(Review) Understanding The Lord of the Rings: The Best of Tolkien Criticism by Rose A. Zimbardo and Neil D. Isaacs

Publisher and Publication Date: Houghton Mifflin Books. 2004.
Genre: Nonfiction. Essays.
Pages: 304.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers with an interest in Tolkien’s writings.
Rating: Very good.

Link for the book @ Amazon

Link for the book @ Barnes and Noble

Today, March 25, 2021 is Tolkien Reading Day. You can read more information about this splendid reading day at TolkienSociety.org

Summary:

Contributing authors and the titles of essays:
Neil D. Isaacs—“Introduction: On the Pleasurers of (Reading and Writing) Tolkien Criticism”
C. S. Lewis—“The Dethronement of Power”
Edmund Fuller—“The Lord of the Hobbits: J. R. R. Tolkien”
W. H. Auden—“The Quest Hero”
Patricia Meyer Spacks—“Power and Meaning in The Lord of the Rings”
Rose A. Zimbardo—“Moral Vision in The Lord of the Rings”
Marion Zimmer Bradley—“Men, Halflings, and Hero Worship”
R. J. Reilly—“Tolkien and the Fairy Story”
J. S. Ryan—“Folktale, Fairy Tale, and the Creation of a Story”
Verlyn Flieger—“Frodo and Aragorn: The Concept of the Hero”
Paul Kocher—“Middle-earth: An Imaginary World?”
Patrick Grant—“Tolkien: Archetype and Word”
Lionel Basney—“Myth, History, and Time in The Lord of the Rings”
Jane Chance—“The Lord of the Rings: Tolkien’s Epic”
Tom Shippey—“Another Road to Middle-earth: Jackson’s Movie Trilogy”

These essays cover a period of 50 years. They are considered the best in Tolkien criticism.

My Thoughts:

My goal in reading this book is to understand a broader view of Tolkien’s writings. The authors have a deeper comprehension than I do. Their field, at least in part, is studying Tolkien.

My take-aways from the book:
1. The book includes responses to the negative criticism on Tolkien’s Middle-earth world. For example, the first chapter by Neil D. Isaacs.
2. The group of contributors are an eclectic group. Some examples: W. H. Auden was a poet. C. S. Lewis was a fantasy and nonfiction author. He taught English literature at Oxford. Lewis also knew Tolkien as a friend. Rose A. Zimbardo taught English literature at several universities. Tom Shippey is considered a leading scholar on Tolkien.
3. One of my favorite chapters is written by Edmund Fuller. He explains important key words in Tolkien stories. The word Fairy is altogether different than the cutesy definition that’s usually attributed. Faerie “means enchantment.” Page 17. Elven people, Half-elven people, wizards, evil creatures, and hobbits are explained. The conflicts in the stories are examined. Fuller touches on Christian themes. Some readers have dismissed these themes. He states, “Grace is at work abundantly in the story.” Fuller examines the Christian approach from both sides. I appreciate this.
4. Rose A. Zimbardo is astute at discerning the creatures of Middle-earth.
5. I love Verlyn Flieger’s analysis of Frodo and Aragorn.
6. The last essay is by Tom Shippey. This chapter is on recreating the stories to film.

I am a big Tolkien fan. It’s fun to read Tolkien stories and fun to read what other people think about Tolkien stories.

(Review) The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien

Publisher and Publication Date: Mariner Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. My edition-2001. First published in 1977.
Genre: Fantasy fiction.
Pages: 378 pages total.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of Tolkien stories.
Rating: Excellent.

Link for the book @ Amazon
The e-book is currently free for Kindle Unlimited.

Link for the book @ Barnes and Noble

A helpful place about this book: A Mega Guide to The Silmarillion. From The Tolkien World.

The Silmarillion is apart of a series titled Middle-earth Universe. The link is at Goodreads. It shares all the books in the series.

Summary:

From the first paragraph in the Foreword written by Christopher Tolkien.
“The Silmarillion, now published four years after the death of its author, is an account of the Elder Days or the First Age of the World. In The Lord of the Rings were narrated the great events at the end of the Third Age; but the tales of The Silmarillion are legends deriving from a much deeper past, when Morgoth, the first Dark Lord, dwelt in Middle-earth, and the High Elves made war upon him for the recovery of the Silmarils.”

