Tuesday, September 28, 2021

"The Little Paris Bookshop" by Nina George

Well, that was charming, if ultimately kind of hollow.

I picked this book up at an airport bookstore on my way home from visiting my parents earlier this month.  I'd seen it on Instagram a few times, and it sounded really enjoyable.  I generally like books about people who like books.  No surprise there, right?

And I did like this book pretty well, overall.  It's all about Jean, a 50-yr-old man who learns the real fate of the woman he loved and lost 20 years earlier, and works through his grief by travelling to her home in the French countryside.  He owns and runs a bookshop on a barge in Paris, and he just takes off on his floating bookstore one day.  His neighbor Max, a bestselling author who's trying to escape his rabid new fans, comes along for the ride.

They travel by river; they travel by car.  They meet lots of interesting people, and they do a lot of soul-searching.  And they both find the peace they're looking for.  Also, they talk a lot about books and how they affect us.  All of that, I liked.  Jean was very likeable, and Max grew on me.  By the end, Max may have been my favorite.

What I didn't like was the love story that Jean was trying to come to terms with and put behind him.  Twenty years earlier, he had been in love with a woman named Manon.  She was married, but her husband never came to Paris with her on her visits, and she spent those visits in Jean's bed.  They carried on an adulterous affair for five years, and this is all supposed to be somehow just fine and understandable.  Why?  Because Manon simply could never be satisfied with sharing her life with only one man -- she was too large a spirit, or too varied a person, or something.

Toward the end of the book, I realized suddenly that Manon was essentially a Manic Pixie Dream Girl.  She was a plot device, only here to give Jean a reason to brood and mourn and search his soul for meaning or whatever.  She was too much to be real.  And the weird thing is, I tend to be fond of Manic Pixie Dream Girls.  They usually don't bug me.  I really love quirky, oddball characters, male or female.  But Manon... bugged me.  And a lot of that is because she insisted on adultery being her right, and she wrecked Jean's life and her husband's life in a lot of ways because she refused to see the meaning or power of contentment.  Yet she's adulated and revered by the author, through the characters, and that left a really bad taste in my mouth.

So, in the end, I enjoyed this book.  I cried at the end, in a good way.  But it's not one I will reread or even recommend.  I did really appreciate that it showed that love and romance are not only for hot people in their twenties, and that love and forgiveness are very closely interconnected.  But, ultimately, I was not charmed the way I would like to have been.

Particularly Good Bits:

Memories are like wolves.  You can't lock them away and hope they leave you alone (p. 5).

"Do you think only people in books do crazy things?" (p. 93).

Nobody would ever wise up if they hadn't at some stage been young and stupid (p. 129).

Reading -- an an endless journey; a long, indeed never-ending journey that made one more temperate as well as more loving and kind.  Max had set out on that journey.  With each book he would absorb more of the world, things and people (p. 142).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: R.  It has a lot of sex scenes, some of them semi-graphic and some of them not.  They creep up on you and ambush you with little warning, getting woven into the story in a way that makes them very hard to see coming.  I did a lot of, "Oh!  Oh my.  Skim skim skim skim skim... I think it's safe now?" kinds of reading, which was annoying.

This was my 40th book read off my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2021.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Wrapping Up the 2021 Tolkien Blog Party

Well, here we are at the end of another Tolkien Blog Party.  Thank you so much for participating!  If you've still got a post or two you want to contribute, it's not too late!  You can add your link to the widget below any time still.  And if you haven't had a chance to visit everyone's posts yet (like I haven't -- but I will read them all eventually!), here are all the links again, to make it easier for you to find them:

I've had such a wonderful time discussing J.R.R. Tolkien with you, playing party games, and so on.  I hope you've had fun too.  I'm already looking forward to next year!

Winners of the 2021 Tolkien Giveaway

This year's Tolkien blog party is winding down.  Since it's the last day, it's time to pick the giveaway winners!  Congratulations to these nine Tolkienites:

Prize 1 (mug) -- CC
Prize 2 (leaf pin) -- Samantha B.
Prize 3 (cards) -- Stephanie BMMR
Prize 4 (bookmark) -- Shire Rose
Prize 5 (sticker sheet) -- Eva S.
Prize 6 (3 b&w stickers) -- Kathy Eyre
Prize 7 (3 color stickers) -- Olivia R.
Prize 8 (Hobbit Companion) -- Ivy Miranda
Prize 9 (Letters of Tolkien) -- Mary H.

