Tag: J.R.R. Tolkien

Kids and Reading

Posted September 21, 2015 by Nikki in / 10 Comments

The twitter conversation that caught my eye this weekend was started by Joanne Harris, talking about ways to get kids to read, and one of the important things she said is that you mustn’t denigrate a kid’s choices — even if they’re too young or too old for them, even if you don’t think it’s appropriate. You shouldn’t take the book away, even if an eleven year old is picking up Fifty Shades of Grey. And, well, I agree.

See, the thing is, if you forbid something, it becomes even more intriguing. And if they then seek it out for themselves, you’ve put a barrier between yourself and them — they can’t come to you with any questions or problems related to it, because you forbade them to do it and they’re worried about getting in trouble. So say your eleven year old does read E.L. James’ work; wouldn’t you rather they be able to ask questions about what they read, discuss problems with it with you, and not needlessly have them enshrining it as the epitome of adulthood and sexiness and romance?

I don’t recall my parents ever saying I shouldn’t read something. Sometimes my mum thought a book was a bit too ‘old’ for me and it’d spoil it if I tried to read it too young (The Lord of the Rings, for instance), but I only recall that happening once or twice. I had the run of her bookshelves from a very young age, and she got books out of the adult section of the library for me when our librarians wouldn’t even let me into that part of the library. I don’t recall her ever vetting ahead of time the books I was reading, and I don’t recall either of my parents ever talking trash about a book I was reading.

The first time I remember anything of the kind was a school librarian scolding me for reading Enid Blyton — and so I went home and asked my mother why I’d been scolded, and we talked about the racism and sexism of the books, and why people didn’t think much of them. And I’m pretty sure Mum told me that it was okay to read them as long as I understood that, and that of course the books were fun, they were meant to be, and there was nothing wrong with enjoying them. (I’m also fairly sure that was about the same time as I realised that there were much better books out there, as I was meeting wizards and robots; Tolkien, Le Guin and Asimov.)

Racking my brains, those are the only instances I can even think of where I was discouraged from reading anything as a kid. And, well, look at me now…

But seriously, if you want your kid to read, don’t try and drag the “wrong” books out of their hands. Just try and make sure that they know you’re open to them coming and asking questions, and perhaps you could even let them know if you think a book is better put off (it worked with me and The Lord of the Rings, at least). Even if they’re reading comics, books below their reading level, books you don’t like — it’s a door into the world of literature, and if you slam that door, it might put them off finding another. I was older than my peers when I finally started reading, and was still reading books with rhymes and pictures and lots of colour. A year after I finally unlocked that door and learnt to read, I’d leapt ahead of everyone else, while my peers were still bouncing off the school reading books.

(The first door I went through into literature was the door to Cat and Mouse’s house. After that, it was small and round and painted green, with certain marks scratched onto it with a staff: “Burglar wants a good job, plenty of Excitement and reasonable Reward.” I don’t know how many times I read and reread The Hobbit; again, my parents didn’t try to stop me. Well, there was a creaky floorboard and a loud bedside light designed to let them know if I was reading late into the night, but that was just to make sure I slept.)

Oh, and if your child gets most of their vocabulary from books, don’t mock them when they inevitably pronounce things wrong, please. My mother has had much jollity at my expense because I couldn’t pronounce even simple words, and it didn’t exactly encourage me to use my vocabulary and express myself. Puts a bit of a halt in the conversation when I have to stop and spell out a word because I don’t want to be laughed at if I say it wrong.

Should I ever have children, they’re getting their own library cards and as soon as they’re old enough to express any preference, I’m gonna let them choose whatever they like. Even if I’m sick of reading it. Even if it’s more pictures than words. Even if it’s too difficult for them and it’ll take a long time to get through it, or they’ll get bored of it. I’m going to let them choose, let them know they can talk to me about any and all of it, and make sure that they always, always have access to books — new and old. If they have favourites that they want to revisit, I’ll buy them so that enchantment is waiting ready to hand whenever they want it.

