Sunday, September 30, 2018

"The Case of the Very Bad Cat" by Perry Elisabeth Kirkpatrick

Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.  This is such a cute book!

How cute?  I totally just ordered a copy of it AND the first three books in the series in paperback for my daughter for Christmas.  She is obsessed with cats and starting to dig mysteries, and she is gonnna love these books.

Why?  Because they're mysteries narrated by a talking, reading, cat detective named Mia.  Cute and adorable and cat-like and... yeah, this is gonna be the perfect series for her.

Also, I totally want to read the first three books myself, hee hee!

In this book, Mia the detective cat is in hiding, working undercover as it were.  Another cat tries to frame her for killing some mice and birds, and Mia must figure out why.  She's also trying to help a human detective figure out a case anonymously.  I'd set it around a 3rd- to 5th-grade reading level.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  G.  Clean, wholesome, no violence (well, a couple mice and a bird die off-page), no bad language, nothing objectionable at all.

Full disclosure:  I received a free advance copy of this book from the author. I was not required to write a positive review; all thoughts are my own.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

2018 Tolkien Giveaway WINNERS

Congratulations to the nine lucky winners of the giveaway!  Check your email for a message from me later today asking for a shipping address and so on.

6 Tolkien-themed bookmarks -- Gabby A.
6 Tolkien-themed bookmarks -- Lydia B.
4 Tolkien-themed stickers -- Rose Marie
4 Tolkien-themed stickers -- Abby J.
"Not all those who wander..." bookmark -- Kendra Lynne
Tiny hobbit door -- Jenelle Leanne
The Children of Hurin -- Cordy
Hobbit-hole notebook/journal -- E.F.B.
Middle-earth Puzzles -- Middle Earth Musician

Thanks to everyone who participated in this year's Tolkien Blog Party!  I had lots of fun, and I hope you did too :-)

Answers to the LOTR Name Scramble

Here are the answers to the unscramble!  And everyone's scores, too.  How'd you do?

1. Airfarm = Faramir
2. Algierlad = Galadriel
3. Andflag = Gandalf
4. Angaror = Aragorn
5. Blobi = Bilbo
6. Bolenerc = Celeborn
7. Comradie = Meriadoc
8. Dolern = Elrond
9. Doorf = Frodo
10. Glumlo = Gollum
11. Gripneer = Peregrin
12. Leoslag = Legolas
13. Maurans = Saruman
14. Milgi = Gimli
15. Nothdeer = Denethor
16. Othneed = Theoden
17. Ribroom = Boromir
18. Swimsea = Samwise
19. Wrean = Arwen
20. Wyneo = Eowyn


Anna Holmberg -- 20
Beth -- 20
Fawnabelle Baggins -- 20
Gabby A. -- 20
Jenelle Leanne -- 20
June and Joze -- 20
Kiri Liz -- 20
Olivia -- 20
RM Lutz -- 20
Skye -- 20
Victoria S. -- 20
Ruth -- 18
Cordy -- 12

Answers to Middle-earth Weaponry Quiz

Here are the answers to the weaponry quiz!  Everyone's scores are below as well.

1. f (Aeglos belongs to Gil-galad)
2. a (Anduril belongs to Aragorn)
3. h (Aranruth belongs to Thingol)
4. j (Dramborleg belongs to Tuor)
5. e (Glamdring belongs to Gandalf)
6. c (Guthwine belongs to Eomer)
7. g (Herugrum belongs to Theoden)
8. i  (Orcrist belongs to Thorin Oakenshield)
9. d (Ringil belongs to Fingolfin)
10. b (Sting belongs to Bilbo Baggins)


Beth -- 10
MiddleEarthMusician -- 10
Jenelle Leanne -- 7
Fawnabelle Baggins -- 6
Olivia -- 6
Victoria S. -- 6
Lydia Borden -- 5
RM Lutz -- 5
Gabby A. -- 4
Kendra Lynne -- 4
Ruth -- 3

Thursday, September 27, 2018

"A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War" by Joseph Laconte

Oh. My. Goodness.

You know how sometimes, lots of people tell you to read a book because they're sure you would love it, and so you find the book, and then you put off reading it for like a year because you're afraid you might not like it as much as they expect you to like it?

Or is that just me?

Anyway, that happened for me with this book, and it just goes to show you how foolish I can be sometimes.  Because this is a great book.

I've been gravitating toward books about WWI lately, I think.  Not intentionally, they just... keep cropping up.  I'm happy about this because I feel like I don't know enough about WWI, and this is all filling in a gap in my knowledge of world history.