The origins of the story began as far back as 1917. They are written in “battered notebooks.” Christopher Tolkien put all of his father’s writings, on this theme, together into one volume for publication. In this volume, there are a total of five stories: The Silmarillion or Quenta Silmarillion (and the longest of the stories), Ainulindale, Valaquenta, Akallabeth, and Of The Rings Of Power And The Third Age. Each of these stories are individual stories yet relate and combine as one flowing themed story.

The stories have a long list of male and female characters. Most of their stories are brief. Some characters are mentioned in a few sentences and others over several pages. Some examples of characters: Eru Iluvatar, Fingolfin, Feanor, Beren, Luthien, Rian, and Turin. The main antagonist characters are Melkor, Morgoth, Sauron, and Ungoliant.

Some of the characters are Elven and some half Elven. Some are called High Elves. Some are Men. Some are evil beings. Eru Iluvatar is the creator and supreme.

My Thoughts:

Before reading The Silmarillion, I had only a small idea of what this book entailed. I’d bought this book as a part of a collection of Tolkien’s books that I’m gathering and plan to read. My goal is to read all of them! That’s all of the published books Tolkien penned. I am including those Christopher Tolkien finished for his father.
The Silmarillion is a huge, epic, conglomeration of themed stories creating the stage for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books specifically. The beginning starts with the creation by Eru Iluvatar during the First Age of the World. Melkor who is later called Morgoth is a creation of Eru Illuvatar, but Morgoth turned against his creator and became a corrupt, evil, war mongering being. This sounds eerily similar to the Bible’s creation story.

My favorite story is Beren and Luthien. Their story is also one of the longest shared in the book. They remind me of ethereal type characters in their essence and story. A second favorite story is Feanor and his creations of the Simarils or the three great jewels. Of course his creations have long-lasting consequences.

Mary and the Words is hosting a four week readalong of The Silmarillion in March.
These are the links to read her lengthy thoughts on the book.
Week One
Week Two
Week Three
Week Four is this week and has not posted

Why do I love The Silmarillion?
Several reasons:
1. The ingenuity and creativity is huge-vast. I cannot wrap my mind around the imagination taken to create the long list of characters and their stories. And, how their stories tie into one another over many years, And, how the stories relate to the further writings of Tolkien. I am struck with amazement.
2. I became swept into the story in the Foreword! Of all places to be sucked in! Christopher Tolkien wrote the Foreword and my interest was sparked and continued to keep me reading.
3. I love the supplemental material: five pages of lineage profiles, helpful pronunciation guide, 52 pages of an index of names. The index gives a brief definition of the name and the page numbers where the names are found.
4. It can be easy to dismiss a character who only has brief stories. Their stories can be buried underneath so many other characters who are written about next. But, I remember many of the names and their heroic deeds. I remember their courage and valor. I remember their fearless disposition in the face of fearful evil beings.
5. The Silmarillion is a simple tale. The created fight against evil. It’s simple yet relatable to real life.
6. The Rings that were made by the Elves and Sauron are explained. The One Ring is in the further books of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. This background information of the origins of the Rings helps.

If you are a reader of The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, I recommend reading The Silmarillion.

(Review) Harvest Moon: By the Light of the Moon Series Book #4 by Jenny Knipfer

Publisher and Publication Date: Independently published. November 23, 2020.
Genre: Historical fiction. Native American literature. Christian historical fiction. Romance. Ojibwe history. Women and literature.
Pages: 291.
Format: Kindle Unlimited e-book.
Source: Even though I am apart of the book tour, I received the e-book via Kindle Unlimited. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of Native American historical fiction.
Rating: Very good.

Buy Links:

Amazon UKAmazon USAmazon CAAmazon AU
Barnes and Noble

Additional links for further reading:

From the ThoughtCo about the Ojibwe People.
The Ojibwe People’s Dictionary.
From Publisher’s Weekly, 10 Essential Native American Novels.
From Native American Writers, Early Native American Literature.
American Indians in Children’s Literature.
Social Justice Books. This website provides a long list of Native American literature for children of all ages.