And if they don’t want books, well, I won’t despair. My sister didn’t read much from the age of ten to sixteen or so, and then I put a copy of Century Rain (Alistair Reynolds) in her hands, and she’s been devouring books ever since. Sometimes it just takes the right book at the right time.

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted September 1, 2015 by Nikki in / 8 Comments

This week’s theme is “Ten Characters You Just Didn’t Click With” and actually, I’m having a bit of trouble thinking of it. Okay, here goes…

  1. Jill Pole and Prince Rillian from The Silver ChairActually, most of the characters in the last two books. They just didn’t have the magic, somehow.
  2. Prince Sameth, Lirael AbhorsenCompared to their mother, both him and Ellimere are just weak tea. He spends so much time denying his responsibilities, where his mother just took it all on and never dreamed of saying no. In a way, it’s a more realistic characterisation, but gah, so much whining.
  3. Elvira, from Half a Crown. I love most of Jo Walton’s characters, but Elvira’s concerns seemed so far away from the concerns of the more mature characters we’ve already spent time with.
  4. Boromir, from The Lord of the Rings. I know he’s actually a good guy at heart, and we see the evil power of the Ring twisting him, but there was something so glory-seeking and self-centered about the guy, especially when compared to Faramir.
  5. Malta Vestrit, from The Liveship Traders trilogy. Ohh my god, so spoilt. And it doesn’t really get better even as she begins to grow up; I never liked her. Mind you, a lot of the characters in this trilogy were very dislikeable, to me.
  6. Miriamele, from Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. Speaking of spoilt characters…
  7. Jaelle, from The Summer Tree. I never felt like I really understood the character, and I wanted more out of her.
  8. Katsa, from GracelingI know! She’s pretty kickass, but I never really connected with the character. It’s why I didn’t like it that much the first time I tried it.
  9. Lancelot, in anything. Almost the sole exception is Heather Dale’s music and parts of Steinbeck’s retelling of Malory.
  10. Dorian Havilliard, Throne of Glass. Actually, I didn’t really ‘get’ either love interest in the first book, but Chaol is growing on me. Dorian… there are some aspects I’m liking, but in the first book, he really didn’t win me over.

I tried to pick books I liked, in general, and characters who are not meant to be villains. I’ll be interested to see what other takes people have on this theme!

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted August 18, 2015 by Nikki in / 2 Comments

This week’s theme is auto-buy authors! I think I did this topic the last time it came round, but these things are prone to change. It’ll be interesting after I’ve made the list to look for the old one!

  1. Scott Lynch. Even seeing a short story of his is in a collection is enough to prompt me to at least consider picking it up.
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien. I’m not sure he’d even approve of the state of the stuff Christopher Tolkien is putting out for him is in, but I will always be fascinated with every word the guy wrote.
  3. Jo Walton. If I can’t get the ARCs, at least… Jo is my friend as well as a favourite author.
  4. N.K. Jemisin. I think I knew she’d be an auto-buy author from the first page of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.
  5. Jacqueline Carey. I’ve seen her deal with stuff I wouldn’t be that interested in ably, in a way that comes out fun. Yeah, I’ll buy anything.
  6. Guy Gavriel Kay. Person most likely to make me cry at his work, except possibly Jo.
  7. Garth Nix. I haven’t even read all his backlist yet.
  8. Patricia A. McKillip. It took me a while to get into some of her books, but I think I’m securely hooked now. I’m glad there’s still a whole bunch of backlist titles I haven’t got to yet.
  9. Neil Gaiman. Okay, I’m not 100% a fan of everything the man says, and the title of his latest collection of short stories didn’t work for me, but if he writes a book, I’ll probably get it. Maybe not immediately. But in the end.
  10. Rainbow Rowell. It surprised me, but I just preordered Carry On and realised that yeah, I probably will automatically buy anything by her. Something about her style just… works for me.

What about you guys?

