Tolkien Blog Party 2017 – Tag!

With Hobbit Day (Sep 22nd) rapidly approaching, I was excited to see that Hamlette is again hosting a Tolkien Blog Party this year!  This will be my first time participating.  Though I haven’t often mentioned J. R. R. Tolkien here, I am a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.  There is so much to unpack in Tolkien’s universe of Middle Earth, and I find I discover something new every time.

The Tolkien Tag 2017

1. How long have you been a Tolkien fan?
Oh wow… it must be something like 9 or 10 years ago now!  I played violin in a community orchestra, and we were learning music from The Two Towers.  The conductor, Mr. D., tried to select a wide variety of music, including film scores from newer movies like LOTR and Pirates of the Caribbean.  I am forever indebted to his open-mindedness, because some of the other musicians were not too keen on Rohan’s theme or the March of the Ents.  😉  For me, it was a turning point.

I had heard of LOTR but knew basically nothing about it.  Inspired by our music, I picked up this one-volume book at the thrift store and embarked on a multi-month adventure, watching each film after reading each book (to my poor parents’ suspense!!).  Though the books were difficult for me, it was an incredible experience as a whole.  To this day, The Fellowship of the Ring is my favorite film, because seeing it all come to life on the screen was that light-bulb moment, when you realize you’ve discovered something beautiful and unique. 

2. Has your love of Middle-earth affected your life?
Yes, absolutely.  These are just few of the ways:

  • CommunityThe Lord of the Rings is one of my few mainstream fandoms (along with Star Trek).  LOTR was the first time I felt a big connection with other people over a book/film.  I eagerly anticipated the Hobbit trilogy as well, and – from the pre-production news to the final release at the theater – followed the excitement with family members, coworkers, and others online.  I think the story, themes, characters, and setting make the War of the Ring a universal tale almost everyone can relate to.
  • Poetry – I did not much like poetry before reading LOTR.  During that time, however, I came to love it and appreciate the part it played in the story.  One of my favorite poems is “The Sea-Bell.”  Tolkien led me to poetry, and I’ve since read and written a lot of poetry…it’s become an important thing in my life.
  • Sewing – Watching LOTR reminded me how much I love costumes!  I had fun sewing hobbit, elf, and Gondorian clothes some years ago.  Sadly, I only have a few pictures of those projects left.

3. If you had to take the One Ring to Mordor, which character would you choose for your sole companion?
Well, I think Tolkien proved that Sam is the best choice.  🙂  However, if I didn’t know that already, then I’d have to say either:

  • Gandalf.  He knows the way, he knows the languages, and he has superpowers!  (Oh, and he has The Hobbit on his resume.)
  • Elrond.  I always felt Elrond should’ve volunteered.

4. Which is scarier, Shelob or the Balrog?
The Balrog is extremely terrifying, but I think I could face it.  I don’t think I could fight Shelob – the sight of her would make me faint.

5. Which two towers do you think Tolkien was referring to in the title The Two Towers?  (i.e. Orthanc, Barad-dûr, Cirith Ungol, Minas Morgul, or Minas Tirith)
Barad-dûr, for sure.  The movie implies Orthanc is the second one, but when I was reading the book, I felt like it was one of the other ones.  I’m going to say Minas Tirith for the second Tower.

6. Whose wardrobe would you like to have?
I would say Eowyn, except I don’t care for billowy sleeves.  So I’d have to say Thranduil, king of woodland elves and woodland fashion.

