Thursday, September 28, 2023

"Of Fire and Ash" by Gillian Bronte Adams

Of Fire and Ash
is my teenage daughter's favorite book right now.  She's eagerly awaiting the next book in the series, Of Sea and Smoke, which launches in just under two months.  And she wants to dress as the main character from this one, Ceredwin, for Halloween this year.  So, when Gillian Bronte Adams announced a read-along of this book on Instagram, I decided to participate because I knew it would make my daughter really happy if I read it.  And, it did!  She had such a great time discussing it with me as we read -- she reread it during the read-along too.

I can see why my daughter loves this book.  Ceredwin is a fierce, opinionated young woman and a mighty warrior.  The book has nonstop excitement, lots of fighting and angst, and not really any romance.  There are funny characters, sad characters, and lots of very brave characters.  Also, some dastardly villains.  If I had read this before she did, I might have asked her to wait a couple years before reading it, as there are some torture scenes that I might have thought were a little more than she could handle, though she doesn't seem to be bothered by them at all, as it turns out.

But this was not really a book I enjoyed.  I appreciated many aspects of it, yes.  The characters were excellent, and they were why I kept reading, because I wanted to find out what happened to them.  But I did not like the pacing of the story -- I actually set the book aside many times because of the pacing.  There are three different stories happening simultaneously, each with its own main character, and the book would spend a couple of chapters with one character in their storyline, then hop abruptly to another right when I was getting invested in what was happening.  Often, I would just put the book down and go do something else because the cord of my interest had been severed.

Also, the pacing suffered from something I have noticed in a few other modern books lately:  lack of rest for the readers.  When you have an adventure tale, in particular, every time you have a big high point of action, your audience needs some rest after it, just like your characters.  Think about The Lord of the Rings, how after being chased by Black Riders, the hobbits and audience get to rest in Bree.  Then, after the attack at Weathertop, we get rest in Rivendell.  After the ordeal in Moria, we rest in Lothlorien.  And so it goes, throughout the whole saga -- the audience gets to catch their breath along with the characters.  If you don't let them rest, they will set your story aside to find rest away from it -- but there seems to be this thinking in today's writers that you have to keep throwing exciting stuff at your readers constantly or they will lose interest.  Trouble is, they will also get overwhelmed and lose interest because of that.

In this particular book, many times when the characters got to rest after a battle or skirmish or fight with a monster, the book yanked readers away and tossed them into another big fight scene in a different storyline, and that got very tiring.

Now, would I recommend this book?  If you like swords-and-sorcery kinds of high fantasy, absolutely.  The writing, aside from the pacing, was stellar.  The story and characters were definitely engaging.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-16 for violence, torture, scary situations, death, branding, angst, emotional pain, and monsters.  No cussing and no smut.

This is my 48th book read from my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2023.

Monday, September 25, 2023

"Murder at Queen's Landing" by Andrea Penrose

Yup, still enjoying this series.  A lot :-D  At this point, I'm fast friends with not just Charlotte Sloane and the Earl of Wrexford, but with all the regular side characters too.  And that means I delight in spending time with them between the pages of each book.

In this particular book, a clerk from the East India Company is murdered near the London harbor.  Nobody thinks much about it, as he's not an important person, but friends of his ask others to help, and they ask others, and soon it's up to Charlotte and Wrexford to untangle a complicated snarl of mathematics, machinery, monetary fraud, and murder.

Plus, Charlotte and Wrexford finally admit to themselves and each other that they care very deeply about one another.  One of the things I like best about this series (at least, the first four books that I have read) is that the romantic undercurrent is strong, but remains clean.  No one has hopped into bed with anyone else so far, which means I don't have to provide any caveats for my praise.

The pacing of this book is a bit slower than the previous three, but I appreciated that.  It spends a lot of time letting us experience Charlotte and Wrexford both coming to grips with how forming friendships and relationships of all sorts has helped them both grow too, and I loved that.

Particularly Good Bits:

Keeping secrets, however well intentioned, was fraught with peril.  Omissions tangled with misunderstandings, and suddenly trust, an oh-so-fragile bond to begin with, snapped (p 120).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-13 for murder scenes that are not described in a grisly way, some violence, discussions of opium addiction, and a sprinkling of cuss words throughout.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Giveaway Winners and Wrap-Up for A Tolkien Blog Party 2023

It's time to announce the winners for this year's Tolkien giveaway.  Without further ado, they are:

Prize One (an enamel pin) -- Ivy Miranda
Prize Two (five bookmarks) -- Olivia
Prize Three (Rohan banner sticker sheet) -- Bethani Theresa
Prize Four (hobbit door sticker sheet) -- Samantha B.
Prize Five (One Ring sticker sheet) -- Eva S.
Prize Six (dragon sticker sheet) -- Sam Mouse

Congratulations to this year's winners!  I will be emailing you shortly to ask where you would like your prizes sent.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this year's party!  I have had a lovely week, and I hope you have too :-)  If you're like me and still working your way through everyone's posts, here's the link-up widget again so you can easily access those.  Also, if you have any last-minute posts you want to add, go right ahead, I won't mind.

