Announcing Summer School: Tolkien 101 – Index

Tolkien holds a special place in my book-heart, and in my more desiccated heart-heart.  It does not go too far, I think, to say that I wouldn’t be doing any of this but for Tolkien.  And by any of this, I’m not sure that I only mean the blogging.  It was Tolkien who turned a spark of a love for reading into a roaring conflagration.  A poor kid from the southern Appalachian Mountains, it was largely a facility with the written word that got me from there to here.

It almost didn’t happen.  And then I wouldn’t be giving you an entire summer of posts on Tolkien (you will be able to find every post linked here).  I will be posting on Tolkien every Thursday through the end of August.  This is no truncated summer session.  Read on for more about my history with Tolkien and more about what you can expect from Summer School: Tolkien 101.

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Tolkien 101: Rereading The Lord of the Rings, part 2

Reading the second half of The Lord of the Rings reinforces my division of the series in half in my mind and on the blog.  The split makes for a strong first half and an even better second half, instead of a first third that is too heavy on setup and a final third dominated by denouement.  I will be covering Book II of The Two Towers and The Return of the King in this post.

One of many leather-bound books in a study that smells of rich mahogany.

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Can’t-Wait Wednesday: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Novik’s Uprooted was the best novel I had read in a long time.  I’m thrilled that she is returning to the sub-genre with Spinning Silver.  Spinning Silver isn’t a sequel, per my understanding, but I gather it is the same sort of book as Uprooted (and they are certainly playing up the similarities with the covers).  I love this sort of story, a fairy tale fleshed out (not a deconstruction).  I am very excited about this one.

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Wishful Endings.

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Ranking All of the X-Men Movies in Anticipation of Deadpool 2

Deadpool 2 is now out in theaters!  Sadly, with a baby at home I’m not sure when I will get to see it.  I didn’t read any Deadpool back when I read comics, but I was a big X-Men fan.  All those X-Men comics from back in the day included a little Cable so I am very excited to see Josh Brolin’s take on Cable when I do get around to seeing Deadpool 2.

I recently rewatched all ten previous X-Men movies.  Ranking them is a tough proposition.  The overall quality isn’t as high as the MCU, but there are no truly bad X-Men movies and only one great one.  I tend to think the most highly thought of movies are overrated, and the least highly thought of movies underrated.

I buck the conventional wisdom the most on X-Men: Days of Future Past, the first Deadpool, The Wolverine, and X-2.

My ranking of the first ten X-Men movies, from worst to first:

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A Weekend of Reading to Change Your Literary Life

I’ve been wanting to expand my embarrassing ignorance of Western literary canon for a long time. I’m not really sure what I read in high school, I placed out of two semesters of English in college (even though I dropped out of AP English), and I didn’t do any of the reading for the one semester of college English I did take. I’ve been working to rectify that, but it’s slow going when you’re plowing through the Maude translation of War and Peace, innit? Brenton Dickieson has a novel solution. He has put together a list of canon selections that focuses heavily on shorter works, making it feasible to plow through work of many major authors in a reasonable period of time.

A Pilgrim in Narnia

If you are like me, you have spent much of your adult life as a reader catching up on a severe lack of education. It is common that I am out with friends and when the topic of books comes up, I’m forced to admit that I haven’t read this book or that–books that everyone else has read, obviously, but not me. My whole blog could be a confessional. I have never read Jane Eyre or Slaughterhouse V or the Foundation series or 2001: A Space Odyssey or King Lear or Faust or that volume of the History of Middle-earth that you think is that absolutely essential one. Shocking, I know. And yet I like Charlotte Brontë, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Shakespeare, Goethe, and J.R.R. Tolkien. I have never read Jacob I Have Loved, Rob Roy, Don QuixoteThe Last Unicorn, or War…

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Tolkien 101: Rereading The Lord of the Rings, part 1

Tolkien always saw The Lord of the Rings as a single, cohesive story.  It was only published in three volumes due to wartime paper shortages.  But, then again, it was never feasible as a single volume.  At 500k+ words, The Lord of the Rings is longer than any individual book from The Wheel of Time, A Song of Ice and Fire, or The Stormlight Archive.  So it was going to be split, one way or another.  On reread, though, it occurs to me that a better split might have been into two books, not three.  And I’m not about to keep my discussion of The Lord of the Rings to just one post.  Today’s post will cover The Fellowship of the Ring and book I of The Two Towers.  Next week’s post will cover book II of The Two Towers and The Return of the King.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read The Lord of the Rings.  A long time.  Since I last reread it, Peter Jackson has turned the three volumes of The Lord of the Rings into three good movies and the one volume of The Hobbit into three awful movies.  But now I have this nice shiny one volume edition and I really, really need to wash the taste of the last Hobbit movie out of my mouth, so the time has come for a reread.  But, at this point, Jackson’s movies loom large in my mental construction of The Lord of the Rings, so I hope you will excuse me if I refer to them overmuch.

One of many leather-bound books in a study that smells of rich mahogany.

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Can’t Wait Wednesday: Guardian by A.J. Hartley

One of my more delightful discoveries last year was the Steeplejack series by A.J. Hartley.   A “steeplejack” is a craftsman who repairs chimneys, church steeples, and the like.  In a 19th-century milieu like that of the Steeplejack series, it is an extraordinarily dangerous occupation.  Hartley’s Steeplejack series follows Ang, a Steeplejack-turned-private detective of sorts, whose skills get put to plenty of use in racing across the South Africa-inspired Bar-Selehm.  I don’t read much YA these days, but I really loved the first two books in the series.  You can find my reviews of Steeplejack and Firebrand here and here, respectively.

Can’t Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme coordinated by Wishful Endings.

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Bennis Brings the Blood & Thunder from Above in By Fire Above

Bennis wrote one of my favorite books last year with The Guns AboveBy Fire Above may not quite reach those same lofty heights, but it is one hell of a sequel.  As before, By Fire Above is one equal part terrific action set pieces, pure hilarity, and deep military SF that is no more leery of meditating on duty and honor than it is of a little blood and thunder.

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