7. What do you think an Ent Draught would taste like?
A delicious iced tea.

8. Where in Middle-earth would you like to live?
Always the Shire.  What can I say…I like being safe and snug and cozy!

9. Do you have any Tolkien-related opinions that surprise other people?
I think Viggo Mortensen was miscast as Aragorn.  *ducks tomatoes*

10. List up to ten of your favorite lines/quotations from the books or movies.
“Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.” (Gandalf)


“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”


BOROMIR:  My father is a noble man, but his rule is failing, and our people lose faith. He looks to me to make things right and I would do it. I would see the glory of Gondor restored. Have you ever seen it, Aragorn? The White Tower of Ecthelion, glimmering like a spike of pearl and silver, its banners caught high in the morning breeze. Have you ever been called home by the clear ringing of silver trumpets?
ARAGORN:  I have seen the White City, long ago.
BOROMIR:  One day, our paths will lead us there. And the tower guard shall take up the call: “The Lords of Gondor have returned.”


THEODEN: Where is the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing? They have passed like rain on the mountain, like wind in the meadow. The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow. How did it come to this?


I’m afraid most of my favorite quotes are the mournful ones…however, nobody writes sad stuff as well as Tolkien.

That was a fun tag.  Thanks to Hamlette for putting this together!

The Bookish Tag

Saw this over at Kristin’s blog Wool and Wheel…it’s been a while since I did one of these, so I thought it would be a fun interlude to reviews.  Feel free to fill this out on your own blog, or in the comments – would love to read your answers!

1. What book is currently on your nightstand?  Right now, there’s The Heart of the Antarctic (Ernest Shackleton), the Bible, my Nook, and my tablet.

From my 2014 Powell’s trip.  On the left is Albanov’s In the Land of White Death,
an excellent polar (north) memoir which I haven’t reviewed but highly recommend.

Heart is turning out to be a lovely read so far – more informal and relaxed in tone than South.  Maybe it’s the pre-War zeitgeist, or Shackleton’s personal optimism at this earlier point in his experience.  His excitement over the ponies is rather sobering…considering he didn’t bring them on the Endurance, I can only imagine how badly things will go on the Nimrod.  (But, I digress.)

2. What was the last truly great book that you read?  An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro.  I’d recommend it to nearly anyone; it was that great.  The Japan he wrote about may be somewhat fanciful, but it’s his poignant portrayal of humans and their relationships that is really timeless.  It’s also a masterful example of how social attitudes (e.g. classism, patriarchy, and political correctness) can change in just one generation.

3. If you could meet any writer, dead or alive, who would it be? And what would you want to know?  Well, of course, I’d like to meet T. E. Lawrence.  I wouldn’t have any questions planned, just hopefully have an organic conversation about books, music, maybe politics (maybe not).

4. What books might someone be surprised to find on your shelves?  I have an antique, one-volume William Shakespeare: Complete Works.  I don’t love Shakespeare, but a relative gifted it to me and I treasure it as a beautiful edition of Hamlet and other stories I might enjoy if I tried more of them.  😉

5. How do you organize your personal library?  I got a new bookshelf recently, smaller than the old one, and everything fits nicely.  Top-left corner is “to read” books.  Then, from left to right and on to the second shelf, my fiction is roughly sorted by era, with some non-fic history books at the very end.  I used to sort by author, but there is something aesthetically delightful about Bronte next to Pushkin, Verne next to Doyle, and T. E. Lawrence next to Fitzgerald.  Most of these are paperbacks, since I prefer soft to hardcover.

On the lower shelves, I have a number of other books that don’t fit in the classic paperbacks category – some Mass Media, Trixie Beldens, large hardcovers (complete Sherlock Holmes !!!), notebooks, and mega textbooks that I’ll probably never open again.  I also keep my scraps of writing on my bookshelf, which includes most of the handwritten draft of an adventure-romance novel that needs some TLC at some point…

6. What book have you always meant to read and haven’t gotten around to yet? Anything you feel embarrassed never to have read?   I’ve been meaning to read The Scarlet Letter for ages – I love Hawthorne, have read most of his other works, but still haven’t got to this one. There’s several I’m a little embarrassed never to have read (yet)…The Odyssey, 1984, Shakespeare in general…  But these days I’m very selective about what I spend time on reading, so I prioritize books that sound the most promising.

