Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Another LOTR Read-Along: The Passage of the Marshes (TTT 4, 2)

Drearily we stumble along, stumble along, stumble along...

As Tolkien himself says here, "The next stage of their journey was much the same as the last" (p. 611). Sam continues to suspect Gollum/Smeagol of ulterior motives, and to help Frodo by "supporting him if he stumbled, and trying to encourage him with clumsy words" (p. 617). Everything is ugly and horrible and ghastly.

And then we get to the Dead Marshes and discover that they're not just called that because nothing much grows there, but because there are dead bodies -- or the image of dead bodies -- under them Sooooooooo creepy. One of the creepiest things I've ever read, really. There was a big battle here many years ago, during the Last Alliance of Men and Elves when they tried originally to overthrow Sauron. The marshes were there before the battle, but smaller. After it, the marshes expanded to cover the graveyard gradually. Gollum says the dead bodies aren't really there, they're just images. Totally creepy.

This is where Aragorn found and captured Gollum back when he and Gandalf were hunting him -- remember hearing about that back in FOTR? Aragorn caught Gollum and brought him back so Gandalf could question him, and then they entrusted Gollum to Legolas' father Thranduil to keep him prisoner, but he escaped. That's why Legolas was a Rivendell, to bring the news that Gollum had escaped.

And here we learn that Gollum has a sort of dual identity crisis going on. Bad Gollum and Good Smeagol are warring inside him, a sort of literal representation of our Old Adam and New Adam in some ways. We shall see who wins out in the end.

Favorite Lines:

"Day is near," he whispered, as if Day was something that might overhear him and spring on him (p. 607).

Dead grasses and rotting reeds loomed up in the mists like ragged shadows of long-forgotten summers (p. 612).

Discussion Questions:

What do you think the lights above the dead things in the marsh might signify or represent or mean or whatever?

Frodo doesn't think that he and Sam will survive this, as we learn when Sam worries about how much food they have left. Do you think Sam believes that too now?

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

"The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling" by Maryrose Wood

This is an enchantingly silly and endearingly sweet book. I read it aloud to my kids over the past month or so, and we all enjoyed it so much, we got the next book out of the library as soon as we returned this one.

In it, a fifteen-year-old governess undertakes to humanize three children who were literally raised by wolves in the forest outside a rich person's house.  The rich people have taken the children in, more or less grudgingly as the case may be, and they've hired this governness to care for them and make them stop doing things like drooling and chasing squirrels and chewing furniture.

My husband and I laughed more over this book than our kids did, to be honest. A lot of the humor was aimed more adults, very subtle with lots of allusions to other books or the way the "real world" works. Nothing risque or "adult" so much as just turns of phrase that made us laugh or unexpected ways of describing something or someone.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for some intense scenes involving a hunting party and some potentially frightening moments.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Another LOTR Read-Along: The Taming of Smeagol (TTT 4, 1)

The first time I read The Two Towers, I barely made it through, to be honest. The second time, I'd read somewhere that if you pay attention to Sam and his character growth and arc, all this is a lot more interesting, and I tried that. It does help, and keeps me from bashing my head against a wall, at least.

By which I mean, if this next section makes you weary, or you wonder if it's ever going to end, or whatever -- don't feel like you're a bad person. Or a bad reader. Or even a bad Tolkien fan. However, you might find it fascinating, you never know! I know quite a few people who think this is the best part of the book.

After all, Tolkien is Making A Point with how long and tortuous and dull Frodo and Sam's journey is at this point. Being heroic isn't always exciting. So I slog through it dutifully.

So anyway, we have Gollum with us now, and I'll write more about him another time. Meanwhile, look how cheerful Sam is! Faced with climbing (or falling) down a steep cliff, he says lovely, heartening things like, "I suppose it's always easier getting down than up," and "Looking's better than climbing" (p. 592). Dear, dear Sam, the sturdy hobbit. It says later that, when they're climbing down using the rope, Frodo "had not quite Sam's faith," (p. 596), and I find that such a telling phrase. Sam believes wholeheartedly that they'll get where they're going, that they'll succeed. He believes the rope will hold, he believes they'll find a way into Mordor, he believes they can somehow find Mount Doom.

And when they capture Gollum, although Sam doesn't trust him one bit and hates having him around, when it comes to tying Gollum with a rope, "Sam was gentler than his words" (p. 603). Doesn't that phrase warm your heart?

