Monday, September 25, 2017

"House of Living Stones" by Katie Schuermann

Why, oh why, did I wait so long to read this book?  I've had it on my TBR shelves for like two years now, and yet I just kept putting it off.  Silly me.  This was, overall, a delightful book.

Emily Duke arrives in the small Illinois town of Bradbury looking for a fresh start.  She's got a new job at the university there, and Zion Lutheran Church hires her as their choir director.  At Zion, she encounters a staggering number of odd, eccentric, quirky, or troubled individuals -- my one real criticism of this book is that I've belonged to seven different congregations in my life, and not one of them had this many outrĂ© individuals.  But, hey, it's fiction.  I'll let it ride and enjoy the fun.

Emily is hiding something about her past.  She finds herself attracted to Zion's bachelor pastor.  The organist decides to feud with her for reasons Emily can't fathom.  One of her fellow professors keeps asking her out for coffee.  She gets a pet rabbit.  It's non-stop excitement, I tell you!

Okay, not really ;-)  It's a sweet, fun, sometimes thought-provoking look at life in a small town.  I laughed many times while reading this, and got tears in my eyes a couple times too.  Schuermann has written two sequels, and I hope to read them before the end of the year.

I've seen this book compared to the Mitford books by Jan Karon, and that description is fairly apt, though I feel like this is a bit edgier than the Mitford books I've read.  But the first Mitford books were written more than twenty years ago, so, you know, whatever.  By "edgier" I just mean there's a character that others suspect of being gay (he isn't), and there are some downright unpleasant people here.  Plus very gossipy ones.  So much gossip.  Which is portrayed as being bad and wrong, at least.

In the end, yup, I liked this, want to read the other two books, and have already recommended it to several friends.  And my mom.

Particularly Good Bits:

The Word of God was preached in its truth and purity that morning, the body and blood of Christ was rightly administered, and all God's people sang, "Amen."  As soon as the first notes of the postlude rang out in the church, young and old spilled out of their pews to make their exodus to the land of coffee and muffins before the Sunday school hour (p. 28)  (That's just the most Lutheran paragraph I have ever read in a fiction book, and it cracks me up in a happy way.)

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for some gossipy speculations about marital infidelity and a person's sexual orientation.  No bad language or violence or racy scenes.  



This is my 9th book read and reviewed for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2017.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Winners of the 2017 Tolkien Party Giveaway

Here we go!  The Rafflecopter winner-picking widget has spoken, and I've done my best to match the winners it picked with prizes they will like.  Congratulations, winners!  Everyone else... there's always next year :-)

Four postcards -- Savannah Grace
Four postcards -- Olivia
Four postcards -- Natalie
Tolkien quotation stickers -- Cecilia of Frell
Gandalf stickers -- MiddleEarthMusician
Gandalf stickers -- Fawnabelle Baggins
Hobbit hole stickers -- RM Lutz
Bard the Bowman stickers -- Movie Critic
BBC dramatization of The Hobbit -- Anna Holmberg
Tolkien Trivia -- John Smith
Necklace #1 -- Mary Horton
Necklace #2 -- Erudessa Aranduriel
Necklace #3 -- Dynal Roberson
Necklace #4 -- Maura Martin

Winners, please check your email later today -- I'm working on emailing each of you at the address you provided to the widget to get your mailing addresses so I can send you your prizes.

I regret to say that this is the end.  Of this year's festivities, I mean.  If you haven't filled out the tag yet, though, you can still do that!  And if you're like me and still haven't finished reading other people's tag posts, then you still have Tolkien fun ahead of you :-)  

"Farewell, and may the blessing of Elves and Men and all Free Folk go with you!"  (The Fellowship of the Ring)


Answers to the Middle-earth Movie Songs Quiz


Here are the answers to the lyrics quiz from earlier this week!  And everyone's scores are below.

