Friday, 25 March 2016

Tolkien Reading Day and Venice

Today is Tolkien Reading Day, hosted by the Tolkien Society!

Tolkien Reading Day is held each year on 25 March, the date of the downfall of Sauron the Lord of the Rings and the fall of Barad-dûr, and the day of the New Year in Gondor.

"The theme for Tolkien Reading Day 2016 is life, death and immortality.
'To be caught in youth by 1914 was no less hideous an experience than in 1939... by 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead.' — J.R.R. Tolkien, Foreword to the Second Edition, The Lord of the Rings
The theme was chosen for 2016 to coincide with the one-hundredth anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. Tolkien fought and survived this dreadful battle, but lost his close friend and fellow T.C.B.S. member Rob Gilson. With the death of G.B. Smith later that year, the First World War undoubtedly shaped Tolkien's outlook on life and death, with mortality and immortality looming large in the Middle-earth legendarium."

The TCBS was, from the hindsight of history, a precursor to the Inklings. And who were the Inklings? All shall be revealed next week when the A to Z Challenge begins!

I've been rereading Humphrey Carpenter's The Inklings, and Tolkien's collected letters, to prepare for the A to Z (and have just completed a reread of all 12 books of the History of Middle-earth!); I really hope I can do justice to all the various members of the Inklings and the other authors and people from that time that I've chosen to feature. I miss some of my books that are in storage, especially John Garth's Tolkien and the Great War and all the Owen Barfield and Charles Williams books.

A new edition of A Secret Vice, a lecture given by Tolkien in the 1930s and revised 20 years later, will be published in the first week of April, so I'll be busy reading that too -- my first new purchase in a few months (not counting the pile of free books we picked up last week from some boxes outside a villa, which is now being demolished!), give or take a book or two.

All that to say I haven't done any editing, but have been wroking my way through the books on the shelves. The pile never ever seems to grow any less. I've read four books from the pile and three new ones (one a gift, one from the free pile, and one an ARC for review (more to come on that!) in the last couple of weeks. How do new books keep finding their way into the house?!

In honour of Tolkien Reading Day I think I might reread some of Tolkien's poetry. In keeping with the theme, here's a deliciously eerie one, The Mewlips:

Related to Tolkien, who once referred to Venice as Gondor in a letter, we visited Venice last month -- my first time in Italy!

Looking at the Alps from Italy

 Flying over Mont Blanc and the Alps towards Switzerland

Morning in Venice

War memorial

Former Jewish ghetto

In 1516, the Venetian doges confined the Jewish residents to a small island. The ghetto was gated and guarded, and Jews were only permitted to leave in the day and restricted to certain professions (such as moneylending, as in The Merchant of Venice)

"The city of Venice remembers The Venetian Jews who were deported to the Nazi concentration camps on December 5th 1943 and August 17th, 1944"

Courtyard outside the Hebrew Museum of Venice

Bookstore with books in a gondola 

 Oldest church in Venice

Where Jean-Jacques Rousseau worked as secretary to the ambassador of France

Rainy evening

One of the many shops selling masks -- we were there the weekend after Carnevale had ended


Fish market. Also a statue holding a pillar to nowhere. Perhaps a pulpit of some kind? Zan Marie, what does it say on the marble?

Cafe with cat

St Mark's Square in the early morning

The wall against which Richard Wagner died of a heart attack

Various street scenes. Venice was lovely from every angle, but the morning light was especailly flattering

Do you take part in Tolkien Reading Day or Bloomsday or another author's celebration day?
Which author would you like to see honoured on a special day?

Friday, 18 March 2016

A Visit from Roland, ROW80, and A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal!

Guest post from Roland Yeomans today.

Welcome Roland!


Yes, it is another port of call for "Don't You Hate Book Tours?" Book Tour!

Deniz Bevan graciously let me slip into her blog harbor to rant, ah, talk about my book, THE NOT-SO-INNOCENTS ABROAD.

Lately, she has done a series of photos for her blog entries.

"Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen."
--Leonardo da Vinci

In like manner, music is prose that is felt rather than read.

Behold the first Air-Steamship, Xanadu. Its paint, its very fabric, its very metal has been impregnated with bits of aluminum and stardust. When the first rays of the yawning sun hit the vessel, it burns like a miniature nova in the night. And the inhabitants of whatever land over which the Xanadu is sailing know hope. The McCord is coming with his mysterious alien wife to bring justice and wrath to their oppressors.

Strange fires burn within McCord's blood, for it has mingled with the blood of the Angel of Death. He has been ordered by President Grant to shepherd the peace treaty between the Lakota, Cheyenne, Crow, and Apache at Ft. Laramie. The government thinks to ambush the rebellious Texas Ranger. McCord vows that this is one treaty that the White Government will not break. He has asked the Angel of Death to seal it with her strange power. And as Union soldiers kneel to open fire on McCord and his friend, Mark Twain, the Host of the Seraphim begin to sing in the bruised skies as if their vocal cords were bleeding.

McCord's theme. Samuel McCord, haunted, cursed Texas Ranger. Forever seeking the peace that will always elude him even with his marriage to the mysterious alien, Meilori Shinseen -- for to be alone in the presence of one you love is to be truly alone. Across deadly Indian territory no other white man will ride, up desolate mountain peaks and alongside cascading waterfalls, McCord has never found the forgiveness for his dark past. Nor will he ever.

There are nights when the wolves are silent, and only the moon howls. The evening of the first Ball aboard the Xanadu is such a night. Egyptian statues ring the deck as the wheeling dancers spin intoxicated with the stirring waltz, Masquerade, in the air. Slowly, one by one, the eyes of the statues begin to open, warning Empress Shinseen that danger is near. Then, the Nautilus silently rises from the Atlantic to spit death at the Xanadu.

Meilori Shinseen, ageless, eternal -- she ruled Cathy when Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon, destroying the Republic he was trying to save. She smiled as screaming sacrifices were dragged to her up the blood-stained steps of Aztec pyramids. Will McCord lose his soul following his love for this Alien goddess?

Samuel McCord has ridden a crooked trail, always trying to protect the helpless to futilely make up for not being there when his own family needed him. On that trail, he found his blood mixed with the essence of Gaia, herself. She often speaks to him. Seldom is he happy to hear what she says.

I envision the books I write as movies. Listen to the music I hear in the opening credits as the Xanadu sails over the Atlantic at the start of a voyage that will transform every passage on board.

Don’t miss the adventure of a lifetime. Board the Xanadu. Cost of Passage only $9.99!

Thak you, Roland -- I love musical posts!

The first round of A Round of Words in 80 Days for this year is ending.

Of course, I should be editing. But round about the middle of January, I changed my goal to reading all the books that we already own. There are about 180 books in storage that we own but I haven't read, and thanks to four library book sales since we've been here (not counting online book orders...) we already have close to 100 unread books on our shelves! I intend to read about 60 of those (the rest either don't interest me at the moment or shouldn't even be in the house, for one reason or another (for instance a German economic textbook that I received by accident, when I ordered a Paddington Bear book!)). As of the middle of January, I've read about 50 books and poems and short stories -- I see now that 10 of those were novels from the Unread Books to Read pile. Is that good? Is that enough? That means it would take me about six more months to read all 60 of the Unread Books. Longer, evidently, since new publications or books I've volunteered to review, and so on, always crop up.

But the next library book sale is at the end of April...

We'll see what happens. I'll keep the same goal for the second round of ROW80 (starting on the first Monday in April!) and, also as part of my goals (setting aside editing and keeping up with book reviews), I hope to make it through the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge!

Speaking of which, the time has come... A little early, actually, as the theme reveal blogfest is on the 21st. I'm deliberately not signing up for that as I know I'll never have time to visit all the names on the linky list (I used to, whenever I joined a blogfest!). Instead, I'm slipping mine in a bit early, to keep to my one day a week blogging schedule, and I will try to visit everyone I can!... The time has come for the reveal:

My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is the Inklings!