Favorite Lines:

"I wish there was a clear path in front of us; then I'd go on till my legs gave way" (p. 598).

Discussion Questions:

Do you find the Frodo-and-Sam-wandering-through-Mordor parts hard to get through or fascinating, or a bit of both?  Or something different entirely?

Sunday, February 25, 2018

"Speak Easy, Speak Love" by McKelle George

Oh my stars.  This book!  It caused me such a serious book hangover, I've been finished reading it for DAYS and haven't yet quite figured out how to talk about it.  But I'll do my best.

First off, thank you SO MUCH to Kara from Flowers of Quiet Happiness!  She insisted I read this book because she thought I would loooooooooooooove it.  How right she was!  You can read her review here.

So basically, this is a YA retelling of Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare.  Set in the Prohibition Era just outside New York City.  But it's much more than just a transportation of the characters to a new setting.  It takes the basic premise of the play -- can two people who verbally spar and butt heads be convinced to fall in love? -- and runs with it.

Beatrice here is a strong-willed, strong-minded young woman who wants to become a doctor even though her stepfather thinks higher learning for women is a waste of time and refuses to fund her college education.  Benedick is a rich boy whose father would love to pay for him to go to college, but Benedick wants to be a writer and thinks an education is a waste of time. 

Beatrice gets kicked out of school and winds up at her cousin Hero's home, hoping her uncle and cousin will take her in.  She doesn't know it until she gets there, but they run a speakeasy called Hey Nonny Nonny in their basement.  Benedick is living in their house too, having run away from school with his friend Claude because... they can. 

Then there's Maggie, a jazz singer and Hero's dear friend who provides the entertainment for the speakeasy.  And there's Prince, who tends bar for Hey Nonny Nonny, and his brother John, who is... not a Good Guy, but still a good person deep inside.  John ties with Beatrice for my favorite character, I think.

Claude and Hero get all infatuated with each other.  Federal agents try to close down the speakeasy.  Hero and Maggie try to convince Beatrice and Benedick they love each other even though they spend basically every waking moment annoying and being annoyed by each other. 

And if that sounds kind a fluffy and not really the sort of thing I read... trust me, this book is deeper than I'm making it sound.  It's got all kinds of stuff about race and class differences and ethics, not to mention some Very Wonderful character explorations.  And then there's the writing!  Snappy, insightful, witty, and profound by turns.  I bought my own copy of this book already, that's how much I loved it.  I couldn't be without it.  I'm quite sure I'll be re-reading it soon.

Particularly Good Bits:

Leonard Stahr had replied: “I first met my late wife marching at the head of a women’s suffragette parade. So I must say, with respect to your position, that I have a deep fondness for rioting women, and you could not have made my niece more appealing to me if she came adorned with a cash prize” (p. 25-26).

Perhaps she didn’t know she was the sort of presence that required slow digestion at first. Her stare was direct -- channeled through absurdly big eyes, the kind a more inclined man might trip and drown in, if he weren’t watching his step -- but she was not exceptionally pretty. She was just aggressively there (p. 43).

“Whatever compels you to think I care to hear your opinion on my actions, kindly locate that inner switch and turn it off” (p. 64).

She was like… weather maybe? Instead of a person? (p. 105).

She was not surprised that she was once again trying to figure out how to be herself when herself was more than anyone wanted, but she was disappointed (p. 193).

Obviously friendly was too high a word for what they’d been, but she’d enjoyed, well, not him exactly but the challenge of him. The pleasing clang of their minds butting together (p. 194).

A brisk knock interrupted their conversation, followed by Beatrice. Benedick’s morning righted itself in time to her stride (p. 306).

Claude had decided to take his broken heart and return to the Vanderbilts, who would welcome him with open arms and crustless sandwiches and suntans (p. 325).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for some violence, lots of alcohol consumption, some innuendo (kissing and some mildly suggestive dialog), and bad language.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Another LOTR Read-Along: The Palantir (TTT 3, 11)

This chapter is another beautiful representation of the cycle of temptation, sin, repentance, confession, and forgiveness. Pippin knows he shouldn't touch that glass ball, and even as he gives in to the temptation and tries to take it while Gandalf is asleep, his conscience is warning him not to. Gandalf later reprimands him for not listening to his conscience, saying, "You knew you were behaving wrongly and foolishly; and you told yourself so, though you did not listen" (p. 584). Pippin picks it up and thinks it's not really the palantir, but just a bundle of Gandalf's effects or something, and feels "a strange sense of relief" (p. 577). And yet, he gives in to that temptation still more, unwrapping it and then covering it again and sneaking away to hide his sin, not letting anyone see him.