7. Disappointing, overrated, just not good: what book did you feel you were supposed to like but didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?  The last book I abandoned to the “to-finish” list was On the Nature of Things by Lucretius. I hadn’t expected to like it, though, based on reviews.  The last book I expected to like was The Republic by Plato.  That one got sent to the “not-finishing” list…an exaggeration, since I’ll no doubt attempt a different translation.  But the beginning at least wasn’t the work of genius I was expecting.

Vilhelm HammershøiThe Collector of Coins

8. What kinds of stories are you drawn to? Any you stay clear of?  I’m drawn to stories of stamina, psychology, philosophy, and human behavior – especially where these things intersect.  I have a soft spot for stories about loners, people alone in their perspective or beliefs compared to the majority surrounding them.  The characters that really get to me are the ones who have personal issues and are struggling to find healing or closure. I fall for books that are about people doing something extraordinary, something out of the norm, something bigger than themselves (or is it? that is always the question…).  Most of my favorite books, fic and non-fic, remind me of the Christian life in some way.

I stay clear of the inverse of the above.  😉

9. If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?  I honestly don’t know.  Currently, I recommend The Metamorphosis (Kafka) and Magellania (Verne) to anyone who’s interested.

10. What do you plan to read next?  Probably Peter-Pan (Barrie), or The Secret Agent (Conrad), and thus finishing out the Read London challenge.

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I didn’t "click" with

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Saw this over at Hamlette’s blog, and thought it would be a fun trip down memory lane.  Here goes – and hope I don’t tread on any toes.  😉

  1. Werther from The Sorrows of Young Werther.  
  2. Everyone from A Passage to India.  (Sorry, Forster.)
  3. Irene Adler from “A Scandal in Bohemia”. 
  4. Erik from The Phantom of the Opera.  In all fairness, I am meaning to re-read this.  During my first read, I definitely found book!Erik to be less likeable than Webber’s version.
  5. Nick Carraway from The Great Gatsby.  I get the impression one is supposed to like him, but I was left unimpressed.  (I was also shocked that his undisguised racist commentary never gets mentioned in mainstream circles).
  6. Everyone from Dragonwyck.  When I was in middle school, a friend recommended it to me, on the basis it was similar to Jane Eyre.  My mother cautioned me that it sounded like a romance novel, but in my blissful ignorance I wasn’t quite aware what that meant.  (Hint: think Edward and Bella in 1800s Dutch New York…)
  7. Mary Russell from the Mary Russell series. 
  8. Aragorn from The Return of the King.  Specifically ROTK, and maybe TTT, because I thought he was pretty cool in The Fellowship of the Ring, but less interesting as the story progressed.
  9. Ahab from Moby-Dick.  I’m not sure antagonists are supposed to “click” with you.  I do know that Gregory Peck’s portrayal brought a much-needed human/charismatic element to the character, whereas Starbuck, though different in the book from the movie, is still compelling apart from his film version. So with that in mind, I’d say book!Ahab didn’t “click”.
  10. Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice.  *gasp*  Don’t click away!  😉 She is probably the best-loved heroine in literature.  I just can’t honestly say I found her more interesting than many others. 

I’m sure I’ve listed someone’s favorites…well, the good news is, after six (and not necessarily in the above order), I found it super hard to list the last four!

The Liebster Award

This blog has been so quiet (too quiet) the past couple of months, as I’ve been transitioning into my new job and schedule.  Thanks to Sara from Majoring in Literature, here is a fun tag to break the hiatus!

– Link and thank the blogger who nominated you
– Answer the 11 questions your nominator gives you 
– Tag 11 other bloggers who have 200 followers or less 
– Ask the 11 bloggers you nominated 11 questions and let them know you nominated them!

    11 Questions: 

    1)  What is the first book you remember reading? 

    The first books I remember reading were very vintage children’s readers, like On Cherry Street.  I also have a fairly vivid memory of reading a phonetics textbook, which I actually thought was fun.  🙂

    2)  Where do you like to read?  Do you have a quiet little hideout where you can read undisturbed?

