Saturday, July 30, 2011

Favorite Author: J.R.R. Tolkien

(January 3, 1892 - September 2, 1973)

I discovered the works of this wonderful writer while I was in college.  Sadly, I don't quite remember how I first came across them.  I do have a vague memory of the cover of one of the books, seen in a bookstore.  Maybe it was a second-hand bookstore, I don't know.

So I began my journey through Middle-Earth...  I attended Bilbo's birthday party, where I not only met Bilbo, as well as his comically quirky neighbors, who were an obvious satire on the British character, but his charismatic nephew, Frodo, right along with the immortal Gandalf.

I was hooked for life!  In fact, I think the trilogy is long overdue for a re-reading...

Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein, in the Orange Free State (now Free State Province, a part of South Africa).  His father, Arthur Reuel Tolkien, was a bank manager, who married Mabel Suffield, subsequently moving with her to South Africa, in order to head up the bank's branch office in Bloemfontein. 

In 1895, Tolkien's mother traveled to England with John, then three years old, and his brother, Hilary Arthur Reuel (born in 1894), on what was supposed to be an extended family visit.  Arthur Tolkien had planned to join them there, but died of rheumatic fever before his departure to England.  Mabel took her sons to live with her parents, at Kings Heath.  Later on, the family moved to Sarehole, which at the time was a Worcestershire village.  

Tolkien's love of languages manifested itself very early; he could read by the age of four, and wrote perfectly soon thereafter.  He loved the fantasy works of George MacDonald, as well as the fairy books of Andrew Lang

Initially taught by his own mother, Tolkien later studied at King Edward's School and St. Philip's School in Birmingham. 

Mabel Tolkien became a Catholic in 1900, after which her staunchly Baptist family stopped providing her with financial assistance.  She died four years later of diabetes; sadly, insulin had not yet been discovered.  The Tolkien boys were then placed under the guardianship of a Catholic priest, Father Francis Xavier Morgan, and grew up in the Edgbaston area of Birmingham.

In October of 1911, Tolkien enrolled at Exeter College, Oxford, where he studied English Language and Literature, graduating with first-class honours in 1915.

In 1908, Tolkien met and fell in love with Edith Mary Bratt, whom he married on March 24, 1916, at Saint Mary Immaculate Catholic Church.  She was the inspiration for the fictional characters Luthien Tinuviel and Arwen Evenstar

Tolkien was one of the contributors to the Oxford English Dictionary.  In 1920, he became Reader in English Language at the University of Leeds, where he was the youngest professor.  While there, he produced a definitive edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, in collaboration with E.V. Gordon, a fellow philologist.

In 1925, Tolkien was named Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford, a post he held for twenty years.  He also had a fellowship at Pembroke College, Oxford, where he wrote The Hobbit and the first two volumes of The Lord of the Rings.

In 1945, Tolkien moved to Merton College, Oxford, where he became the Merton Professor of English Language and Literature, holding the post until his retirement in 1959.

The first book in the annals of Middle-Earth mythology, The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, was published in 1937.  Although intended as a children's book, it was loved by adults as well, and the publisher, George Allen & Unwin, persuaded the author to write a sequel.

published by the Houghton Mifflin Company,
on September 21, 2007

The great high fantasy epic, The Lord of the Rings, was published in three volumes, from 1954 to 1955.  The titles are: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King

These were all published by Houghton Mifflin in 1988.

Another important Tolkien work is The Silmarillion, which is the necessary background for the epic saga of The Lord of the Rings.  This work was published posthumously by Christopher Tolkien, a son of the author, in 1977.  It contains a collection of J.R.R. Tolkien's mythopoeic works.  The scope of The Silmarillion is just as impressive as that of the saga, but its tone is markedly different.

This is the 1977 Houghton Mifflin edition.

There are many more Tolkien works, such as The Children of Hurin, carefully restored by Christopher Tolkien, Unfinished Tales, The Book of Lost Tales, Part I, Roverandom, Farmer Giles of Ham, and several others.

Tolkien's influences were several.  Germanic literature, especially Anglo-Saxon literature, notably the epic poem Beowulf, was one of them.  Norse mythology also played a part, especially the Volsunga Saga and the Hervarar Saga. One of his greatest influences was William Morris.  Critics have also pointed out similarities between Tolkien's works and those of Rider Haggard.