1.  Now I see fire, inside the mountain.  I see fire burning the _trees_.  ("I See Fire")

2.  May it be an _evening_ _star_ shines down on you.  (2 words) ("May it Be")

3.  The tears we cry Are falling rain For all the _lies_ you told us.  ("Gollum's Song")

4.  Blunt the knives, bend the forks, Smash the _bottles_ and burn the corks.  ("Blunt the Knives")

5.  You can drink your fancy _ales_, You can drink 'em by the flagon.  ("The Song of the Green Dragon")

6.  The _pines_ were roaring on the heights.  The winds were moaning in the night.  ("Misty Mountains")

7.  What can you see on the _horizon_?  Why do the white gulls call?  ("Into the West")

8.  Home is behind, the world ahead, and there are many _paths_ to tread.  ("Pippin's Song")

9.  But in dreams I still hear your _name_.  And in dreams, we will meet again.  ("In Dreams")

10.  Many places I have been.  Many _sorrows_ I have seen.  ("The Last Goodbye")



Scores:

MiddleEarthMusician -- 10
Anna Holmberg -- 9
Elanor -- 9
Erudessa Aranduriel -- 9
Farm Lassie -- 9
Olivia -- 9
Savannah -- 9
Cordy -- 8
Marian H -- 8
Evangeline Yackel -- 7
Mary Horton -- 7
Gabby A -- 6
RM Lutz -- 6
Maura Martin -- 4
DKoren -- 3

Nicely played, my friends!


Answers to the Shire Quiz

Here are the answers to the "How Well Do You Know the Shire?" quiz, and everyone's scores.




1. The Brandywine River separates the Shire from ____________.

a. Buckland


2.  The Shire is divided into four ______________.

b. Farthings


3.  Bilbo Baggins (and later his cousin Frodo) lives in a hobbit hole called _______________.

d. Bag End


4.  In The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo Baggins sells his home and moves to a house called _______________.

c. Crickhollow


5.  Bilbo Baggins lives in the village of ______________.

a. Hobbiton


6.  The hobbits have a museum called a "mathom house" in the town of _________________.

c. Michel Delving


7. The only brew for the brave and true comes from the ________________.

b. Green Dragon 


8. Peace in the Shire was traditionally kept by a voluntary group known as the _______________.

a. Shirriffs


9.  The two main crossing points of the Brandywine River are the Brandywine Bridge and _____________.

c. Bucklebury Ferry


10.  Which of these is NOT a place in the Shire?

c. Cobas Haven



Scores:

Cecilia of Frell -- 10
Erudessa Aranduriel -- 10
Mary Horton -- 10
Olivia -- 9
Gabby A -- 8
Marian -- 8
Maura Martin -- 8
RM Lutz -- 8
Cordy -- 7
Elanor -- 6
Farm Lassie -- 6
Movie Critic -- 6
Natalie -- 6
Savannah -- 6

Well done, everyone!  Thanks for playing!


Thursday, September 21, 2017

"The Lord of the Rings: The Mythology of Power" by Jane Chance

There are several different places in this book where I wrote "mind = blown" because the nuances Jane Chance teased out of Tolkien's storytelling were so amazing.

I'm serious.  She brought up things I never, ever thought of, and I'm on my seventh reading of The Lord of the Rings.

I'm trying to find words to explain all the wonderful things I learned from this book, and I'm falling so short.  I'm going to have to re-read it again and again to really internalize and remember a lot of what I learned, but I'll share a couple of the things I found most interesting.

How about the fact that Denethor and Theoden's names are basically mirror images of each other?  Den-e-thor.  The-o-den.  And that their "leadership styles" are also mirrors -- one is a kind and loving leader who "commands through respect and love," and the other is a "tyrant [who] commands his followers by edict, rule, law" (p. 90).  HOW did I never notice this?

Or how about the fact that, while Gollum calls the Ring his "birthday present," it literally is Frodo's birthday present because Bilbo left it to him (along with Bag-End) on their shared birthday?  I mean, dude.  So amazing.  And again, now that I see it, that's so totally obvious, but it's not anything I ever thought of.

My favorite chapter was probably the one at the end, "Heroic Narrative and the Power of Structure."  I love studying the structure of myths and epics, also called the "hero's quest," and how they get used over and over in new and interesting ways.  I'd previously identified a lot of things in LOTR that draw from the classic myth structure, but I had never before noticed that "[i]n each of the three volumes, Tolkien matches the heroic structure of the initial book to that of the second book" (P. 19).  Which means for instance, that in book 1, everyone's at a great gathering at the beginning, Bilbo's party.  At the beginning of book 2, they're at the Council of Elrond.  In book 1, Frodo and friends go down into the valleys and encounter an ancient being who consumes some of them, Old Man Willow.  In book 2, they go down into Moria and encounter an ancient being who drags Gandalf away, the Balrog.  And on and on it goes.