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted May 19, 2015 by in / 10 Comments

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is a freebie, so I’m going to borrow an idea that came to me via Guy Gavriel Kay:

“My youngest brother had a wonderful schtick from some time in high school, through to graduating medicine. He had a card in his wallet that read, ‘If I am found with amnesia, please give me the following books to read …’ And it listed half a dozen books where he longed to recapture that first glorious sense of needing to find out ‘what happens next’ … the feeling that keeps you up half the night. The feeling that comes before the plot’s been learned.”

So here’s my ten… Consider this an order if I am ever found with amnesia!

  1. The Dark is Rising, Susan Cooper. Well duh.
  2. The Earthsea Quartet, Ursula Le Guin. I’m curious as to how I’d feel about The Furthest Shore and Tehanu, reading them for the first time as an adult — originally I read them when I was quite young.
  3. The Fionavar Tapestry, Guy Gavriel Kay. I was torn between this and Tigana, but this was my first experience of Guy Gavriel Kay’s work, and I’d love to come to it fresh. Especially because it’s so influenced by prior fantasy.
  4. Whose Body, Dorothy L. Sayers. Well, all of the Peter Wimsey books really.
  5. Anything non-Arthurian by Mary Stewart. I’m not such a fan of her Arthurian books, but her other books are pure comfort to me. I might need that, if I’ve lost my memory!
  6. The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien. And Lord of the Rings, obviously.
  7. Among Others, Jo Walton. My first book by Walton was actually Farthing, but that’s less personal. It’d be interesting how much Among Others would resonate with me if I didn’t have the memories I do. (Mind you, neuroscience probably supports the idea that I’d still feel a sense of recognition, even without conscious memory.)
  8. I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith. An absolute must — I can’t go without knowing the opening and closing lines.
  9. Something by Patricia McKillip. Just don’t start me on Winter Rose unless you’re willing to take notes about my experience, compare them to my old reviews, and publish a study on unconscious memories of reading in amnesiacs.
  10. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Obviously a whole course of Arthurian literature would be essential — you could start by giving me my own essays on Guinevere and Gawain — including Steinbeck’s unfinished work. But this would make a good starting point, and you could check if I retained my knowledge of Middle English too.

Now I almost want that to happen, so I can study the neuroscience of reading and memory from within! It’d also be interesting to see how I reacted to the Harry Potter books if I couldn’t remember a) reading them as a child and b) the hype surrounding them. And —

Yeah, I’ll stop. Looking forward to seeing what themes other people have gone with this week!

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted May 12, 2015 by in / 4 Comments

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt is “ten authors I really want to meet”. Now, I’ve actually been lucky and met a fair few authors I love — Jo Walton, Robin Hobb, Alastair Reynolds… But I’m sure I can come up with ten more.

  1. Ursula Le Guin. And nobody is at all surprised. Not even a little.
  2. Patricia McKillip. I know very little about her as a person, but her writing is awesome.
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien. I mean, not as a zombie or anything, but if I could go back in time. Attend one of his lectures maybe?
  4. Hazel Edwards. She wrote There’s a Hippopotamus On Our Roof Eating Cake. Obvious.
  5. Cherie Priest. She seems cool, I want to pet her dog, and I like her on Twitter.
  6. N.K. Jemisin. Granted, I’d probably just babble quietly, but that’s the same with anyone I admire.
  7. Robin Hobb. Again. I was fourteen at the time, after all.
  8. Jacqueline Carey. Sign all my books. All of them.
  9. Guy Gavriel Kay. Ditto.
  10. Susan Cooper. The first thing I move into a new house is my copy of The Dark is Rising sequence, and I’m not even kidding about that. It goes in the first box or bag to enter the new place, and gets put on the shelf symbolically before anything else.

So, uh, yeah. I could probably think of more, but I’d better stop daydreaming now…

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted April 7, 2015 by in / 21 Comments

This week’s theme from The Broke and the Bookish is top ten characters you want to check in on after the story is done. This is an awesome one — there are so many characters I wonder about!