But like all sin, what at first seemed attractive, fun, even harmless has dangerous effects. Pippin not only hurts himself, but puts all his companions and friends in potential danger. And once he realizes how he has transgressed, Pippin cries out, "Gandalf! Forgive me!" He knows he has erred, is sorry he's done so, and wants to be assured he will not be cast away as a result.

Before Gandalf grants him forgiveness, he first demands that Pippin confesses what he has done so Pippin will recognize its harmfulness and ask his help to never do that again.

Only once Pippin has realizes the seriousness of what he has done does Gandalf say, "I forgive you. Be comforted!" (p. 580). He tenderly carries Pippin to his bed and tells him that if he ever feels tempted to touch the Palantir again, to ask Gandalf for help in overcoming the temptation. If only Pippin had done that in the first place, he would have been saved much grief and pain.


Favorite Lines:

"All Wizards should have a hobbit or two in their care -- to teach them the meaning of the word, and to correct them" (p. 574).

"Perilous to us all are the devices of an art deeper than we possess ourselves" (p. 583).

Discussion Questions:

Compare Pippin's temptation, fall, and repentance to Boromir's. Do you find one of them more poignant or effective than the other? (DO NOT take into account the fact that Boromir is my favorite character -- I really want to know what YOU think here.)

Why do you think Tolkien included two representations of this temptation-sin-repentance-forgiveness cycle instead of just one?

YAY! We finished book three! We are roughly half done -- a little more than, by pages. We'll be focusing on what Frodo and Sam have been up to for all of Book Four.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: I've Changed My Mind

This week's TTT topic from That Artsy Reader Girl is "Top Ten Books You've Lost Interest In."  Drawing on my Goodreads TBR list, the books I've put on a similar list on my local library's website, and my TBR list here on my blog, here are ten books that I once thought I might want to read, but have decided I'm not really interested in after all.  They are getting removed from my TBR lists today!

Double Indemnity by James M. Cain.  Although I love film noir and Raymond Chandler and Barbara Stanwyck, I really don't like the movie very well.  I understand how good it is, but I don't LIKE it.  So why would I read the book it's based on?

Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanin.  I have no memory of putting this book on my TBR list.  Hmm.

The Humanity Project by Jean Thompson.  Not even sure what made me want to read this.

The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler.  I've read it's disturbingly gory, so yeah... skipping that one.

The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel.  Sounds depressing.

The Maid's Version by Daniel Woodrell.  No longer interests me.

A Match Made in Texas novella collection.  I'm guessing just the fact that it was Christian fiction set in Texas was what interested me?

Miss Christmas by Gigi Garrett.  I added this to my TBR in a fit of holiday fervor, but now I'm thinking that nope, not my thing.

Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz.  I didn't like The House of Silk, so not going to bother reading another one.

The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco.  Now sounds creepier than I really want to deal with.

Okay, that's my ten!  Any books here you've read?  Do you think I should put them back on my TBR?  Or do you agree I've got better things to read?

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Another LOTR Read-Along: The Voice of Saruman (TTT 3, 10)

And after the happy little interlude in the previous chapter, we get heavy and serious here. And suspenseful. I mean, for a minute there, I started to think Saruman had totally gotten Theoden under his spell. And I've read this how many times? Seen the movie how many times? But I still got all worried.

Saruman reminds me so, so much of Adolf Hitler. The power of his voice, anyway. Hitler was said to have a kind of mesmerizing thing going on when he made speeches. And the guy convinced a nation to go to war, to either participate in or turn a blind eye to all kinds of atrocities. That's a lot of power. Look at how Tolkien describes Saruman's voice:
Suddenly another voice spoke, low and melodious, its very sound an enchantment. Those who listened unwarily to that voice could seldom report the words that they heard; and if they did, they wondered, for little power remained in them. Mostly they remembered only that it was a delight to hear the voice speaking, all that it said seemed wise and reasonable, and desire awoke in them by swift agreement to seem wise themselves (p. 564).
Just like it's hard to tell what color Saruman's cloak is, it's hard to tell just what he's saying or why. I find that so scary! Not being able to tell just what something is or means... yikes.