ANYWAY!  I'm rambling today.  Sorry.  THIS book is fantastic.  It focuses chiefly on J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, as you may have guessed, especially their experiences as soldiers on the front lines during WWI and how those affected the rest of their lives.  Especially their literary lives, of course, since that's what most of us know Tolkien and Lewis for.  

But it doesn't stop with those two.  It shows, gently and persuasively, how the catastrophic destruction of that war caused millions of people to turn away from God and look to science and technology for their salvation here on earth.  And how that change in the world around them informed the things Tolkien and Lewis wrote about.

I learned so much from this book!  In fact, I told my husband he needs to read it too.  I'm confident he'll also find it fascinating.

(From my Instagram account.)

Particularly Good Bits:

Tolkien and Lewis were attracted to the genres of myth and romance not because they sought to escape the world, but because for them, the real world had a mythic and heroic quality (p. xvi).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for discussions of war-related violence, suicide, and so on.  No cursing or anything like that, just a lot about the realities and horrors of war.

This is my 13th book read and reviewed for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2018.

And this review is also part of my Tolkien Blog Party.  Tomorrow is the last day to enter the giveaway and the games, so if you haven't done so already, have at it!  I'll choose giveaway winners on Saturday, and post the game answers and scores too.

Finally, this is part of my continuing quest to read a goodly number of the books I've collected that have to do with Middle-earth and J.R.R. Tolkien, which I've dubbed My Years in Middle-earth.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

LOTR Name Scramble

Here's the second party game for the 2018 Tolkien Blog Party!  I've scrambled up the names of twenty characters from The Lord of the Rings.  These are all characters who are in the book AND the movies --  I didn't get all tricky and throw in obscure people like Ghan-Buri-Ghan or anything.

It's your job to unscramble them and post your answers in the comments.  I'll reveal the answers and everyone's scores on Saturday!

1. Airfarm
2. Algierlad
3. Andflag
4. Angaror
5. Blobi
6. Bolenerc
7. Comradie
8. Dolern
9. Doorf
10. Glumlo
11. Gripneer
12. Leoslag
13. Maurans
14. Milgi
15. Nothdeer
16. Othneed
17. Ribroom
18. Swimsea
19. Wrean
20. Wyneo

Monday, September 24, 2018

Middle-earth Weaponry Quiz

Ahhh, those nice, shiny daggers.  Who among us doesn't want one?  Maybe you even own a replica?  I don't actually have any replica weaponry from Middle-earth, but wow, I would love to.

(Note: not all weapons shown are on this list.)

Your challenge is to match up the names of the famous weapons (first list) with the name of the person who wielded them (second list).  Some of these are easy.  Some are very hard.  I admit that I looked a bunch up on the Lotr Wiki because I did not know them.  So don't feel bad if you don't either.  They're all from The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and The Silmarillion.  Just so you know.

I'm putting comments on "moderate" now so your answers in the comments will be kept secret and safe until after I post the answers and everyone's scores on Saturday.


1. Aeglos
2. Anduril
3. Aranruth
4. Dramborleg
5. Glamdring
6. Guthwine
7. Herugrim
8. Orcrist
9. Ringil
10. Sting


a. Aragorn
b. Bilbo Baggins
c. Eomer
d. Fingolfin
e. Gandalf
f. Gil-galad
g. Theoden
h. Thingol
i. Thorin Oakenshield
j. Tuor

Saturday, September 22, 2018

A Tolkien Blog Party -- 2018

Greetings, my very dear Bagginses and Boffins, Bracegirdles and Tooks, Hornblowers and Brandybucks, Cottons and Proudfoots.  


Today is Bilbo and Frodo's birthday!!!  And that means my sixth annual Tolkien Blog Party shall now commence.

If you are indeed here on party business, then pour yourself a cup of Old Winyards, Entdraught, or even beer from the Green Dragon if you so desire, and get busy filling out the latest blog tag.  Copy these questions to your own blog, answer them there, and then come back here with a link to your post.  Put that link in the widget below so we can all enjoy getting to know you and your opinions on these very important matters!  Feel free to use any of the buttons I shared on this page to dress up your post.