Catholic theology is another major influence on Tolkien's works, especially the trilogy, which has obvious Christian themes such as the fight between good and evil, the notion that evil is nothingness itself, and essentially uncreative.  The ring that Frodo must destroy is also symbolic of evil itself.  According to Stratford Caldecott, "The Ring of Power exemplifies the dark magic of the corrupted will, the assertion of self in disobedience to God.  You could say the Ring is sin itself: tempting and seemingly harmless to begin with, increasingly hard to give up and corrupting in the long run."  (Taken from Wikipedia article on J.R.R. Tolkien,
footnote #135.)

Tolkien himself has influenced writers coming after him.  His monumental creations have set a standard for modern fantasy.  Some of the writers indebted to him include Terry Brooks, David Eddings, Stephen R. Donaldson, Christopher Paolini, and even J.K. Rowling.

The three books have been made into highly successful films, known as The Lord of the Rings Film Trilogy.  Shot in New Zealand and directed by Peter Jackson, they were released consecutively, in 2001, 2002 and 2003.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Book Blogger Hop #4 (7/29 -8/1)



This is a very interesting book meme!
It's hosted by Jennifer at Crazy for Books,
and runs every week,
from Friday to Monday.

Be sure to check out her blog for
the hop participation rules!

Here's this week’s question:

“Highlight one book you have received
this week (for review, from the library, purchased at the store, etc.)
 that you can’t wait to dig into!”

Well, my answer would have to be...

Meg Cabot
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published by Point
April 26, 2011
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

From the Goodreads Synopsis

Though she tries returning to the life she knew before the accident, Pierce can't help but feel at once a part of this world, and apart from it. Yet she's never alone . . . because someone is always watching her. Escape from the realm of the dead is impossible when someone there wants you back.

But now she's moved to a new town. Maybe at her new school, she can start fresh. Maybe she can stop feeling so afraid.

Only she can't. Because even here, he finds her. That's how desperately he wants her back. She knows he's no guardian angel, and his dark world isn't exactly heaven, yet she can't stay away . . . especially since he always appears when she least expects it, but exactly when she needs him most.

I got a signed copy of this novel at a book event
in my hometown!!
(See my July 24th post.)
I had, of course, heard a lot about the book,
so when I received an e-mail from
Books and Books, informing me that
three of the hottest YA authors,
including Meg Cabot, 
were coming to South Florida to sign their books,
I practically freaked out -- in a good way!

I'm so lucky to live near a bookstore that
hosts these author events every day of the year!
I can't always go, naturally,
nor do I want to, because I'm not interested
in every single book they present.
Besides, I'd go broke!

If a book/author looks interesting,
and the event is on the weekend, I will definitely attend!

This particular novel, being a retelling
of the myth of Persephone,
is particularly fascinating to me,
since I love Greek mythology!!

So, as soon as I've finished my current reads,
I'm diving right into this one!!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Book Review: Passion, by Lauren Kate

This month I'm reviewing a book 
for two reading challenges.

The first one is
'The Descent of the Angels Reading Challenge'
hosted by Momo at Books Over Boys.
It began in January of this year,
and will end in December.

The second one is the
'Speculative Fiction Challenge, 2011'
hosted by Magemanda at Floor to Ceiling Books.
This one also runs
from January to December, 2011.
I found out about it way after
I had started the first one,
so it's great that I can use books for both,
since speculative fiction is
a broad umbrella term
that includes fantasy, science fiction,
paranormal romance, and urban fantasy.

So I hereby present my review!

Author: Lauren Kate
Hardcover, 420 pages
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
June 14, 2011
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

In this third volume of the Fallen series, Luce embarks on a journey through time, visiting and experiencing all of her past lives.  Her passionate goal is to overthrow the curse that has marred her relationship with Daniel, taking her away from him at the age of seventeen, over and over again...

In Torment, the second volume of the series, she discovered that the Announcers, those mysterious shadows that had always followed her, were actually portals into time.  In that book as well, she learned how to use them to transport herself into those previous lives, hunting unceasingly for clues that might help her understand her unusual love for a fallen angel, an obsessive, all-consuming love that will endure all the endless separations forced on Daniel and Luce due to her perennially untimely deaths...