Favorite Lines:

"The treacherous are ever distrustful" (p. 568).

"Well, well, things will go as they will; and there is no need to hurry to meet them" (p. 571).

Discussion Questions:

Saruman says to Gandalf, "You are proud and do not love advice, having indeed a store of your own wisdom" (p. 567). Do you think people who don't like advice are that way because they have enough wisdom of their own?

Do you think Gandalf actually does not love advice? Or would he gladly accept advice from someone he trusts, like Elrond or Galadriel?

Friday, February 16, 2018

Another LOTR Read-Along: Flotsam and Jetsam (TTT 3, 9)

Ahh, a happy interlude. I really like this chapter, with the remnants of the Fellowship eating and smoking and exchanging stories and information. That bit where Pippin produces a spare pipe and Gimli calls him a "most noble hobbit" always makes me grin. Same goes for when Pippin tells what Gandalf's reappearance was like -- that time, he got called a "tom-fool of a Took" instead, but it still makes me grin.

And aren't the Huorns nifty? Especially how they can "wrap themselves in shadow" (p. 551) -- that would be such a useful power! They're also a bit scary, and of all the not-evil creatures in Middle Earth, I think I'd want to meet them the least.

Favorite Lines:

"One who cannot cast away a treasure at need is in fetters" (p. 550).

"It is difficult with these evil folk to know when they are in league, and when they are cheating one another" (p. 552).

"A punch from an Ent-fist crumples up iron like thin tin" (p. 553).

"'Wherever I have been, I am back,' he answered in the genuine Gandalf manner" (p. 556).

Discussion Questions:

Pippin says that "nobody, not even Elves, will say much about Gandalf's movements when he is not there" (p. 556). Why do you suppose that is?

Aragorn says of Saruman that "[t]here are not many in Middle-earth that I should say were safe, if they were left alone to talk with him, even now when he has suffered a defeat. Gandalf, Elrond, and Galadriel, perhaps, now that his wickedness has been laid bare, but very few others" (p. 553). Do you think he says they're different because they possess the three Elvish rings of power? Or just because they're all three wise and powerful?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Winners of the International Book-Giving Day Giveaway

Happy Valentine's Day!  And Happy International Book-Giving Day too :-)  The giveaway widget has spoken, and here are the six lucky winners:

F. Scott Fitzgerald On Writing -- Maddie W.
Gift from the Sea -- Kathryn M.
Aspects of the Novel -- Rachel A.
Mugging the Muse -- Ekaterina Y.
Flashes of Splashes -- Nassim M.
The Trials of Sherlock Holmes -- Eva S.

Congratulations, all of you!  I will be emailing you this morning to ask for your mailing info so I can send you your prizes.  If you don't respond by Wed, Feb. 21, I will be forced to disqualify you and choose a different winner for that prize, so... repondez, s'il vous plait!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Classic Romances

This week's TTT topic from That Artsy Reader Girl is a "romantic freebie," so I'm doing my list of Top Ten Favorite Romantic Pairings from Classic Literature.  Naturally, I could have filled this whole thing with romances from Jane Austen's novels alone, but I made myself only include three of hers so as to make my list a bit broader.  Titles are linked to my reviews if I've reviewed that particular title.  Also, there might be some SPOILERS lurking here, so um... proceed with caution?  

1.  Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  Both of them have endured so much unhappiness in the past, and they actually cause each other some unhappiness throughout the book too, but by the end, they have both grown into mature people who have learned to love, trust, and cherish each other.

2.  Anne Elliot and Captain Frederick Wentworth from Persuasion by Jane Austen.  They're the king and queen of second chances, aren't they?  Both must learn to be whole and healthy on their own, and then they are ready to give each other a lifetime of happiness.

3.  Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe from the Anne of Green Gables books by L. M. Montgomery.  I love that we get to see their love story beyond the meet-cute and the early stages of romance.  We follow them into marriage and parenthood, and they remain just delightful.  I wish so much that the last few books of the series had more Anne and Gilbert in them.