  1. Anyone from The Goblin Emperor (Katherine Addison). Don’t make me choose (obviously I’d choose Maia and his wife if I had to). I know she’s not going to write a sequel (as such), so I feel free to wonder about aaaaall of the characters. And I love them all, and even those who aren’t nice… I want to know how things end up.
  2. Faramir from The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien). Total literary crush, ’nuff said. Plus, he’s with Eowyn, so you get a twofer there.
  3. Treebeard from The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien’s Middle-earth becomes our Europe, after all. What happens to the Ents? Where are they hiding?
  4. Caspian from Prince Caspian/Voyage of the Dawn Treader (C.S. Lewis). All of the books could’ve been about Caspian and Lucy having adventures and I’d have been happy.
  5. The Marquis de Carabas from Neverwhere (Neil Gaiman). He’s so awesome, and we know so little about him. Need to knooooowwww.
  6. Vetch from A Wizard of Earthsea (Ursula Le Guin). He was so faithful to Ged, and yet we don’t really know what happened to him.
  7. Esca from The Eagle of the Ninth (Rosemary Sutcliff). We get a little bit of an idea what’s going to happen, but I want to know eveeerything.
  8. Mori from Among Others (Jo Walton). I know a certain amount of this is autobiographical, and I know Jo a little. But I want to know about Mori, where she goes, what she does. It could be anything.
  9. Peter Carmichael from the Small Change trilogy (Jo Walton). We don’t end the trilogy with him in a good place. At all. I want to see him heal. Or not. I want to see what happens to him and to society.
  10. Con from Sunshine (Robin McKinley). I love the vampire lore in this book, love the awkward alliance/bond that forms between Con and Sunshine. Give me moooore.

I wonder how weird my choices are compared to everyone else’s… Drop by and let me know!

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted January 20, 2015 by in / 6 Comments

This week’s theme from The Broke and the Bookish is a freebie, so I’m gonna go with ‘top ten desert island books’. These are the books I’d take for when my ereader runs out of charge, which would happen all too soon…

  1. The Dark is Rising sequence, Susan Cooper. It comes in an omnibus, so this only has to count as one. I can’t imagine life without this series at least once a year.
  2. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien. I am positive I could read this over and over again and get different things out each time.
  3. The Earthsea Quartet, Ursula Le Guin. A long-term favourite of mine, and even better, it’s been a while since I read it.
  4. I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith. Another one I periodically reread; I love the development of Cassandra’s character, and I don’t know a first and last line that stick better in my head.
  5. Tigana, Guy Gavriel Kay. I don’t think the Fionavar Tapestry books come in an omnibus, so I’d have this instead, although those might be my actual favourites.
  6. The Inheritance Trilogy, N.K. Jemisin. Just come out in an omnibus! I love these books so much, and I think they’d stand up to more rereading.
  7. Among Others, Jo Walton. This book means too much to me to be left behind.
  8. The Complete Brandstetter, Joseph Hansen. I think I’d enjoy rereading these, and there’s plenty of them in this omnibus.
  9. Good Omens, Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett. Because I think I’d need a touch of humour now and again.
  10. The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison. I’m taking a bit of a chance on this, as I’ve only read it once so far, but I’m pretty sure I could enjoy reading it over and over, imagining myself into the world, etc.

Looking forward to seeing what other people have done with the freebie theme, now!

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Review – The Maps of Tolkien's Middle-earth

Posted December 28, 2014 by in / 5 Comments

Maps of Tolkien's Middle-EarthThe Maps of Tolkien’s Middle-earth, John Howe, Brian Sibley

This is a gorgeous bit of work: a slipcase with a hardcover book of information on the making of the maps and what they depict, and a book-cover type folder which contains the four maps, folded up but completely separate (so if you wanted to frame and mount them, that’d be possible). It’s a beautiful collection, and the book itself is gorgeous too. The type-set is the same as most copies of The Hobbit I’ve seen, which I liked, and the layout too. Various illustrations — sketches and full colour — are included, with Brian Sibley describing the events and locations on each of the four maps.