I'll be emailing all of you in a few minutes, asking where you'd like your prizes mailed off to.  So, please check the email address you submitted to the giveaway widget!

To everyone who didn't win -- there's always next year!  :-)

Answers to the Middle-earth Food Quiz

Here are the answers to this year's quiz with everyone's scores below!  How did you do?

1. Apples -- YES
2. Bacon -- YES
3. Blackberries -- YES
4. Butter -- YES
5. Cheese -- YES
6. Chocolate -- NO
7. Coffee -- YES
8. Eggs -- YES
9. Garlic -- NO
10. Honey -- YES
11. Mushrooms -- YES
12. Pickles -- YES
13. Potatoes -- YES
14. Salad -- YES
15. Tomatoes -- NO

Most of these appear in the first chapter of The Hobbit, "An Unexpected Party."  The others appear elsewhere either in The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings.  

Basically, Tolkien did not include any New World foods in Middle-earth except potatoes.  Potatoes were so dear to his heart, such an integral part of the rural English cuisine he was celebrating, that he had to keep them.  But the three on this list that are NOT in the books -- chocolate, garlic, and tomatoes -- are all New World foods (native to the Americas) and thus excluded (even though tomatoes make a memorable appearance in the ROTK movie).  Coffee originally comes from Arabia, so he included it.


Bea -- 12
Catherine Hawthorn -- 12
The Far Side of Forever -- 12
Ivy Miranda -- 12
Shire Rose -- 11
Eva -- 10
Livia Rachelle -- 10
Pages to Remember -- 10
Chloe the Movie Critic -- 8
Mary H. -- 8
Samantha -- 7

Thursday, September 23, 2021

"The Adventures of Tom Bombadil" by J. R. R. Tolkien

I did not realize this is a collection of poetry!  I thought it was going to be short stories like Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham, but about Tom Bombadil instead.  But it's not, it's poetry.  

The edition I read, which is the one pictured here, contains the poems that Tolkien published under this title in the '60s, plus a whole lot of commentary on the poems, earlier variations of them, explanations of their history, discussions of how they fit into his Middle-earth world, and so on.  There's more of that than of the poetry itself, really.

The poems themselves are not long, and quite varied.  Tolkien states, in his preface, that they come from the Red Book of Westmarch, in the Shire, but they were collected from different places.  Some of them are attributed to Bilbo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee.

My favorites were "The Hoard" and "Shadow-Bride."  

"The Hoard" is about a sort of cursed treasure that various people acquire and then waste their lives guarding, only to lose it to someone else when they die.  It doesn't do anyone any good, least of all those who 'own' it, and is rather a dark and cautionary tale.

"Shadow-Bride" is mysterious and ethereal and a little spooky.  An immovable man-statue suddenly comes to life when a shadowy woman comes near him, they embrace, and become a double-statue that only comes back to life at certain times.  Or something.  Like I said, it's fairly mysterious -- but that's what I liked about it.

If you love Tolkien, especially his poetry, this is a lot of fun.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for a bit of violence here and there, and some imagery that might scare small kids, but there's nothing harmful here.

This has been my 27th book read and reviewed for my third Classics Club list and my 39th from my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2021.  This has also been another contribution to my 2021 Tolkien Blog Party :-)

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Middle-earth Food Quiz: A Party Game

Tolkien's books are full of food.  I get hungry just reading them!  This particular quiz tests whether or not specific foods are mentioned in either The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings -- the BOOKS.  Not whether they appear in the movies, but whether Tolkien mentioned them in those two books, meaning they do exist canonically in Middle-earth.

You just have to say "yes" if they are mentioned, and "no" if they aren't!

1. Apples
2. Bacon
3. Blackberries
4. Butter
5. Cheese
6. Chocolate
7. Coffee
8. Eggs
9. Garlic
10. Honey
11. Mushrooms
12. Pickles
13. Potatoes
14. Salad
15. Tomatoes

I'll put comments on full moderation so no one can copy your answers.  I'll post everyone's scores, and the correct answers, on Saturday!