    I like to read in bed, either with the lamp on or in the dark with my new reading light.

    3)  Starting at the very top of your bookcase, what are the first five books you have on your shelves?

    The top is where I keep my “Mass Media” paperbacks:
    1.  The Thirteen Problems (Agatha Christie)
    2.  And Then There Were None (Christie)
    3.  The House of the Seven Gables (Nathaniel Hawthorne)
    4.  The Hobbit (J. R. R. Tolkien)
    5.  The Magician’s Nephew (C. S. Lewis).  Which reminds me – Narnia is due for a re-read!

    If you could meet one author, living or dead, for coffee, whom would you meet?

    Oh…this is a tough question!  I thought about this one long and hard.  I would love to meet Conrad or Kafka, for example, but I’m not sure a chat over coffee would go well with either of them.

    In the end, I narrowed it down, and my honest answer is Lewis Carroll.  I think it would be fascinating to meet an author whose legacy has become larger than life and changed drastically through the generations.  Beyond that, his books are chock-full of wit and mathematical references, and it would be an interesting conversation, for sure.

    How do you feel about seeing a movie adaptation before you’ve read the book?

    Generally, I prefer not to.  Even now, I’m holding off on watching The Great Gatsby until I’ve read the book, despite the fact everyone says it isn’t a great adaptation.  Old habits are hard to break!  I did read North & South effectively after I saw the 2005 miniseries, and I read LOTR and skim-read Little Dorrit concurrently while watching the adaptations.  Of all three, Little Dorrit was the best reading experience, while the others were a little anticlimactic compared to the (excellent) adaptations.

    What is your favourite adaptation of a book?

    I have so many, which is a good problem to have.  🙂

    The Lord of the Rings is a no-brainer.  It is possibly the truest adaptation I have ever seen of a book.  Possibly (probably) my #1 favorite movie.

    My next two all-time favorites are Disney’s 20000 Leagues Under the Sea and Moby-Dick starring Gregory Peck.  Neither of them are purist, but I grew up watching them, and they still leave me awestruck.

    Finally, there’s Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes.  This series is close to purist-perfect – it’s a magnificent adaptation.

    Which character from fiction would you most like to be?

    It would be exciting to be one of the heroes from Dracula – however, I wouldn’t truly want to live that plot.  So I’ll go with one of the scientists from a Jules Verne novel, because those usually turn out well.  🙂

    As for a character I would like to be like – off the top of my head, I’d have to go with Alyosha from The Brothers Karamazov.  I would like to have his fearless sense of forgiveness and ability to be a peacemaker.

    Which book do you recommend to others the most?

    Most people I meet have very different tastes in reading, so I don’t usually make recommendations!

    Which book have you re-read the most?

    Probably Narnia or Treasure Island.   I know I’ve read Eugene Onegin four times and Heart of Darkness about three or four times.  (I’m not much of a re-reader, so that’s a lot for me.)

    How do you feel about eBooks?

    I have the original Nook Simple Touch, which I love.  I’ve read many Project Gutenberg books on it, and it makes it very easy to read in bed, not having to struggle to keep pages open.  Also, it lets me highlight and annotate to my heart’s content without making it permanent.

    Ebooks are not perfect replacements for hard copy, especially for textbooks and reference books where you need to be able to flip pages quickly.  However, they’re a great way to access and read classics instantly, and find obscure classics that are rarely published.  Just a couple of years ago, I discovered my favorite translation of Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, which was a wonderful surprise and seems to be a Gutenberg exclusive.  Also, it ties into Librivox, so there’s a great community of literature fans who are making it more accessible to everyone.

    I’m a fangirl, I guess.  😉  I still love hard copies, too, but eBooks have been only a positive for me.

    Where do you get most of your books from?  Library, bookstore, online?

    I used to check out stacks of books from the library, but now I don’t read enough to warrant it.  😦  Nowadays, I buy books once a year from Powell’s, Amazon, and (once in a while) Barnes & Noble.  I also love library sales, garage sales, and thrift stores.