It's hard to find proper, labelled photos of the Inklings.
Two of the group photos that repeat here feature C. S. Lewis, but neither include Tolkien.
And that bottom centre right photo is certainly not the Inklings!

The Inklings were a shifting group of authors, poets, professors, doctors, students, and their friends that, throughout the 1930s and 1940s (roughly), met on Thursday evenings in C. S. Lewis' rooms, and on Tuesday mornings at the Eagle and Child pub in Oxford. I hope to have posts on the main participants (Tolkien, Lewis, Lewis' brother, Hugo Dyson, Dr. Havard and Charles Williams) as well as some of the other occasional participants (I just learned that there's a link through Neville Coghill to Richard Burton (whose former house is just up the road -- photos to come!)), and some of the locations as well, especially the main pubs and hotels...

If you're taking part in A to Z -- or even if you're not -- do you prefer blogging to a theme or two,
or do you prefer to write about whatever comes to mind each day?

Books I'm Reading and Finished Books

  • The Making of Outlander by Tara Bennett
  • Testament of Experience by Vera Brittain
  • Zoom sur Plainpalais by Corinne Jaquet
  • beta read! (JB)
  • ***Reading At Intervals***
  • Sophie's Choice by William Styron
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • The Young Lions by Irwin Shaw
  • Burning Sky by Lori Benton
  • 12 Anne and Avonlea books by L. M. Montgomery (skimming/reread (this was free on Kindle!))
  • Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford
  • Istanbul Noir (Akashic Books anthology)
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien manuscripts edited by J. D. Rateliff
  • The Jerusalem Bible
  • ***Finished Books***
  • The Children of Men by P. D. James
  • A Daughter's A Daughter by Mary Westmacott (Agatha Christie)
  • A Girl From Yamhill by Beverly Cleary
  • Sunlight by Margaret Rucker (poem; floating in a cocktail glass)
  • Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
  • Preface to The Hobbit, by Christopher Tolkien
  • Ilk Defa... by Beste Barki (essays)
  • Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers (essay)
  • The Moon and I by Betsy Byars
  • The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson
  • Rogue Warrior by Regan Walker
  • Beauty and the Beast by Villeneuve
  • Black (what was this? I don't remember!)
  • Dance of the Jakaranda by Peter Kimani
  • Thomas the Tank Engine by Rev. Awry (26 book collection)
  • beta read (Born to Run by RB)
  • The Little Turtle by Vachel Lindsay (poem; reread)
  • The Kraken by Alfred Lord Tennyson (poem)
  • Android's Dream by John Scalzi
  • The Mysterious Tadpole by Stephen Kellogg (reread)
  • Yashim Cooks Istanbul by Jason Goodwin
  • Miniatures by John Scalzi
  • Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
  • Kitty-in-Boots by Beatrix Potter (illustrated by Quentin Blake)
  • All or Nothing by Rose Lerner (short story)
  • Merry Christmas, Emily (board book)
  • Extra Yarn by __ and Jan Klassen
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • The Outlandish Companion II by Diana Gabaldon
  • The Outlandish Companion I, Revised by Diana Gabaldon
  • MacHinery and the Cauliflowers by Alistair MacLean (short story)
  • The Dileas by Alistair MacLean (short story)
  • The Gold Watch by Alistair MacLean (short story)
  • betty, butter, sun by Monica Byrne (short story)
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them screenplay by J.K. Rowling
  • The Very Cranky Bear (Scholastic)
  • various haiku by R. Wodaski
  • ongoing rereads of most board books listed last year!
  • see the 2016 list and statistics at
  • see the 2015 list and statistics at
  • see the 2014 list and statistics at
  • see the 2013 list and statistics at
  • see the 2012 list and statistics here
  • see the 2011 statistics on
  • see the 2011 list at
  • see the 2010 list at
  • see the 2009 list at
  • also in 2009 at
  • see the 2008 list at
  • also in 2008 at
  • also in 2008 at