As she travels back into the past, she meets her own previous incarnations.  Daniel heads back into the past as well, pursuing Luce, afraid that she might do something to change their history, perhaps even accidentally obliterating it.  Like Luce, he meets his own earlier selves. 

In contrast to Torment, which I felt was too slow-moving, this novel is full of constant action, as Luce quickly moves from one life to the other, further and further back into the past.  In each life, shortly after her arrival, she witnesses her earlier self's death, as each girl spontaneously bursts into flames, with no discernible cause.  It was horrible to read this every few pages...the only thing that kept me going was the fact that Lucinda Price, the latest incarnation, was alive, and kept moving on into the next past life.  She even made contact with Daniel's previous selves, revealing herself to some of them.

On one of her trips, Luce meets a strange, little character who calls himself "Bill".  Although he can take any shape he wishes, he apparently prefers to manifest as a gargoyle.  He helps Luce with suggestions and tips, not only during her trips, but also when she arrives at any given life.  Toward the end of the book, he becomes a pivotal character in the never ending romance of Luce and Daniel, while a sinister plot is suddenly revealed.

I really enjoyed the contrasts between Luce and each of her incarnations.  She was the same in all of them, yet she was also different.  Daniel, too, was basically the same, yet different.  The one constant in each life was their love.

The origin of the curse is explained at one point in the book.  It came about at the time of Lucifer's rebellion, in which he took many angels with him, and was cast out of heaven, into hell.  Daniel, deeply disturbed by this rift among angels who were his brothers and sisters, refused to take sides.  He passionately argued that, if one truly loves, one cannot possibly side against one's brethren.  For this, he too, was cast out of heaven, but to Earth, not hell.  Also, thanks to Lucifer, who then became known also as "Satan", Daniel was cursed to love one woman for all time, and yet, never be able to have her be completely his, since she was to be repeatedly taken from him when she reached the age of seventeen. 

This third book, while even more addictive than the first one, Fallen, raises more questions than it answers.  There is a fourth volume in the works, titled Rapture, which I assume will answer all of these questions.  The problem is that Luce and Daniel are no closer to breaking the curse, in this book, than they were in the two previous books.  Luce has witnessed firsthand just how truly they belong to each other, and, in one life, nearly makes a decision that will effectively put an end to their longing.  However, the final answer seems to elude them, and things are getting more complicated due to the sinister plot I referred to above.

In short, I am waiting with bated breath for the publication of the last book in the series!  Perhaps Daniel will finally make a decision to choose the side of heaven, and Luce will then have to live out her life without him, on Earth.  Or will Kate choose to have him live as a normal human with Luce, stripped of his angelic powers, but happy, since he no longer has to chase the love of his life across the centuries? 

We will all have to wait until the spring of 2012 to find out!

Meanwhile, I'm thinking that I might very well go back to the first book and re-read it, then do the same with the second and the third, in order to link everything up firmly in my mind...

I heartily recommend Passion as a fascinating paranormal read, one that will definitely keep readers turning pages until the very end! 


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Waiting On Wednesday #10: David, by Mary Hoffman

This is a weekly book meme, hosted by
which features future releases that we book bloggers
are eagerly anticipating!

My pick for this week is David,
by Mary Hoffman.

Hardcover, 304 pages
Published by Bloomsbury USA
Expected Release Date:
October 11, 2011
Genre: Art, Historical Fiction

From the Goodreads Synopsis

Michelangelo’s statue of David is famous around the world. Millions flock to Italy every year to admire the physical perfection of the young man captured within the marble. But the identity of the model has never been known . . . until now. In this epic tale, acclaimed author Mary Hoffman imagines the story of Gabriele, a naïve but incredibly handsome young man who is hired as Michelangelo’s model, only to find himself drawn into a world of spies, political treachery, and murder. Set against the vibrant backdrop of Florence in its most turbulent times, this is a rich, colorful and thrilling tale that gives life to one of the world’s greatest masterpieces.