4.  Eowyn and Faramir from The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien.  Two more damaged people who help each other heal and become ready for the future.  One has spent her life yearning for activities and accolades she's not allowed to pursue, and the other has spent his life yearning for the love and acceptance his father won't give him.  Once they both accept that who they are is who they are meant to be and stop chasing after things and people they can't have, they are ready to begin their new lives together.

5.  Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney from Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen.  They might win the prize for Most Adorable Couple.  Or come in second after Anne and Gilbert?  Catherine learns to understand people and herself, and she learns so much of that from Mr. Tilney, who also has to learn to be serious and sensible now and then.  But not too often.

6.  Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  Opposites attract!  They really do!  Especially when two opposite people are willing to accept and learn from each others' differences.

7.  Beatrice and Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare.  These two.  Oh, these two.  They both have to learn to just shut up once in a while, to not say things they'll regret just because they're funny or clever.  

8.  Margaret Hale and John Thornton from North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.  Two judgemental people who discover that first impressions are a really bad thing to base your opinions of people on. 

9.  Esther and Judah Ben-Hur from Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Gen. Lew Wallace.  Mostly I love these two for their stubbornness.  My goodness, both of them refuse to let go of things, be it love or revenge.  Happily, Esther teaches Judah how to turn his stubbornness to good uses by the end.

10.  Dorothea Casaubon and Will Ladislaw from Middlemarch by George Eliot.  I love that although these two developed feelings for each other while Dorothea was married to someone else, they never acted on those feelings, but instead acknowledged that feelings are not the most important things in the world.  And that fits them for being happy together by the end, because they know that understanding and appreciating a person is more important than just gooshy, smooshy feelings for them.  

So... I think we see a pretty clear pattern here, don't we?  I love couples who learn from each other and help each other become better, happier people.

Have you read any of these?  Do you have any patterns in the romances you like best?  Did you do TTT this week?

Although I didn't formally sign up to participate in this yet, I'm linking this post up with Cordy's Lovely Blog Party hosted on her blog, Any Merry Little Thought.  It's a month-long party focusing on fictional love stories, which is exactly what this post is about!

Don't forget that today is the last day you can enter my book giveaway!  Go here to enter if you haven't already.  I'll be drawing the winners tomorrow.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Another LOTR Read-Along: The Road to Isengard (TTT 3, 8)

This is one of those in-between chapters where I don't have a lot to say. Legolas and Gimli's reunion is quite funny, and I love their plan to show each other Fangorn and the Helm's Deep caverns when the war is over. And the reunion of Merry and Pippin with their would-be rescuers is always amusing.

Theoden says of the Ents that "the songs have come down among us out of strange places, and walk visible under the Sun" (p. 537). This seems to be a theme with the Rohirrim, that characters in songs or stories can come alive. A guard at Meduseld (was it Hama?) told Aragorn, "It seems that you are come on the wings of song out of the forgotten days" (p. 500), and Eomer started this whole theme by saying, "Dreams and legends spring to life out of the grass" (p. 423), while good old Eothain the Ever-Courteous scoffed, "Do we walk in legends or on the green earth in the daylight?" (p. 424) when Gimli said they were searching for Halflings. I wonder why this is such a repeated theme while we're in Rohan, but not with the Elves or in Gondor?

Okay, that's the first discussion question for this chapter.

Favorite Lines:

"These hobbits will sit on the edge of ruin and discuss the pleasures of the table, or the small doings of their fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers, and remoter cousins to the ninth degree, if you encourage them with undue patience" (p. 545).

"For however the fortune of war shall go, may it not so end that much that was fair and wonderful shall pass for ever out of Middle-earth?" (p. 537)

Another Discussion Question:

As they approach Isengard, Gandalf and company pass a great pillar of the white hand (symbol of Saruman) that has had its nails painted red. Any theories on why they've been painted red, or by whom? I feel like this is supposed to symbolize something, or be significant, but I'm not sure what it's about.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

"Rapunzel's Guide to All Things Brave, Creative, and Fun" by Suzanne Francis, Illustrated by Enric Prat

This is an adorable, entertaining, and informative little book.  I picked it up on a whim at the bookstore, and when I was only halfway through it, I decided I liked it so much, I gave a copy to the young daughters of one of my friends because I knew they would find it fun too.