See you in Middle-earth again next year!

Answers to the Middle-earth Locations Unscramble Game

Here are the answers to this week's unscramble game!  Scores are below.

1. Delveriln = Rivendell

2. Snami Hittir = Minas Tirith

3. Breero = Erebor

4. Armio = Moria

5. Bothnibo = Hobbiton

6. Doomkriw = Mirkwood

7. Hotgailis = Osgiliath

8. Heartwopet = Weathertop

9. Hillroonet = Lothlorien

10. Grandies = Isengard

11. Roades = Edoras

12. Wetklona - Laketown


Bethani Theresa -- 12
Ivy Miranda -- 12
Sam Mouse -- 12
Olivia -- 11

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Middle-earth Locations Unscramble Game

Time for our second party game for this year's Tolkien Blog Party!

I've scrambled up the names of lots of places mentioned in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.  See if you can unscramble them!  Put your answers in the comments, which I am putting on moderation so no one can cheat.

1. Delveriln

2. Snami Hittir

3. Breero 

4. Armio

5. Bothnibo

6. Doomkriw

7. Hotgailis

8. Heartwopet

9. Hillroonet

10. Grandies

11. Roades


Good luck!

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

What's Your Hobbit Name?

Hobbits are known for having quirky, old-fashioned names.  Our first game this week is all about figuring out what your hobbit name would be if you were transported to the Shire suddenly.  Just follow these instructions and you'll soon be answering to a quaint and humorous name of your own.

First Name -- Part One

The last letter of your real first name determines the first half of your hobbit first name.

A/B/C = Clover-
D/E/F = Flor-
G/H/I = Hum-
J/K/L = Jolly-
M/N/O = Merry-
P/Q/R = Ros-
S/T/U = Star-
V/W/X = Wink-
Y/Z = Yawp-

First Name -- Part Two

The number of letters in your real middle name determines the second half of your hobbit first name.

2 = -ago
3 = -pin
4 = -kins
5 = -luna
6 = -anders
7 = -fling
8 = -abello
9 = -fer
10+ = -o

Last Name -- Part One

Whichever of these words is included of the name of the street where you live determines the first half of your hobbit last name.

Avenue = Brace-
Drive = Floor-
Highway = Apple-
Lane = Light-
Place = Proud-
Road = Blythe-
Street = Sack-
Way = Withy-
All others = Sandy-

Last Name -- Part Two

Your favorite member of the Fellowship of the Ring determines the second half of your last name.

Aragorn = -muffle
Boromir = -bucket
Frodo = -buckle
Gandalf = -cobble
Gimli = -foot
Legolas = -girdle
Merry = -stool
Pippin = -turner
Samwise = -ville

Now just put them all together!  For instance, my hobbit name is Jollyluna Lightbucket.  I rather like that :-)  Sounds sort of frolicsome!  Now, tell us, what's your hobbit name?

Monday, September 18, 2023

A Tolkien Blog Party 2023 -- Kick-off Post + Tag!

Welcome, friends!  Here we are again, all geared up to celebrate Professor Tolkien and his creations for the eleventh year in a row.  Are you ready?  I'm ready!  Let's party!

If this is your first time attending a Tolkien Blog Party here at the Edge of the Precipice, I will briefly explain how this works.  As host, I provide a couple of games for you to play (starting tomorrow), a giveaway (which you can enter here), and the official party tag (see below).  Everything else is up to you and your fellow party goers!

All the party participates post things on their own blogs that relate somehow to J. R. R. Tolkien or his creations. We celebrate not only the author and the books he wrote, but also the world of Middle-earth, the movies based on his stories, and so on! You can use any of the official graphics in your posts -- you'll find all five of them in my announcement post

The only rules are:
  1. your post must be related to Tolkien and his creations somehow, 
  2. your post should contain a link back to this post so people can find the party and join the fun, and
  3. your post needs to be respectful and family-friendly. This is a celebration, so please don't contribute any rants or whiny posts. 
If you don't know what to post, you can always fill out the tag, which you'll find below this handy link-up widget. Enter each of your posts in the widget (including posts of tag answers) so we can all visit each other's blogs and share the Tolkien joy!