As a former art major,
I can really appreciate a book like this!
Besides, Michelangelo is not only my very favorite artist,
but I also believe he was the greatest
one of all time!
No one else even comes close,
in the sheer grandeur of hs work!

I consider the statue of 'David'
one of this artist's greatest masterpieces,
right along with the 'Pieta'.

Of course, in painting, his greatest masterpiece
is the Sistine chapel ceiling.

Michelangelo provides any art student with
an inexhaustible treasure trove
of great compositions, whether in two or
three-dimensional form.
Studying his works is an undeniable pleasure
that also creates a sense of awe in the student!

I can't wait to get my hands on this book!
I'm looking forward to getting one writer's take on
who the model for this statue might have been.
I'm also looking forward to some
very astute art criticism,
as well as to a plot full of intrigue!

Besides, I think the cover is gorgeous!!

In short, this book is an all-around winner!

So what books are you all waiting on this Wednesday?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Three YA Authors Sign Books in South Florida!!!

This is a partial view of the exterior of Books and Books,
a beautiful bookstore located in Coral Gables, Florida.'s about ten minutes from where I live,
in the city of Miami!!

So I had the great pleasure and privilege of attending a book signing there, last night!  The authors present were: Meg Cabot, Maggie Stiefvater, and Libba Bray. They presented their latest releases, and I bought at least two of them!!  Needless to say, I was totally ecstatic!!!!

These are the books I bought:

Maggie Stiefvatter

Meg Cabot

All three authors regaled the audience with hysterical anecdotes that had us all in stitches throughout the presentation! The only problem was that the A/C seemed to be on the blink, so we sweated a little. The room was chock full of people, which is probably why it was so hot! There were even some in the audience who had flown in from as far away as Ohio and Canada...

Here's a picture of the room where the 'lectures'
(I was laughing most of the time)
took place:

Of course, all the tables were moved out of the way,
and folding chairs were set up.
I love all the floor-to-ceiling books!!!!

When all of the authors had finished speaking, there was a 'Newlywed' type of game, in which each of the authors had to guess what the other authors' favorite movies, in-flight drinks, and other things were.  Meg Cabot was the winner, and she was crowned with a flower crown, and a grass skirt was tied around her waist.  Oh, it was all so funny!

After that, we, the audience were told that we had been put into different groups that would be called one at a time, in order to go into another room for the actual signing.  Meanwhile, a teen rock band played in a courtyard located right in the middle of the bookstore. 

Lucky me, I was in the 'D' group... so I wasn't able to leave until at least 9:30 PM!!  (The event had started a little after 7:00 PM.)  I walked around a bit, doing a bit of browsing.  I nearly bought another book I covet, Ruby Red, but then I didn't.  Initially, I had meant to only purchase Forever, because I've been spending too much money on books lately...but then I couldn't resist, and also bought Abandon!

Here I am with Maggie Stiefvater:

And here I am with Meg Cabot:

Dang it, I forgot to take off my glasses for this picture!
Maybe because Meg wears glasses, too?

And here are pictures of the signed books!!

The one book I didn't buy was Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray.  I'm sort of regretting it fact, I wish I could go back in time and get it!   Oh, well...I still had a lot of fun!  I can't wait for the next terrific book presentation/signing to come along at Books and Books, so I can give a report here!   They have these events all the time, too.  Of course, I can't go to every single one of them, which is really good for my pocket!  Still, there's nothing quite like the thrill of seeing an author speak about their book live, while you're sitting in the audience!  And then, meeting them in person, and getting the book signed, and your picture taken with them!!!!  Surely this is a little piece of heaven!  Oh, bliss!!!!!

Belated Giveaway Winner Announcement!!

And the winner is...ME!!!!
(Well, I'm actually one of two.)

Yes, I have won another terrific book,
in a giveaway hosted by

I entered the giveaway on
July 3, 2011.
My apologies to both Holjo and
Kristy Berridge for
not posting this sooner...

The other winner was Darlene at Darlene's Book Nook!!

Be sure to visit both Holjo's and Darlene's blogs,
which are just awesome!!

You can find Kristy on Goodreads.
Just click on the link right underneath the title of her book.

Here's the link to her website, as well:

I'm really looking forward to
reading The Hunted, which I can tell
is a very exciting novel,
since I've already skimmed a few chapters.

