Monday, January 15, 2018

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

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

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

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

Favorite Lines:

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

Discussion Questions:

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

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

Sunday, January 14, 2018

"The Torrents of Spring" by Ernest Hemingway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 12, 2018

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

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

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

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

Favorite Lines:

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion Questions:

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

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

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Winners!

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

Cloaked by Rachel Kovaciny -- Kendra L.

October by J. Grace Pennington -- Faith B.

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

With Blossoms Gold by Hayden Wand -- Mikayla H.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Favorite Lines:

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

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

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

Discussion Questions:

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

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

"Scarlet" by Stephen R. Lawhead

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

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

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

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

Monday, January 8, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Favorite Lines:

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

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

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

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

Discussion Questions:

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

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