The whole book is narrated by Rapunzel, as if she's chattily telling you how to do things she enjoys.  Art, writing, games, outdoor activities, even Self Defense with a Frying Pan are all covered here.  My almost-8-year-old is very happy that I've finally finished reading this because she is eager to get her own hands on it :-)  But I think my 10-year-old son is going to get a kick out of it too!  Things like chess and sword-fighting and knot-tying get just as much time as hairstyles and pottery and good manners. 

If you've got a youngster in your life who loves to learn how to do new things for themselves, I totally recommend this book.  Plus, the illustrations are adorable.  And there are lots of Eugene :-D

If This Was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  G.  Nothing objectionable here at all.

This is my second book read and reviewed for the Mount TBR Challenge 2018.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Another LOTR Read-Along: Helm's Deep (TTT 3, 7)

Another favorite chapter! It's funny -- I get kind of tired of the Helm's Deep section in the movies, but in the book? It's stellar! The movie goes on and on and on, but in the book it's only like fifteen pages and so brilliant.

If you ever want to write a suspenseful action scene where the tension and excitement spiral tighter and tighter, and you're looking for an example of a scene that does exactly that, read this chapter. By the end of it, I'm in goosebumps. I'm in goosebumps just typing about it! The horn starts blasting, Theoden and Aragorn ride forth, and then we see the trees. And Erkenbrand. And Gandalf. It's amazing. I might cry with joy.

(That's Gandalf arriving on Shadowfax -- it looks better on my TV. Hmm.)

Anyway, so much to love in this chapter. Helm's Deep itself is a cool fortress place, and I love how Gimli stamps around rhapsodizing about the good bones the mountain has. He felt out of place in the forest, but now he's right at home, and its Legolas' turn to feel out of place. Cracks me up.

And yes, a forest marched over here during the night. We'll learn more about that in the next chapter, but basically, it's not only the Ents who have gone to war; some of the trees have too.

Favorite Lines:

Even as they looked he was gone: a flash of silver in the sunset, a wind over the grass, a shadow that fled and passed from sight (p. 516).

"Trust not to secret ways," said the king (p. 517).

"Give me a row of orc-necks and room to swing and all weariness will fall from me!" (p. 520).

"...oft the unbidden guest proves the best company" (p. 522).

"None knows what the new day shall bring him," said Aragorn (p. 527).

Discussion Questions:

Do you find the eleventh-hour arrival of Gandalf, Erkenbrand, and the forest all together to be totally awesome, or a little too convenient?

How do you think the battle would have gone if any one of those three had not shown up?

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

International Book-Giving Day Giveaway

Yup!  I'm giving away six books in honor of International Book-Giving Day, which is February 14.  So from now through February 13, you can enter to win one of these books, using the widget below.  I'll pick six winners on February 14 and give away these six books!

+ F. Scott Fitzgerald On Writing edited by Larry W. Phillips.  A collection of things Fitzgerald wrote in letters, articles, and his books that involve the writing process.  I reviewed it here.

+ Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.  A contemplation of what it means to be creative and a woman.  This book touches me deeply and also inspires me.

+ Aspects of the Novel by E. M. Forster.  This is a guide for writers, and I haven't read it yet, but I hear it's awesome.  I have a copy on my own TBR shelf right now.

+ Mugging the Muse: Writing Fiction for Love AND Money by Holly Lisle.  I have learned more about writing from Holly Lisle's classes than I have from all the other books, classes, and editorial advice I've encountered.  This book is a collection of essays, workshops, quizzes, and how-to articles.

+ Flashes of Splashes by Elizabeth McCleary.  A collection of water-themed flash fiction.  I reviewed it here.

+ The Trials of Sherlock Holmes by James Moffett.  A collection of new Sherlock Holmes stories.  I reviewed it here.

All of these books are gently used.  The copies shown above are the actual copies I am giving away.  The Rafflecopter widget will choose one winner for each of these books on February 14, and I will then alert the winners via the email address they have provided to this widget, so be sure to use an email address you check regularly.  If I don't hear back from a winner within one week, I will disqualify them and choose a new winner.

This giveaway is open world-wide.  No purchase necessary, void where prohibited, and all that jazz.  I do my best to match winners with a prize they will enjoy, but I can't always make that work with the winners the widget picks, just so you know. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: It's Been a Long, Long Time

This week's TTT topic, as set forth by That Artsy Reader Girl, is: Top Ten Books That Have Been on my To-Read List the Longest.