My review will be up just as soon as
I've finished it!

Thank you so much, to both Kristy and Holjo!!

Trade Paperback, 582 pages
Published by Sid Harta Publishers
April 30, 2011
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

From the Goodreads Synopsis

Elena Manory is by no means an ordinary teenage girl. Being born with the ability to heal herself from any injury, and with the knowledge that on her eighteenth birthday she will become a vampire, Elena is aware that she is more than a little different from other girls her age. It isn’t until she meets William Granville, an alluring and impossibly handsome vampire, that she begins to question her destiny and what secrets the Institute of Magical Intervention and her adopted family have withheld—secrets that could change the fates of not only her own life, but of the lives of all the immortals. As events spiral out of control, William may be the only person Elena can place her trust in. He, and Elena’s magical family, must fight to save her, joining forces to defeat a common, deadly foe. For William, it is his chance to save the girl that he has searched eternity to find.

Sounds great, doesn't it? 
Paranormal romance combined
with action!!  

I urge all paranormal and urban fantasy
fans to pick this up!  

You can read Pedantic Phooka's 
fabulous review by clicking


Saturday, July 23, 2011

On My Wishlist #8

This is a fun weekly event hosted by
Carolyn at  Book Chick City,
 and runs every Saturday.
Each participating blogger features books 
s/he hasn't actually bought yet,
but desperately wants to read,
because the plots sound so very fascinating!

These books can be either newly-published,
to be released in the near future,
or they might have been in print for several years.

In my particular case, any books I place
on my wish list are strictly the print versions,
since I do not read ebooks. 

Here are my choices for this week!

Maggie Stiefvater
Hardcover, 392 pages
Published by Scholastic Press
August 1, 2009
(first published in January, 2009)
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

From the Goodreads Synopsis

the cold.
Grace has spent years watching the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf—her wolf—watches back. He feels deeply familiar to her, but she doesn't know why.

the heat.
Sam has lived two lives. As a wolf, he keeps the silent company of the girl he loves. And then, for a short time each year, he is human, never daring to talk to Grace...until now.

the shiver.
For Grace and Sam, love has always been kept at a distance. But once it's spoken, it cannot be denied. Sam must fight to stay human—and Grace must fight to keep him—even if it means taking on the scars of the past, the fragility of the present, and the impossibility of the future.

Maggie Stiefvater
Hardcover, 360 pages
Published by Scholastic Press
July 13, 2010
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

From the Goodreads Synopsis

In Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other.  Now, in Linger,
 they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping
 a very dangerous secret about her own well-being.
For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past . . .
and figuring out a way to survive into the future. Add into the mix a new wolf named Cole,
whose own past has the potential to destroy the whole pack. 
 And Isabelle, who already lost her brother to the wolves . . .
and is nonetheless drawn to Cole.
At turns harrowing and euphoric, Linger is a spellbinding love story
that explores both sides of love -- the light and the dark, the warm and the cold --
 in a way you will never forget.

Maggie Stiefvater
Hardcover, 489 pages
Published by Scholastic, Inc.
July 12, 2011
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

From the Goodreads Synopsis

The thrilling conclusion to #1 bestselling Shiver trilogy from Maggie Stievater
In Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other.
In Linger, they fought to be together.
Now, in Forever, the stakes are even higher than before.
Wolves are being hunted. Lives are being threatened.
And love is harder and harder to hold on to as death comes closing in.

I used to be reluctant to read any novels involving werewolves.
They just didn't interest me, and I much preferred
the tortured, romantic vampires...
Well, that all changed when I read The Twilight Saga!
I just fell in love with Jacob Black!
Of course, my first love will always be Edward Cullen,
but Jacob is so sweet, so all-around wonderful!
Although technically he's really a shapeshifter
who happens to change into a wolf,
he still qualifies as a werewolf, I think.

So now I'm willing to read about these creatures.
The change didn't happen overnight.
It also took Nightshade and Wolfsbane
(which are on my TBR pile)
to help change my mind!

Now I'm really looking forward to getting this trilogy
I've heard so much great stuff about!

So, what wonderful books are you all
wishing for this week?