Monday, September 20, 2021

Meet Me in Middle-earth: A Party Game

Want to hang out with me in Middle-earth for a day or two?  Wouldn't that be an absolute dream?  Well, we can imagine we're doing just that, using the following to determine where we'll meet and what we'll do.  Share your adventure in the comments so we can all enjoy!


Where do you and I meet up?  Your favorite warm beverage determines our adventure's location:

  • Coffee = Minas Tirith
  • Tea = Hobbiton
  • Hot Chocolate = Rivendell
  • Hot Apple Cider = Edoras
  • Chai = Lothlorien
  • Mulled wine = Moria
  • Other = The Lonely Mountain


Who else comes on this adventure with us?  The first initial of your best friend's first name determines our companions:

  • A-E = Frodo and Samwise
  • F-J = Merry and Pippin
  • K-O = Bilbo and Gandalf
  • P-T = Legolas and Gimli
  • U-Z = Eomer and Eowyn


What are we setting off to achieve today?  Your favorite movie genre determines our quest:

  • Action/adventure = Stop your half-brother from taking over the world with his creepy army
  • Comedy = Find the perfect location for a birthday party
  • Drama = Escort three weary warriors home and reunite them with their families
  • Fantasy = Rescue your intended spouse from the clutches of your rival
  • Mystery = Recover a priceless relic covered in fabulous jewels
  • Period Drama = Stop a greedy landlord from turning your parents out of their house
  • Romantic Comedy = Deliver a decades-old love note that got lost in the post office
  • Sci-Fi = Reunite you with your father and free your allies from an evil tyrant with his help
  • Thriller = Convince the authorities you are not an enemy spy
  • Western = Find the low-down, dirty skunk that shot your pa
(If your favorite movie genre isn't listed, just pick the one you like best from those options.)


Naturally, our adventure has to have some complications and setbacks!  How many siblings you have (not counting yourself) determines how complicated things get:
  • 0 = We are attacked by giant spiders, but successfully beat them off.
  • 1 = We are pursued by a band of Uruk-hai for three whole days, until they get bored.
  • 2 = We lose all our food while trying to cross a fast river.
  • 3 = We almost get eaten by trolls, but are rescued by a friend at the last minute.
  • 4 = We get lost and wander around a swamp for two days before finding the road again.
  • 5 or more = We get sidetracked by hunting for treasure, which we find.


How does it all turn out?  The time you went to bed last night determines whether we succeed or fail:

  • Before 9 pm: We succeed, and everyone lives happily ever after.
  • Between 9 and 10 pm: We succeed, but not all of us are happy about it.
  • Between 10 and 11 pm: We succeed, but we wish we hadn't.
  • Between 11 pm and midnight: We succeed, but you take an arrow to the knee.
  • Between midnight and 1 am: We fail, and you and I both get thrown in a dungeon.
  • After 1 am: We fail, and everyone dies.

Now just put that all together!  

For instance, I would meet up with you at Rivendell, along with Frodo and Samwise, and we would all set off to find the low-down, dirty skunk that shot my pa.  We are pursued by a band of Uruk-hai for three whole days, but they get bored and go home, so we eventually succeed, though I take an arrow to the knee and limp for the rest of my life.  Sigh.  Oh well, it could be worse!

Your turn! 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

A Tolkien Blog Party 2021 -- Kick-Off Post + Tag

Welcome, hobbits and humans, elves and dwarves, and all free peoples!  Welcome to the ninth annual Tolkien Blog Party.

Nine is such a significant number in Lord of the Rings.  There are nine companions in the fellowship of the Ring, nine Nazgul, and so on.  I'm really excited that this event has been so long-lived!  I look forward to hosting it every year.  I collect up prizes for the giveaway for months.  It's such a delight to share the love of Tolkien's storytelling with you, year after year!

Speaking of the giveaway, I posted that a couple minutes ago, so you can check out the prizes and enter it right here.  It's open worldwide, as always!

