been a lot of enchanted doors around at one time, and they've just fallen into disuse?  Why?  I mean, if I had an enchanted door that you could only open with the right password, I think I'd keep using it. Sounds very handy in case of a siege, for instance. Or for stockpiling Christmas presents where the kids couldn't get at them.

Once Gandalf figures out how to open the Doors of Durin, he says, "Of course, of course! Absurdly simple" (p. 300). This makes me laugh, not for a LOTR-related reason, but because there's a moment in the Sherlock Holmes story "The Dancing Men" where Holmes doesn't want to explain to Watson how he deduced something because he says that once he explains, Watson will say, "How absurdly simple!" Watson insists that he won't, Holmes explains, and then Watson cries, "How absurdly simple!" It's a funny moment in the story, and particularly funny in the Jeremy Brett TV show version. So just thought I'd share :-)

Also, the welcome mat by our front door says "Speak friend and enter."  Because we're cool like that.  

Favorite Lines:

"However it may prove, one must tread the path that need chooses!" (p. 289)

"The wolf that one hears is worse than the orc that one fears" (p. 290).

"That was an eye-opener, and no mistake!" (p. 291)

In the dark at the rear, grim and silent, walked Aragorn (p. 302).

Discussion Questions:

Aragorn is almost always at the rear of their procession. Why? What does that tell us about him?

How does Tolkien use Sam's devotion to Bill the pony to deepen him as a character and help us get to know him? And to know what to expect of him later in the story?

Sunday, January 7, 2018

My YearS in Middle Earth

You may recall that I decided that 2017 would be My Year in Middle-earth.  I planned to re-read LOTR and whatever other Middle-earth-related things that came my way.  And I think I did fairly well, though my re-read of LOTR got suspended for a while because I decided to use it for my niece's high school lit class this year.  She and I are almost finished with The Two Towers, and our class together has been such a joy.

Besides re-reading half of the trilogy, in 2017 I read:

J. R. R. Tolkien: Mind of a Genius

Wizards, Hobbits, and Harry Potter edited by Mark Whitlock

Finding God in the Lord of the Rings by Kurt Bruner and Jim Ware

The Lord of the Rings: The Mythology of Power by Jane Chance

And besides teaching LOTR to my niece, I went ahead and started a new read-along of the trilogy here on my blog.  It slowed down a lot over the holidays, but we'll be picking it up again tomorrow at a much brisker pace, I promise.

But it comes to this:  I have a lot of Middle-earth-related books that I haven't even touched yet.  We have almost a full shelf of books by and about Tolkien:

Some of those are extra copies of certain books, but many of them are cool commentaries, history books from Middle-earth, and so on -- and I've barely scratched the surface of most of them.  

So I am extending my time in Middle-earth!  Instead of a one-year personal challenge, I'm going to make it last for two years.  And I hope to share reviews of at least four more of the books on this shelf with you over the course of 2018.

My Ten Favorite Books of 2017

As is my wont, I've compiled a list of the ten books I liked best of all the ones I read this year.  You can read my previous years' lists here: 20162015, and 2014.  (I do a similar thing with movies, and my 2017 list for those is here on my other blog.)

I read and reviewed 56 books this year, plus I know I read a couple more that I never got around to reviewing.  I've split this list into two parts, as usual -- those I've read before and those that were new to me.  

These are in alphabetical order because I don't feel like getting them into a favoritey sort of order.  Titles are linked to my reviews.  Here we go!

New to Me

As You Wish by Cary Elwes with Joe Layden -- I got to see The Princess Bride (1987) on the big screen thanks to TCM and Fathom Events this fall, so it felt like the perfect time to finally read Elwes' memoir about the filming.  I want to own a copy.

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay -- I liked it, then I was frustrated by it, then I liked it again, and by the end, I loved it.  Currently vying with A Portrait of Emily Price for the distinction of being my favorite Katherine Reay book.

Every Frenchman Has One by Olivia de Havilland -- hilarious, heart-warming, and adorable.

The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis -- even better than I expected.

A Sidekick's Tale by Elisabeth Grace Foley -- one of the funniest fiction books I read all year!

The Story People by Heather Kaufman -- sweet and charming.  I've already pre-ordered Kaufman's next book, Loving Isaac.

The Usurper's Throne by Charity Bishop -- engrossing and thrilling.  I can't wait for the next book.


The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler -- my favorite author, what more can I say?

The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien -- Enchanting as always -- this was my seventh time reading it.  (Though we're only about halfway through it for the read-along, I started it back in August for my niece's lit class, so I'm done reading it already.)

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald -- I like this on better every time I read it.

How about you?  What wonderful books did you discover or re-read in 2017?

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2017 Wrap-Up and 2018 Sign-Up

I did it!  I achieved my goal of "climbing Pike's Peak" by reading 12 books off my TBR pile as it existed before January 1, 2017.  (I read lots of other books I owned last year too, but they were ones I bought during the year, not ones I'd already owned before the challenge started.)  I'm really pleased by this.  My TBR pile isn't just a pile, it's a whole bookcase in my basement that is stacked to overflowing with books I haven't read yet.  Sometimes it makes me despair.  Completing this challenge gives me hope that yes, I will be able to read all those books.  Eventually.

My Reader's Block, the blog that hosts this challenge, has provided a fun little "Words to the Wise" thing to try to fill out with titles from the books read for the challenge this year.  Here goes:

A stitch in time saves The Song of the Ean
Don't count your chickens before Finding God in the Lord of the Rings
All good things must come (when) Montana Rides!
When in Rome, Every Frenchman Has One
All that glitters is not The Lord of the Rings: The Mythology of Power
A picture is worth a thousand Screwtape Letters
When the going gets tough, the tough get The Jane Austen Guide to Life
Two wrongs don't make Skipping Christmas right
The pen is mightier (when wielded by) Luther (Biography of a Reformer)
The squeaky wheel gets Echoes of Sherlock Holmes
Hope for the best, but prepare for Wizards, Hobbits, and Harry Potter
Birds of a feather flock (to the) House of Living Stones

That was amusing and fun!  

And I am hereby signing up to do this challenge again in 2018, again challenging myself to read 12 of the books currently languishing on my TBR bookcase.  If you want to join too, you can sign up right here.