I got a little spiral-bound book about the time I graduated from college that I used to keep track of all the books I wanted to read.  Before that, I'd had my list on scraps of paper and in my head, but that was the first time I jotted them down in one spot.  That book looked just like this one:

(Thank you, Pinterest)

I still have that book, being a good little pack-rat, so here are the first ten books in it that I have not yet read:

Death Comes to the Archbishop 
by Willa Cather

From Here to Eternity
by James Jones

by Kent Haruf

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Private Investigating
by Steve Brown

Never Accept Candy from Strangers Unless They Let You Ride in Their Car
by Lawrence Russell

Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell
by Susanna Clarke

Shakespeare Well-Versed
by James Muirden

The Scarlet Pimpernel 
by Baroness Orczy

Anna Karenina
by Leo Tolstoy

Hamlet's Perfection 
by William Kerrigan

I still have hopes of reading all of these some day!  Especially Death Comes to the Archbishop and The Scarlet Pimpernel -- I even own copies of those, so really hoping to get to them sooner rather than later.

That's it for this edition of Top Ten Tuesday.  Tell me, have you read any of these?  Are any of them on your own TBR list?  Did you do a TTT post this week? 

Monday, February 5, 2018

International Book-Giving Day Exists!

My friends, I have discovered a glorious truth:  International Book-Giving Day is a real thing!  It has a website and everything.

You may have noticed that I love hosting giveaways.  There is no way I was going to let an event like this go past without giving away some books.  Not now that I know it exists.  So, yes, I'm going to host a book giveaway here on The Edge of the Precipice.  It'll start later this week, and I'll draw the winners on Feb. 14.  Stay tuned for details!

(And yes, I'll also be hosting a totally separate giveaway next week as part of my We Love Superheroes Week on my other blog, Hamlette's Soliloquy.  The Post Office is going to love me this month.)

Another LOTR Read-Along: The King of the Golden Hall (TTT 3, 6)

Here we are at last! Edoras! It doesn't really look in the movie the way Tolkien describes it (there's not much grass that I can see, for one thing), but it's so awesome in both that I totally don't care.

Are you reminded of Obi-Wan Kenobi when Gandalf and company first arrive at Edoras? Gandalf tells the guard to go announce their arrival, and then he stares hard at the guard until the man slowly says he will go announce them. It always reminds me of Obi-Wan saying, "These aren't the droids you're looking for."

Theoden joins the ranks of those that lament Boromir's passing, you'll notice. Warms my heart.

And here we meet Eowyn! My favorite female character in LOTR, by far. Wormtongue obviously has been creepily stalking her, which her brother Eomer has been wanting to do something about, but because Wormtongue has had more favor with Theoden King than Eomer for quite a while now, Eomer's mostly just had to glower in silence. I would assume he's also been having members of his household keep an eye on her whenever he's been gone, to make sure Wormtongue hasn't done more than be creepy from afar. That's speculation on my part, though.

Poor Eowyn has spent the last few years waiting on her uncle as he grows old and weak under Wormtongue's influence. And now here comes this man with kingly bearing and great power, Aragorn -- is it any wonder she's a bit starstruck in his presence? We've gotten kind of used to Aragorn, like the hobbits, and forget that he's actually really important, but Eowyn sees his veiled majesty right away. And for his part, Aragorn sees that she is beautiful and has a power of her own, but of course, his heart belongs to Arwen. That's why he's troubled when Eowyn offers him a drink and trembles when their fingers touch -- he knows then that she's developed a crush on him. Now he has to figure out how to deal with that.

A line that struck me during this reading was a bit of Gandalf's advice to Theoden. He tells the king "[t]o do the deed at hand" (p. 507). I love that advice. When I'm super busy and starting to stress out, I make myself slow down and just do the next useful thing. For instance, when I'm packing for a trip, I often spend a day gathering everything that we need and gradually packing them in various suitcases and bags, and that can be a stressful and overwhelming day if I focus on all the stuff I need to do all at once. But if I just keep finishing one task and then starting the next, it all gets done. Maybe I should make a sign that says, "Do the deed at hand" for my kitchen or something.

And I want to particularly mention one line, which I think is the coolest description of a horse ever: "Were the breath of the West Wind to take a body visible, even so would it appear" (p. 513). Why, Eomer! How poetic you are today!

Favorite Lines:

"A king will have his way in his own hall, be it folly or wisdom" (p. 499).