Author Information:

Jenny Knipfer lives in Wisconsin with her husband, Ken, and their pet Yorkie, Ruby. She is also a mom and loves being a grandma. She enjoys many creative pursuits but finds writing the most fulfilling. Spending many years as a librarian in a local public library, Jenny recently switched to using her skills as a floral designer in a retail flower shop. She is now retired from work due to disability. Her education background stems from psychology, music, and cultural missions. Her By the Light of the Moon series earned five-star reviews from Readers’ Favorite, a book review and award contest company. Their praise: “Ruby Moon is entertaining, fast-paced, and features characters that are real. Blue Moon continues a well-written and highly engaging saga of family ties, betrayals, and heartaches. Silver Moon is a highly recommended read for fans of historical wartime fiction, powerful emotive drama, and excellent atmospheric writing. Harvest Moon is probably one of the best historical fiction novels I have ever read. I have come away deep in thought, feeling somewhat like I’ve had a mystical experience and one I will never forget.”
She holds membership in the: Midwest Independent Booksellers Association, Wisconsin Writers Association, Christian Indie Publishing Association, and Independent Book Publishers Association.
Jenny’s favorite place to relax is by the western shore of Lake Superior, where her novel series, By The Light of the Moon, is set. She is currently writing a new historical fiction series entitled, Sheltering Trees. The first title in that series, In a Grove of Maples,—inspired by the lives of her grandparents in the late 1890’s—is slated for fall of 2021.
Connect with Jenny:
WebsiteTwitterFacebookInstagram


Summary:

In the wilds of 19th century Ontario, Maang-ikwe, a young Ojibwe woman, falls into a forbidden love, breaks her father’s honor, and surrenders her trust to someone who betrays it. The abuse she suffers divides her from her tribe and causes her to give up what she holds most dear. 
Niin-mawin must come to grips with his culture being ripped away from him. Brought up in a “white man’s” school, he suffers through an enforced “civilized” education and separation from his family. When a man he respects reveals a secret about Niin-mawin’s past, he embarks on a search for the person he hopes can mend the part of his heart that’s always been missing. 
Both Maang-ikwe and Niin-mawin wonder how a harvest of pain and sorrow will impact their lives. Will they find the blessings amongst the hardships, or will they allow the results of division and abuse to taint their hearts forever?

Fans of historical fiction, Native American fiction, Christian historical fiction, clean romance, and literary fiction will be moved by this deep, heartfelt novel.

My Thoughts:

It is rare for me to read a book with characters (or even one character) who are Native Americans. Less than 1% of children’s books have Native American characters. I’m shocked and disappointed. Native Americans are the first Americans. They are the original people who settled in North America. Their stories were first told through oral history. Now, they are also told in book form, but few books share their rich knowledge of history and culture.
After reading Harvest Moon, I performed a web search of Native American literature. The statistics, types of children and adult books, the history in their literature, and the injustice of this people group who have been ignored by publishers are some of the facts I found. Obviously they’ve been ignored because I rarely hear about Native American literature. Other people groups are examined in detail and with media attention. Why not Native American literature?
What I have written in the above section is the first reason why I love Harvest Moon. This is an important story. It is important because it shares true history, in historical fiction form, of how the Ojibwe were treated in the 19th century. Everything about their culture was impacted by white people who wanted the Ojibwe to become like them. This type of indoctrination happened among the other Native Americans in North America.
A second reason why I love this story is it brings a valid but sordid point in the Christian mission work of the 19th century. This point is abuse will never bring a person to belief in God. Christians are to share the gospel message with people. Christians are not to “force” someone to become a believer. Christians are not to scold or beat a person because they are not the “right” color or culture. We are to respect and love people. Native Americans are our neighbor. Jesus commanded us to “love our neighbor.” And, love is not just a word. Love is a word that requires action.
Harvest Moon is a story showing the trauma and after-effects of sexual abuse. I am both a survivor, and a mentor for women who have been traumatized by sexual abuse. I know that healing is something we work towards. One of the ways we work towards healing is by telling our stories. Harvest Moon is one young woman’s story who speaks for so many other women.
Harvest Moon is the story of a mother’s bond with her children, and the bond between children and their mothers.
Harvest Moon is the story of relationships between men and women. Specifically the power of attraction, miscommunication, loneliness, the need for affirmation, and blending a family together.

What I did not like about Harvest Moon is the use of the quotes at the start of each chapter. I love quotes. I love the quotes used. But these quotes do not create a harmony between the content, and using American and European writer’s quotes. I’m sorry if I come across as nit-picking, but it’s like trying to place a puzzle piece in a puzzle that doesn’t fit.

A second point in the story I don’t like is the jumping back and forth in time. This is a common form in historical fiction-dual time periods. Harvest Moon has multiple time periods. I want to clarify. At no point in the story did I become lost by the various time periods. I believe they cause too many breaks in the reading of the story. Breaks can halt or pause a reader to the point of not becoming apart of the story.

This book is not strong in typical Christian fiction themes. There is a Christian theme, but I feel it is not a dominant theme.

Themes in the story: sacrifice, love, bravery, courage, death and dying, self-worth, shame, and family honor.