Here is this year's tag:

A Tolkien Blog Party Tag for 2023

Which of each pair do you prefer, and why?

1. Rohan or Gondor?
2. Rivendell or Lothlorien?
3. Erebor or Moria?
4. Bilbo or Frodo?
5. Merry or Pippin?
6. Galadriel or Elrond?
7. Eomer or Faramir?
8. Fili or Kili?
9. Bard or Beorn?
10. Gandalf the Grey or Gandalf the White?

Simply copy that and paste it into a blog post of your own, answer with your preferences (and explain them in as much detail as you wish), add party graphics and a link back to this post, and whatever else you so desire!  Once you've posted it, come back and add a link to your post to the list above so we can all visit each others' blogs and enjoy their answers.  And don't forget to visit other people's blogs too, to keep the party going!

Giveaway for the 2023 Tolkien Blog Party

Let's get this party started with a giveaway, shall we?  This year, I am giving away six prizes!  Here are some details about each one:

Prize One: an enamel pin from A Fine Quotation depicting symbols of elves, hobbits, and dwarves.  This pin is about two inches wide.

Prize Two: a set of five bookmarks from A Fine Quotation that feature Gandalf, Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, and Frodo, along with a quotation from each one of them.  This five-bookmark set has been discontinued, so it is a rare find now!

Prize Three: One sticker sheet featuring a Rohan banner, two wizard staffs, a quotation from Samwise Gamgee, and various other LOTR images.

Prize Four: One sticker sheet featuring a hobbit door, the famous LOTR silhouettes, a couple of quotations, and other Middle-earth images.

Prize Five: One sticker sheet featuring the One Ring, King Elessar's crown, the Eye of Sauron, and some quotations, as well as other LOTR images.

All three of these sticker sheets are from the Etsy shop Whimsical Paper Store.

Prize Six:  One build-your-own-dragon sticker sheet!  I don't remember anymore where I got this, but it's such a fun idea.  And it's a red dragon, so it reminded me of Smaug.  Decorate a notebook or water bottle with it, or use on the background sheet provided -- use your imagination!

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.   I will ship all prizes via the USPS.

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 playing party games (which will start tomorrow) and telling me your prize choices.  And you can even get an entry just for being a Tolkien fan.

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 winners will receive a prize they want/request.

This giveaway runs through 11:59pm EST on Friday, September 22. I will draw the winners on Saturday, September 23 and post the names of the winners on this blog, 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, September 30, I will choose another winner and award the prize to them instead.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, September 14, 2023

"Mojave Crossing" by Louis L'Amour

I say!  This book is a rollicking good time.  It's all about Tell Sackett again, star of the earlier book Sackett, but this time he gets a much more straight-forward and focused story, and I appreciated that.  His narration wasn't quite as drily humorous, though that did return here and there, but I overall liked this book about him better.

Tell Sackett is basically just on his way to exchange a whole lot of gold for some trade goods in California.  Then he'll head back to Arizona and sell the trade goods.  Some of the gold is his, and some of it belongs to friends and neighbors who invested in his idea.

Well, he finds himself agreeing to take a black-eyed "witch woman" across the desert to California with him because she appears to be on the run, and he can't find it in himself to refuse to help a woman in trouble.  Only thing is, that woman IS trouble.  And Tell finds himself in plenty of dire situations before he finishes his errand and heads on back to Arizona.  Some of which involve a distant cousin of his, Nolan Sackett.

Also, there's a really fun, albeit small, twist at the very end that kinda makes me want to flip back through the book and reexamine a few conversations to find clues to it.  And I LOVE that kind of thing.

Particularly Good Bits:  

There are men who prefer to keep trouble from a woman, but it seems to me that is neither reasonable nor wise.  I've always respected the thinking of women, and also their ability to face up to trouble when it comes, and it shouldn't be allowed to come on them unexpected.  Many a man has sheltered his wife from his troubles, until suddenly he dies and she awakens to poverty as well as grief (p. 38).

It was not in me to believe myself fated to die at any given time.  Deep within me I knew, having seen many men die, that no man is immune to death at any time at all (p. 115).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-13 for quite a few cuss words, some western violence, and the brief mention of rape.

This is my 47th book read from my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2023.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

"The Black Pearl" By Scott O'Dell

When I was in my teens, I read and reread every Scott O'Dell book my local library had.  Which was not many, alas.  Oh, they had Island of the Blue Dolphins and Sing Down the Moon and Streams to the River, Rivers to the Sea.  Maybe Sarah Bishop, or maybe I got my own copy of that one, I forget.  But I am quite sure they didn't have The Black Pearl, because I have not read it before this.  