Tolkien Tag 2018

1.  What's your favorite Middle-earth story/book?

2.  Do you have a favorite subplot?

3.  What's your favorite theme in Tolkien's books?  (Can be in one specific story, or overall.)

4.  Do you have a favorite weapon from Middle-earth?

5.  Would you like to be a hobbit?

6.  Do you have a favorite romance/couple?

7.  What's your favorite Middle-earth creature?  (Can be "real" or "imaginary.")

8.  What character do you look the most like?

9.  Are there any books about Middle-earth or Professor Tolkien (but not written by him) you recommend?

10.  List up to ten of your favorite lines/quotations from the Middle-earth books and/or movies.

Here's the widget for you to add your link to.  And don't forget to comment on this post so people know there's a new set of answers to read!  The best part of this party is meeting new Tolkien fans.

Now that you've filled out the tag and left your link here, maybe even found a new friend or two by reading their posts... go enter the giveaway!  And check back all week to participate in the games and read other Tolkien-related blog posts.

Giveaway for the 2018 Tolkien Blog Party

YES!  Time to unveil this year's giveaway prizes! 

This year, I will give away NINE prizes.  Why nine?  Nine companions in the Fellowship of the Ring... nine Nazgul... 9x9=81, and it's the 81st anniversary of The Hobbit being released... why not nine prizes?

TWO winners will EACH receive a set of 6 Tolkien-themed bookmarks, as pictured above.

TWO winners will EACH receive a set of 4 Tolkien-themed stickers, as pictured above.

ONE winner will receive a bookmark that says "Not all those who wander are lost."

ONE winner will receive a tiny Hobbit-like door, perfect for a miniature garden or terrarium.

ONE winner will receive a NEW copy of The Children of Hurin by J. R. R. Tolkien.

ONE winner will receive a Hobbit Hole spiral-bound notebook/journal.

ONE winner will receive a USED copy of Middle-Earth Puzzles by Tim Dedopulos.

This giveaway is open WORLDWIDE. I'm mailing these all myself, and most of them are small, so no matter where you live in this wide world, you are welcome to enter.

The main way to gain entries is to participate in the party, in other words, to copy the questions I posted here and answer them on your own blog, then add your post's link to the Mister Linky widget at the bottom of that official party kick-off post. But that isn't required! You can also earn entries by telling me your prize choices and by commenting elsewhere on my blog. I do my best to match winners with their choice of prizes, but that doesn't always work out -- that's why I ask for your top three choices.

This giveaway runs through the end of Friday, September 28. I will draw the winners on Saturday, September 29 and post the names of the winners that day, as well a notify them by email.

PLEASE make sure your information for the giveaway widget includes your current email address so that if you win a prize, you'll get the email informing you that you won! If you don't reply to my email by Saturday, October 6, I will choose another winner and award your prize to them instead.

Here's the widget:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don't forget to check back throughout the week to participate in the games and make new friends!

Friday, September 21, 2018

"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" by Roald Dahl

I hadn't read this book in more than twenty years.  Man, is it ever still really funny.

I'm teaching literature for our local homeschool group this year.  Three different age groups: preschool through first grade, third through sixth grade, and high school.  It's been GREAT so far!  I teach twice a month, and we have been having a blast.  Yesterday, the third-through-sixth-graders discussed this book, and their enthusiasm was awesome!  And I'm not just saying that because two of the kids are mine :-)  They loved talking about the candy, of course, but I was impressed by how well they understood the characters.  We talked about motivations, whether anybody in the book was always bad or always good, and how Charlie changes by the end of the story.  Good stuff.

I actually read this book out loud to my kids over the past couple of weeks because I knew my first-grader would enjoy it too.  I did this crazy, high, squeaky voice for Willy Wonka that I regretted after like one chapter with him because it killed my vocal chords... but they got such a kick out of it, I kept doing it for the rest of the book.  My third-grader later told me her favorite thing about the book was Willy Wonka's funny voice, hee.

I think my favorite part of this book is just how very, very poor Charlie Bucket gets rewarded for being a sensible, kind, obedient boy in a super-fantastic way.  I remember as a kid making up all these stories about poor orphans getting adopted by rich people, or rich people going around buying up hotels and then letting homeless people live in them, and I know this book played into those stories in a big way.

Would anybody be interested in me doing a post about how I teach lit to our homeschool group, what books we're reading this semester, and so on?

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  G.  Good, clean, silly fun.

This is my 21st book read and reviewed for the Classics Club and my 6th for the Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

"A Song Unheard" by Roseanna M. White

Well, I didn't like this as well as A Name Unknown, and that is entirely because of the characters.  Specifically, because of Lukas De Wilde.  I eventually ended up liking him okay, but wow, the dude did not understand the meaning of the word 'no,' did he?