It’s not hugely informative if you’re familiar with the geography and history of Middle-earth, but looking at things laid out like this can be different, and it’s a gorgeous collection, too.

Rating: 5/5

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Review – Tolkien: A Dictionary

Posted December 27, 2014 by in / 5 Comments

Cover of Tolkien: A Dictionary by David DayTolkien: A Dictionary, David Day

I may love Tolkien’s worlds, but my knowledge isn’t encyclopaedic. I didn’t read this cover to cover — I’m sure some people would, but it’s not the kind of thing I enjoy — but it strikes me as a good encyclopaedia for the world (less a dictionary, I think: it’s not just about the etymology and meaning of words, or even mostly) and a good reference, especially for those who find things like genealogies and far off cities difficult. It’s a well presented book, too: faux-leather, with an embossed cover and nice pages, some illustrations included, and the maps on the endpapers.

Just flicking through it, I’d find myself drawn in and reading an entry or two in whole: the one on dragons spans several pages, for example. It covers a lot of the more obscure stuff, from The Silmarillion and beyond; I’m not sure how much it draws on Tolkien’s unpublished papers, given the difficulty of figuring out what is meant to be canonical. I’ll update this if I ever find out definitively.

Rating: 5/5

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Stacking the Shelves – The Holy Crap Edition

Posted December 27, 2014 by in / 24 Comments

Or, Stacking the Shelves: The Christmas Edition! I think I’ve probably had similarly large hauls before, but still… I had a very good Christmas, and if I could just tear myself away from my new game (Final Fantasy Theatrhythm: Curtain Call), I’ll show you all the details. Plus my giant literary giraffe, a gift from my dad.

Photo of me wearing a paper party hat, next to my five foot tall giraffe
His name is Charles Parker, after Lord Peter’s best friend.
He turns up when you least expect it.
Turn around…

So yeah, that was a Christmas. And this is a haul…

Comics

Cover of Batgirl: Silent Running by Kelley Puckett Cover of Batgirl: A Knight Alone by Kelley Puckett Cover of Batgirl: Death in the Family by Gail Simone

Cover of She-Hulk vol. 1 by Dan Slott Cover of Saga vol 3 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples Cover of Saga vol 4 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

The first four are from Mum and Dad — and don’t worry, I know it’s the first two feature Cassandra Cain as Batgirl, and the third Barbara Gordon — and the two Saga volumes are from my little sis. <3

Non-fiction

Cover of Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay by Simon Napier-Bell Cover of Sex & Punishment by Eric Berkowitz Cover of The Reluctant Yogi by Carla McKay

Cover of Lucy: The Beginnings of Mankind Cover of The Trouble with Physics by Lee Smolin

One of you lot recommended me The Trouble with Physics, and Dad got me that and the book on Lucy. The other three came from the Kindle sale.

Pure geekery

Maps of Tolkien's Middle-Earth Cover of Tolkien: A Dictionary by David Day

Little sister knows me well! Or, you know, remembered what I did some of my master’s work on.

Fiction

Cover of The Sea Road by Margaret Elphinstone Cover of Sold for Endless Rue by Madeleine E. Robins Cover of The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine

Cover of Mitosis by Brandon Sanderson Cover of Heraclix and Pomp by Forrest Agguire Cover of The Wild Ways by Tanya Huff

Cover of The Future Falls by Tanya Huff Cover of Mélusine by Sarah Monette Cover of Mindscape by Andrea Hairston

Cover of Those Who Hunt the Night by Barbara Hambly Cover of Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone Cover of Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone

Cover of Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch Cover of The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman Cover of Blue Remembered Earth by Alistair Reynolds

That’s a real mix of gifts, sales and randomness.

Audiobooks

Cover of Swordspoint audiobook by Ellen Kushner Cover of The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (audiobook)

I had credits to spend.

I also got a £20 Waterstones gift card, which I’ll be spending today, so watch out for next week’s haul, too… What’s everyone else been getting?!

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