    Alrighty, 11 blogs you should check out!  Some of you may have already been recently nominated, so feel free to ignore or accept as is convenient.  🙂

    11 Q’s for you:

    1)  What was the most challenging book you ever read?
    2)  Who is your favorite romantic couple from literature?
    3)  What is your favorite friendship from literature?
    4)  Is there a book you used to like but don’t like anymore?
    5)  What was a nonfiction book you were glad you read?
    6)  Name a book someone recommended to you (which you may or may not have read yet).
    7)  How do you order your books on the shelf?
    8)  Is there a character that you wish appeared in more books?
    9)  Which author’s writings intimidate you?
    10)  Describe a memorable setting or scene (spoiler-free) from a book, and how it made you feel.
    11)  The age-old question: paperback or hardcover?

    Reading Tag

    Saw this at Rosamund’s blog Shoes of Paper ♥ Stockings of Buttermilk.  It looked fun, and I don’t believe I’ve done it before – so here goes!

    Do you snack while you read?  If so, favourite reading snack: 
    I don’t snack, but I drink tea!

    What is your favourite drink while reading?
    A nice large cup of tea. 

    Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you? 
    I still have my childhood horror of writing in books or bending pages (library books, you see).  What I do is use sticky notes to mark all the passages I want to remember – after I finish the book, I type up the parts worth remembering.

    How do you keep your place while reading a book?  Bookmark?  Dog-ears?  Laying the book flat open?
    Bookmarks!  Though when I was a child, I never used bookmarks; I would just set the book flat open, face down.  It was one of the few family rules I broke. 

    Fiction, non-fiction, or both? 
    Increasingly now, I enjoy both.  There was a phase in my early-mid teens where I pretty much stuck to fiction, but before that I read many biographies and since then – mainly inspired by my first history professor, Prof. C. – I’ve read some essays and poli-sci/philosophical/historical books.  My goal now is to become better-read in nonfiction.

    Are you a person who tends to read to the end of a chapter, or can you stop anywhere? 
    Anywhere.  Though the end of a chapter or segment is best.

    Are you the type of person to throw a book across the room or on the floor if the author irritates you?
    I might slam the book shut.  I have (very rarely) treated textbooks with even less respect, but generally not – it’s never the tree’s fault! 

    If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop and look it up right away?
    Only if it’s very unusual.

    What are you currently reading? 

    1. Notes on Life and Letters / Conrad – Slow read, but almost done!
    2. Eugene Onegin / Pushkin – Reading for the 3rd time.
    3. Sorrows of Young Werther / Goethe
    4. Republic / Plato – Just started.
    5. A People’s History of the US / Zinn
    6. A Patriot’s History of the US / Schweikart and Allen
    7. Head First Design Patterns / Freeman, et al
    8. The New Testament: Acts

    What is the last book you bought?

    Evita, Odyssey, Notes on the State of Virginia, and Sea of Glory.

    Do you have a favourite time/place to read? 
    During the summer, on a bench on the deck.  Or next to the kitchen with (guess what) a cup of tea.  I also like to read before I go to bed.

    Do you prefer series books or stand alones?
    I love me a good series, but I haven’t found any lately.  Overall, I prefer series because they’re character-driven. On the other hand, my most favorite books right now (barring Sherlock Holmes) are all standalones (I consider The Lord of the Rings to be one book).

    Is there a specific book or author you find yourself recommending over and over?
    Conrad and Kafka.  Incidentally, they are authors you will either love or loathe.

    How do you organize your books? (by genre, title, author’s last name, etc.) 
    I try to go by author’s last name, except for Mass Media paperbacks and books I don’t care about much, which go wherever they fit on the shelf.  Some hardcovers I place at the end, since I can’t bear to see a big book in the middle of a shelf.  Overall, I’m not a stickler, so long as everything fits!