Time and again, Willa Forsythe told him she was not romantically interested in him, and time and again he ignored that and insisted on wooing her anyway.  If a notorious playboy singlemindedly pursued a girl today, we'd call him a stalker or a creeper, but because this is historical fiction, it's supposed to be okay?

Nope, rubbed me wrong.

Willa herself didn't really win me over either.  I like con artists, but I don't like liars, and she did too much lying and too little conning for me to really warm to her.

Now, once she told Lukas the truth?  I settled right in and liked this book from then on.  It helped that Barclay was on the scene then too, and he elevated the story from oh-can't-they-just-either-get-together-or-give-this-up tiresomeness to something I dug.  I really am looking forward to reading An Hour Unspent, which I hear focuses on Barclay instead of one of his sisters.

I also very much liked Lukas' little sister Margot -- her habit of praying by using numbers really intrigued me.  God understands every language and created mathematics, so of course you could pray with numbers if that makes sense to you.  I'd just never thought of it!  So I liked that.

The basic plot of this is that thief Willa Forsythe is charged by the mysterious V to find and steal a secret code from famous Belgian violinist Lukas de Wilde, who has escaped the German occupation of Belgium and is raising money in Wales to help other Belgians.  Lukas' mom and sister are still in Belgium, he knows not where.  Willa is a violin prodigy herself, and I did enjoy lots of the musical content of this book.

(From my Instagram account.)

Particularly Good Bits:

She felt, as she listened to the ninety musicians following the motions of the maestro into a frenzy of musical bliss, as though she were seeing true beauty for the first time.  She felt bigger and smaller all at once.  More alive.  Closer to death.  Fear and peace, love and sorrow.  She felt like she never had before.  And it left her with energy coursing through her veins, stinging her fingertips (p. 115).

"My mother always says that the one you're meant to marry is simply the one you do marry -- it's not a matter of romance, it's a matter of deciding to love and make it work" (p. 122).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for veiled references to Lukas's playboy past, spending nights with random women, as well as for violence and suspense.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

"Gone-Away Lake" by Elizabeth Enright

I love this book.  I loved it as a kid, and I love it now.

I read Gone-Away Lake over and over as a pre-teen, and I vaguely could remember now what it was about -- some kids who find an abandoned village -- but I really didn't recall the particulars.  My son found this on my shelves a couple of years ago and fell in love with it too, and he's nearly destroyed my copy with his love.  But neither of my daughters wanted to read it on their own.

When we got home from vacation, I decided this would be the next book I'd read out loud to my kids because it's such a good summer story.  July and August were frenetic and hectic, so it took me two whole months to read it aloud to them.  But we finished it just at the beginning of September, which was perfect timing because the last couple chapters take place at the beginning of September too.  And we all loved it so much, I'm going to read the sequel to them next week.

Yes, there's a sequel!!!  I was entirely unaware of that fact until a year or so ago when we spotted it at the used bookstore.  I haven't read it yet, but I'm excited.

I really didn't remember a ton of this book while I read it, which surprised me.  Usually books that I read multiple times as a kid still feel very familiar.  And certain scenes did come back to me as I read, but not the book as a whole.  However, I realized while reading it that this book is a HUGE part of why I am somewhat obsessed with abandoned places.  And why I generally find abandoned buildings beautiful and inspiring, not creepy.  I do vividly recall wishing that there was an abandoned house somewhere near where I lived that was sound enough still for me to clean up and take over as my own clubhouse like Portia and Julian get to do in this book.  I still wish that.  I love old, neglected houses in a "let me rescue it and give it love" sort of way, and I see now that this book certainly fed into that, though I can't tell if it caused that interest.

Anyway, this book is about two cousins, Portia and Julian, who go tramping around in the woods and stumble on an abandoned cluster of summer homes.  But they're not entirely abandoned -- two delightful elderly people, brother and sister, still live there.  Julian and Portia befriend them, and they have a jolly summer together.  I love it.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  G.  It's clean and wholesome.  There's a tense chapter where someone gets stuck in quicksand that might be hard on kids under 6.

This is my 5th book read and reviewed for the Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge and my 20th for my second go-round with the Classics Club.  (Do I count this book as a classic?  Yes, I do!  It was written in 1957 and should be read by every child.  It's a classic.  So there.)

Sunday, September 9, 2018

The "Dancing and Doughnuts" Giveaway Winners!

My book tour officially ended yesterday, and so did the giveaways associated with it.  This afternoon, the Rafflecopter widgets have spoken, so I can announce the winners!!! 