Over-all, Harvest Moon is a splendid story. It is an important story.

A 46 minute video on the The Ojibwe’ People: Anishinaabe – History, Culture and Affiliations.

(Review) A Sword Among Ravens, The Long-Hair Saga Book 3 by Cynthia Ripley Miller

Publisher and Publication Date: BookLocker. December 9, 2020.
Genre: Historical fiction. Mystery. Romance.
Pages: 267.
Format: Pdf copy.
Source: I received a complimentary pdf copy from The Coffee Pot Book Club. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of historical fiction.
Rating: Very good.

Link @ Amazon/US
Link @ Amazon/UK
Link @ Amazon/CA
Link @ Amazon/AU
Link @ Barnes and Noble
Link @ Kobo

About the Author:

Cynthia Ripley Miller is a first generation Italian-American writer with a love for history, languages, and books. She has lived in Europe and traveled world-wide, holds two degrees, and taught history and English. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthology Summer Tapestry, at Orchard Press Mysteries.com, and The Scriptor. She is a Chanticleer International Chatelaine Award finalist with awards from Circle of Books-Rings of Honor and The Coffee Pot Book Club. She has reviewed for UNRV Roman History, and blogs at Historical Happenings and Oddities: A Distant Focus and on her website, www.cynthiaripleymiller.com

Cynthia is the author of On the Edge of Sunrise, The Quest for the Crown of Thorns, and A Sword Among Ravens, books 1-3 in her Long-Hair Saga series set in Late Ancient Rome, France, and Jerusalem. Cynthia lives outside of Chicago with her family, along with a cute but bossy cat.

Social Media Links:
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Summary:

In a grave, on the edge of a Roman battlefield, an ancient sword has been discovered. Legend claims it belonged to King David of Israel and carries a curse—those who wield it will tragically die—but not the chosen. AD 455. Arria Felix and her husband, Garic the Frank, have safely delivered a sacred relic to Emperor Marcian in Constantinople. But now, Arria and Garic will accept a new mission. The emperor has asked them to carry the sword of King David of Israel to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem where Arria will dedicate it in her murdered father’s memory. As Arria and Garic travel into the heart of the Holy Land, they face many challenges and dangers. Their young daughter is missing then found in the company of a strange and suspicious old monk. A brutal killer stalks their path. And a band of cold-blooded thieves is determined to steal the sword for their own gains. But when Arria confronts the question of where the sword should truly rest—old friendships, loyalties, and her duty are put to the test like never before. At every turn, Arria and Garic find themselves caught in a treacherous mission wrapped in mystery, murder, and A Sword Among Ravens.

My Thoughts:

I felt drawn to read this book because I am a Christian and enjoy reading early Christian history. I also enjoy reading stories about the Roman Empire. The time period for this story is the late period of the Roman Empire (27 B.C. to 476 A.D.) It is the early part of the Byzantine Empire (330 A.D. to 1453 A.D.)

Several things I love about this story:
1. “The Author’s Note” shares helpful information about Roman names for the months and days; and background information of the “Places” and “Points of Interest.” I love the websites that are included to read further history. I believe it is important for an author to share at least a little about what they’ve learned during the process of writing a book. Miller has shared in brief her research.
2. The female lead character is Arria. She is an intelligent, wise, and capable person. She is respected and admired by all except one family member. Arria is a character who I admire because she already has positive traits, but she continues to develop as a strong person and leader.
3. The object of every character’s interest is the sword of David. Some characters are out for their own agenda. Arria genuinely cares about doing the right thing. She and Garic make a commitment to the emperor. Their mission sets in motion a busy story with other characters who come in to play. I love the form and direction of the story. I love the plot. I love the conflicts in the story. The conflicts are both internal and external. I love the mystery of the sword.
4. The violence is graphic. This is a violent culture. Roman soldiers and the Huns were barbaric in their fighting and torture. It is important to depict the reality of the time period. I believe Miller has achieved this.
5. I enjoyed reading about the descriptions of historical places.

What is passable in the story is the romance of two couples. I’m not moved by either pair. I like to read about tender affection in a loving couple. Affection is not necessarily sex. Sex is one form of affection but there are other forms.

What I didn’t like about this story:
1. When “He” or Nemesis is suddenly introduced I felt completely lost. Who is this person? Why does he matter in the story? Is he actually another character but going by a different name? It took a while but his purpose is revealed.

Themes in the story: courage, death and dying, revenge, love, honor, marriage, ambition, and loyalty.