I did something a little different with this year's tag, to reflect the theme of nine.  Here it is:

1. Aragorn: Favorite Tolkien hero/heroine

2. Boromir: Favorite Tolkien character arc

3. Frodo: Favorite song or poem by Tolkien

4. Gandalf: Favorite wise Tolkien quotation

5. Gimli: A Middle-earth location you'd like to visit

6. Legolas: Favorite Middle-earth Weapon

7. Merry: Favorite way to celebrate Tolkien's stories

8. Pippin: Favorite funny Tolkien quotation

9. Samwise: A Middle-earth food you'd like to try

Just copy that to your own blog and answer it, then be sure to share a link to your post in the widget below.

Like last year, you are not limited to doing that tag, when it comes to participating in this party!  You can contribute ANY Tolkien-related post, as long as it is new. (Please don't link to something you posted last year, for instance.) 

Anything Tolkien-related is welcome -- it doesn't have to revolve around Middle-earth. You could review a book by or about Tolkien, share thoughts about the movies, list off your favorite Tolkien quotations, share your collection of LOTR merch, whatever! There's no sign-up sheet, just post what you want to and then share your post via this link-up:

Don't forget to add a button to your posts!  I think these are my favorite buttons of any I've made for this event.  Practice makes perfect?  Anyway, be sure to link back to this post so your blog followers can come party with us.

I'll be posting a couple of games over the course of this week, so be sure to check back for those!  Especially since participating in them can gain you bonus entries in the giveaway.

Thank you for joining me to celebrate the inspirational storytelling of J. R. R. Tolkien.  I hope you'll have fun, enjoy reading each others' posts, and maybe even make some new friends. I'm so glad you're here!

Giveaway for Tolkien Blog Party 2021

Since this is the ninth annual Tolkien Blog Party, I am giving away nine prizes!  Here are details:

Prize 1: A camp-style mug that says Gandalf's line "Go where you must go, and hope," which I purchased from Crab Apple Books and More

Prize 2: A "leaf of Lorien" pin/necklace -- the leaf has a pinback, but is also on a chain, so you can wear it either way

Prize 3: A pack of Lord of the Rings-themed playing cards

Prize 4: A "Bag End" bookmark I purchased from Austens and Alcotts

Prize 5: A sheet of Middle-earth-inspired stickers I bought from Alla Draws

Prize 6: A set of 3 black-and-white stickers inspired by Tolkien's own artwork featuring a) the tree of Gondor, b) Smaug and the Lonely Mountain, and c) his JRRT insignia

Prize 7: A set of 3 full-color stickers featuring a) "Even the smallest person can change the course of the future," b) a map of Middle-earth, and c) "The road goes ever on and on..." with a hobbit hole door

Prize 8: a used copy of The Hobbit Companion by David Day -- it is in very good used condition, but I did buy it used.

Prize 9: a used copy of The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien edited by Humphrey Carpenter, with the assistance of Christopher Tolkien -- it is in good used condition, with some slight wear to the corners and edges of the cover.  The spine is still nice, and the pages appear to be unmarked.

I purchased all of these prizes myself, for the purpose of this giveaway.  This is not affiliated with any person or business besides myself.  Must be 18 or older to enter, or have parent's permission to provide me with a mailing address to send the prize to.  No purchase necessary.  Void where prohibited.

This giveaway is open worldwide.   

The main way to gain entries is to participate in the party by contributing a post, such as your answers to the official tag or another Tolkien-related post.  Once you've written your post, be sure to add its link to the Mister Linky widget at the bottom of my kick-off post (which is also where you'll find the tag questions).  

But that isn't required!  You can also earn entries by doing other things like commenting, playing party games, and telling me your prize choices.  And you can even get an entry just for being interested.

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. However, I cannot guarantee that you will win something you want/request.

Also, please be aware that mail delivery is still slow. I will ship all prizes via the USPS, and they do not ship to every country these days, so if you are one of my international friends, please check this official list to make sure your country is still receiving mail sent via the USPS.

This giveaway runs through the end of Friday, September 24. I will draw the winners on Saturday, September 25 and post the names of the winners on this blog, as well a notify them by email no later than Sunday, September 26.

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 2, I will choose another winner and award the prize to them instead.

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