" doubt a man of worth will trust to his own wisdom" (p. 500).

"The wise speak only of what they know" (p. 503).

Discussion Questions:

Tolkien describes Grima Wormtongue as having "a pale wise face" (p. 501). Do you think this means Grima does have some wisdom in him somewhere? Or does he only appear to be wise?

How do you think Aragorn should approach the problem of Eowyn's interest in him?

Sunday, February 4, 2018

"Jane of Lantern Hill" by L. M. Montgomery

Rejoice with me, my friends!  I've finished reading my allotment of entries to judge for the Five Poisoned Apples contest, and I am now going to devour some books, starting with this one that I began simply weeks ago.

There's something so comfortingly optimistic about most of Montgomery's novels, isn't there?  I mean, many of them begin absolutely horribly, with some wonderful girl stuck in a grim life, surrounded by people who don't love her or understand her or take care of her.  Or all three.  But there's the promise of hope and better things on the horizon.  At least, in most of the Montgomery books I've read -- honestly, until I was out of college, I'd only ever read the 8 Anne of Green Gables books.  In my twenties, I read the Emily of New Moon books, which I liked okay.  But it wasn't until I got into book blogging a few years ago that I started hearing about her other books and getting interested in reading them too.  

So anyway, I really liked Jane of Lantern Hill.  I've put it on my wish list.  

Jane lives a cheerless life, reminding me a bit of The Child from Anne of Windy Poplars mixed with Valancy Stirling of The Blue Castle.  She's being raised by her mother, grandmother, and maiden aunt in a gloomy, hostile old house.  Her mother loves her, so at least she has that, but she's constantly squelched and belittled by her grandmother and aunt.  Then her life changes forever -- and decidedly for the better -- when her estranged father sends for her, and she spends her summer with him on Prince Edward Island (enchanted realm that we all know it to be), where she becomes a real person instead of a scared little shadow.

It's also got an interesting bit of meditation on how parents shouldn't get so wrapped up in their children that they neglect their spouses.  And also that spouses shouldn't get jealous of the way their spouse loves their child.  I would have liked to see that developed even more, but what was there was very nice as it is.

I could never decide, though, if I wanted Glenn Ford or Tom Hiddleston to play Jane's father.  'Tis a puzzlement.

Particularly Good Bits:

...if you couldn't be loved, the next best thing was to be let alone (p. 43).

"It is the essence of adventure to see the break of a new day, Jane" (p. 125).

The lion did not seem to have any intention of going away.  He came in, looked about him, and lay down in a patch of sunshine with the air of a lion who had any amount of spare time (p. 173).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  G.  Clean, wholesome, and delightful.

This is my 14th book read and reviewed for the Classics Club and my first for the OldSchool KidLit Reading Challenge 2018.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Another LOTR Read-Along: The White Rider (TTT 3, 5)

And so Gandalf returns, with Tolkien melding the scenes of Christ's Resurrection and Transfiguration into one when a returned-from-the-dead Gandalf appears to his followers in shining white robes with eyes "piercing as the rays of the sun." This is the only place where the book that is "neither allegorical nor topical" (p. xvi) strikes me as a bit heavy-handed with the religious imagery (even more so than in "In the House of Tom Bombadil")... and I don't mind it a bit! Huh.

So... Gandalf is back, we're all going to Edoras, hooray!

Favorite Lines:

"That would not baffle a Ranger," said Gimli. "A bent blade is enough for Aragorn to read" (p. 477).

"Few can foresee whither their road will lead them, till they come to its end" (p. 481).

"It was not in vain that the young hobbits came with us, if only for Boromir's sake" (p. 485).

"A thing is about to happen which has not happened since the Elder Days: the Ents are going to wake up and find that they are strong" (p. 488).

"Go where you must go, and hope!" (p. 489).

Discussion Questions:

Gandalf says of Sauron: "That we should wish to cast him down and have no one in his place is not a thought that occurs to his mind" (p. 485-6). Does that ever seem a little convenient to you? That Sauron hasn't even considered that they might all want to be totally free?

Gandalf says that he has returned "at the turn of the tide. The great storm is coming, but the tide has turned" (p. 484). What do you think he speaks of, that has turned the tide? Is it himself returning, more powerful than before? Or Frodo making up his mind to take the ring into Mordor and not to Minas Tirith?