I'm happy to say that I do still really, truly enjoy O'Dell's storytelling.  He's a no-frills sort of writer who lays out his story cleanly and directly, and I always appreciate that.  The Black Pearl is about Ramon Salazar, a boy on the cusp of adulthood who works with his father in the family pearl business in Mexico.  His father buys pearls from pearl divers in their village, then resells them in the city.  Ramon yearns to learn to dive for pearls, but his father insists it's too dangerous.  One pearl diver mocks Ramon for this, and Ramon decides to prove his worth by diving in a secluded cave, sure he will find the great Pearl of Heaven there.  But the Pearl of Heaven is said to be guarded by a legendary beast.  Ramon must face his own fears, a potential enemy, and the legend, while he decides just how much the Pearl of Heaven is worth sacrificing.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for some scary scenes of peril, and some mild violence.

Thursday, September 7, 2023

"Carry On, Jeeves" by P. G. Wodehouse

Earlier this summer, a friend shared this news article that stated that Penguin Random House has started censoring P. G. Wodehouse's books.  Incensed by this kind of Nazi-esque behavior, I went to various used book sites and bought up a complete collection of the Jeeves books, all in one cool, older paperback edition that I really liked the looks of.  While the CEO of Penguin Random House later released this statement saying that the whole issue has been blown way out of proportion, I still prefer to censor books myself rather than have someone else try to tell me what or how to be offended.  

I am an intelligent person who is well aware of the continual shifting of societal mores over the few thousand years of human history, and I am able to read books written in the past and know whether or not there are words or ideas there that I disagree with, find distasteful, or would not espouse/use myself because they would be hurtful to others.  I also find books written in the past with differing attitudes to ours to be a help in teaching my own kids about how ideas and attitudes change over time.  I find it very dangerous to try to erase those differences by pretending they never existed, whether it's by censoring fiction or burning history books under a swastika flag.  You can't change the fact that people thought differently from you in the past, but you can prevent yourself from learning by blinding yourself to the past.

None of which tells you anything about how funny this book is.  It's downright hilarious.  I laughed aloud multiple times while I read this.  From Bertie Wooster hiring Jeeves because he cured his hangover to the way that Jeeves pulled so many of Bertie's friends out of terrible scrapes, every story here was ridiculously nonsensical and adorable and funny.  So funny!  

I'm not sure I've ever read a full Jeeves book before, though I have read quite a few of Wodehouse's stories in anthologies and so on.  Of course, this is more like a collection of short stories than a novel, but that made it great to pick up and read a bit, and then go do something else.  I am so happy to have the whole series now!  This was an absolutely perfect book for me to read at the tail end of summer when I was feeling blue and gray and unhappy with the world.  I am going to try really hard to remember how well these stories work for me at the end of summer.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG because I don't think it's allowable to rate a P. G. Wodehouse book anything different.  Also because there is a little mild cussing, but nothing else objectionable.

This is my 18th book read for my fourth Classics Club list, my 46th read off my TBR shelf for #TheUnreadShelfProject2023, and the last book I completed for #20BooksOfSummer23.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Polishing Off My 10 Books of Summer List

Remember when I joined the 20 Books of Summer challenge back in June?  Well, August has ended, so I need to see which books from my prospective list I did actually read!

Here's my list:

  1. Code Name Edelweiss by Stephanie Landsem ✔
  2. Lando by Louis L'Amour ✔
  3. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo 
  4. Murder at Kensington Palace by Andrea Penrose ✔
  5. Carry On, Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse ✔ (review coming!)
  6. A Name Long Buried by C. M. Banschbach ✖
  7. Peter Duck by Arthur Ransome ✖ (21 pages left!)
  8. Sackett by Louis L'Amour ✔
  9. Then Comes a Drifter by C. M. Banschbach ✖
  10. Thornrose Estate by Kendra E. Ardnek ✔

This was such a fun little challenge!  So, two of those books are crossed off because they were a duology, and I tried them and decided they were not my thing, so I DNFed them.  So, I didn't actually read them... but I'm not going to, either, so I say they don't count against me.

I do have a couple chapters of Peter Duck left, so that is an actual fail, I guess.  But I will finish it soon, probably next week!  I'm reading that one aloud to my kids, and our read-aloud time has been patchy lately.  I need to get better about that and make time for reading aloud every day or two like I was doing at the beginning of the summer.

Over all, this was a fun challenge, and I will probably try to join it again if it's held next year.