The winner of the blog tour prize pack, shown above, is...

Betsy Waggoner

Congratulations, Betsy!  

I also held a giveaway open only to those who hosted blog tour stops, and the winner for that is...

Annie from The Western Desk

Annie will get to choose either autographed copies of both Cloaked and Dancing and Doughnuts OR a $15 Amazon gift certificate.  Congratulations to you too, Annie!

Everyone else, I'm sorry you didn't win :-(  I guess you'll just have to buy your own copy, or convince your library to get it, or put it on your Christmas list.  Right?  Right!

Friday, September 7, 2018

The Silmarillion Awards

Do you love fantasy fiction?  Are you finding it hard to fill your days while you wait for the Tolkien Blog Party to begin?  Check out the Silmarillion Awards, which are open for nominations through the end of today.  They're for characters in fantasy books, and I don't think it matters if it's a new book or a classic -- as long as it's fantasy, it's good to go.  

Ten different blogs are involved in this, each blog responsible for one Silmaril award.  Follow these links to get in on the nominations and watch for the voting to begin next week!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

"The Welsh Gambit" by Charity Bishop

Book one in the Tudor Throne series, The Usurper's Throne, was one of my ten favorite reads of 2017.  Book two, The Welsh Gambit, is very likely going to be one of my top ten new reads of 2018.  It's every bit as breathless and engrossing as the first book, and I read the last quarter of the book in one sitting because I just had to know what happened next!

The action in this book centers around a castle in Wales where Edward Stafford, the Duke of Buckingham, is preparing to host a tournament in honor of the memory of the prince who died at the end of The Usurper's Throne, but in the interest of not spoiling things, I won't say the prince's name.  Anyway, the tournament means that lots of people get thrown together as they gather to watch or participate in the festivities.  Friends and enemies alike mix in the crowds.  

Of particular interest to me was the Lady Anwen, who spent months as a tormented captive of Lord Meuric and his brutish protege Beynon.  Though they never actually assaulted her virtue, they threatened to do so repeatedly.  Anwen is now free, but traumatized.  She breaks off her engagement to a wonderful young man named James because she cannot bear to be touched by anyone.  Gradually, she finds healing for body, soul, and mind by learning new things and eventually confronting her tormentors.  

But my favorite character was once again Sir Thomas Lovell, the sly, devious, but often honorable Enforcer.  He spies and connives and bullies, and sometimes I want to slap him.  But just when I think I'm done with him, he does something absolutely wonderful and then I'm a fan again.

There's lots of mystery and intrigue in this book.  A dead woman is said to haunt the castle, and several characters make it their mission to find her remains.  Treason and envy and desire lie at the root of several other mysteries entwined throughout the story, keeping me on the edge of my seat through the last nine chapters.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-13 for a little bad language, discussions of attempted rape, violence, bloodshed, and some intimate scenes between married people that do not progress beyond passionate kisses.

Full disclosure:  I received an ARC copy in exchange for my honest opinion, which I have given here.

You can pre-order the Kindle version here, and there will be a paperback edition available soon as well.  The Goodreads page for this book is here.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Announcing the Sixth Annual Tolkien Blog Party

Sorry this announcement is a bit late.  But yes!  I will be hosting my annual Tolkien Blog Party for the sixth year.  I assure you I am greatly looking forward to it.  I hope you are too!

As usual, I'll have a questionnaire tag for you to fill out, some games, a book review or two, and a giveaway.  This year, it will run from Saturday, Sept. 22 (Bilbo and Frodo's birthday, and always observed as Hobbit Day) to Saturday, Sept. 29.

Here are a few blog buttons I've worked up for the occasion -- share them on your own blogs or other social media accounts to spread the word!  We always have such a merry time during this blog party, and I look forward to it all year.

See you there!

Saturday, September 1, 2018

In Which I Join the Reams of Rereads Event

My friend Eva is hosting a blog event during the month of October called Reams of Rereads.  The idea behind it is that we often get so focused on our TBR mountains we don't make time to reread books we already love.  Well, I LOVE rereading books, as you may have noticed if you've been hanging out with me for more than a day or two.  So I'm 100% on board with this idea.

In October, I intend to re-read at least four of these books:

  • The Hound of the Baskervilles by A. Conan Doyle (this is the best book to read in October)
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Wild Horse Mesa by Zane Grey
  • The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler
  • Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
  • The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

If you want to join this event too, visit this post on Eva's blog, Coffee, Classics, and Craziness!