Just fascinating stuff that I not only never noticed myself, but that I, as a writer, would never have come up with!  My appreciation for Tolkien as a writer and storyteller have grown so much while reading this book.

But this book is probably not for everyone.  If you don't enjoy analyzing texts, looking for deeper meanings, and somewhat scholarly pursuits like that, you probably wouldn't enjoy this book.  Certainly you can understand The Lord of the Rings without it.  But if you're like me and have read the trilogy quite a few times and enjoy peeling away layers to see the wordcraft and deeper meanings below a book's surface, I definitely recommend you try this book.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for some discussions of things like violence.  No bad language or anything like that.



I wrote this review as part of this year's Tolkien Blog Party.  If you haven't yet, check out the blog tag and giveaway and other posts for the party!



This is my eighth book read and reviewed for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2017.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Middle-earth Movie Songs Quiz

Here's the second party game I've come up with for this year's party!  I usually try to gear one toward people who are more familiar with the books, and one toward those who are more familiar with the movies, so here's one that involves the movies.  (And if you're familiar with both, then you are probably going to be good at both!)  These are the lyrics used in the movies, so although some of them might be in the books as well, I'm looking specifically for the lyrics sung in the movies.

Here are ten lines from songs used in Peter Jackson's six Middle-earth movies.  You have to supply the missing lyrics.  I'll post the answers and your scores on Saturday.

No fair looking them up online!  Leave your guesses in the comments.


1.  Now I see fire, inside the mountain.  I see fire burning the ___________.  ("I See Fire")

2.  May it be an _______ _______ shines down on you.  (2 words) ("May it Be")

3.  The tears we cry Are falling rain For all the _____ you told us.  ("Gollum's Song")

4.  Blunt the knives, bend the forks, Smash the ______ and burn the corks.  ("Blunt the Knives")

5.  You can drink your fancy ______, You can drink 'em by the flagon.  ("The Song of the Green Dragon")

6.  The _________ were roaring on the heights.  The winds were moaning in the night.  ("Misty Mountains")

7.  What can you see on the ____________?  Why do the white gulls call?  ("Into the West")

8.  Home is behind, the world ahead, and there are many _______ to tread.  ("Pippin's Song")

9.  But in dreams I still hear your _________.  And in dreams, we will meet again.  ("In Dreams")

10.  Many places I have been.  Many ____________ I have seen.  ("The Last Goodbye")

Randomly, I found this nice little piano version of "The Last Goodbye" on YouTube and thought I'd share.  Contains no lyrics, so listening to it here is not cheating!



Hope you've been enjoying this year's party so far!  This is the last game, but I've got another book review coming up yet.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

How Well Do You Know the Shire?

Time for our first party game!  The rules are simple:  put your guesses in a comment.  I've enabled comment moderation, and I won't publish people's guesses until after I've revealed the answers on Saturday.




1. The Brandywine River separates the Shire from ____________.

a. Buckland
b. Breeland
c. Mirkwood
d. Rohan


2.  The Shire is divided into four ______________.

a. Districts
b. Farthings
c. Quartos
d. Counties


3.  Bilbo Baggins (and later his cousin Frodo) lives in a hobbit hole called _______________.

a. Bagshot Row
b. Buckleberry Hole
c. Bottomless Barrow
d. Bag End


4.  In The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo Baggins sells his home and moves to a house called _______________.

a. Applethwait
b. Baggerlee
c. Crickhollow
d. Delft


5.  Bilbo Baggins lives in the village of ______________.

a. Hobbiton
b. Bree
c. Michel Delving
d. Bywater


6.  The hobbits have a museum called a "mathom house" in the town of _________________.

a. Hobbiton
b. Bree
c. Michel Delving
d. Bywater


7. The only brew for the brave and true comes from the ________________.

a. Sleeping Owl 
b. Green Dragon 
c. Prancing Pony
d. Ivy Bush


8. Peace in the Shire was traditionally kept by a voluntary group known as the _______________.

a. Shirriffs
b. Archers
c. Crows
d. Bandylegs


9.  The two main crossing points of the Brandywine River are the Brandywine Bridge and _____________.

a. Withywindle Ford
b. Longbottom Crossing
c. Bucklebury Ferry
d. Oldbrook Bridge


10.  Which of these is NOT a place in the Shire?

a. Willowbottom
b. Undertowers
c. Cobas Haven
d. Little Delving


Good luck!