Wanted: Guest Posts for Tolkien Reading Event (March 2017)

Calling all Tolkienites! Pages Unbound is looking for bloggers, readers, and writers who are interested in participating in next year’s Tolkien Reading Event. The 2016 edition in March featured a fantastic mix of Tolkien-related book reviews, discussion posts, and fun quizzes. (Example: I discovered my Hobbit name was Ferdinand Smallburrow of Buckleberry. *lol*) I was also on one several bloggers who was interviewed for their Tolkien Talks series, and I really enjoyed answering Briana and Krysta’s questions and chatting about Tolkien and his stories with their readers.

If you’d like to take part in the 2017 Tolkien Reading Event, follow this reblog to Pages Unbound’s original post and fill out their online form. 🙂

Pages Unbound | Book Reviews & Discussions

During March 2017, Pages Unbound will be running our fourth Tolkien Reading Event.  Every year on March 25, the Tolkien Society celebrates Tolkien Reading Day, and we like to expand on the event by hosting several days’ worth of Tolkien-related content.  We have had some wonderful guest posts in the past and would like to invite you to submit a guest post this year.

Post Options

The Tolkien Reading Event is open to a wide variety of posts.  In previous events, we have featured everything from book reviews to quizzes to serious literary criticism.   Pitch us an idea for any type of post you would like!  You can also review books and movies that have been featured before; we love new perspectives!See a full list of past posts here.

If you need ideas, we are particularly open to posts about:

  • any aspect of The Silmarillion
  • the…

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Tolkien Talk: Sara Letourneau

Today I’m over at Pages Unbound, talking about the “One Author” (*wink*) whose works inspired me to write fantasy. I share what first drew me to J.R.R. Tolkien’s books, my favorite passage from Lord of the Rings, my well-worn pile of Tolkien books, and more. Check out the interview at the link below.

Also, if anyone is interested, Pages Unbound is hosting a Tolkien Twitter chat on Friday, March 25 at 8:00 pm Eastern. To participate, just follow @pagesunbound for questions, and use the hashtag #JRRchat. I’m planning to be there, and I hope some of you can come as well! 🙂

Pages Unbound | Book Reviews & Discussions

Tolkien Event 2016

As part of our Tolkien Reading Celebration, we’ll be interviewing different bloggers about their love for Tolkien and what makes his works so special for them.


Sara Letourneau is a Massachusetts-based writer who practices joy and versatility in her work. In addition to working on her YA fantasy novel, she reviews tea at A Bibliophile’s Reverie and explores literary themes at DIY MFA. Her poetry has been published in The Curry Arts Journal, Soul-Lit, The Eunoia Review, Underground Voices, and two anthologies. Learn more about Sara at her website / blog, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Sara 2015_2-min

Tell us about yourself!  How did you come to love Tolkien and what do you enjoy reading about his works?

 I was a “late bloomer” when it came to reading Tolkien’s works. I had heard of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings for years, but didn’t read the…

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#1000Speak: On Tolerance, Diversity, and the Influences on One’s Worldviews

1000Speak Logo 3

I don’t consider myself a strong debater, so I tend to avoid politically charged discussions. Even my horror about the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina and my admiration for the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of same sex marriage wasn’t enough to help me summon enough bravery to share my views about tolerance. That was before a recent conversation angered me, and compelled me to commit.

It was the day after the SCOTUS decision on same sex marriage. My parents had invited me over for dinner, and somehow the topic came up. One of my family members said this in response: Continue reading

Acts of Compassion in Literature – A Special #1000Speak Edition of “Theme: A Story’s Soul”

1000speak

On February 20, 2015, 1000 Voices For Compassion will take to the blogosphere and share their thoughts and stories about compassion in all its forms (love, kindness, understanding, empathy, mercy, etc.). Many of these “Voices” are also posting articles on the subject in advance of the big day. Since I’d been debating between two ideas I like equally, I decided, “Why not pursue both, and make one the lead-in article?” 🙂

As an avid reader and a novelist-in-progress, some of the most powerful lessons I’ve learned have come from literature. So, for my lead-in to #1000Speak, I’m doing a literary “exploration” of compassion that aligns with my DIY MFA column “Theme: A Story’s Soul.” Below are some acts of compassion from books I’ve read over the years. As you read the examples, think about what you can learn from each character, as well as the impact their decisions or actions may have on other characters, their world, and the story’s audience. Maybe you’ll want to add some of these books to your wishlist if you haven’t read them yet. Either way, I hope you’ll find this sampling of literary compassion as inspiring as I do.

NOTE: Some of the following examples contain spoilers (either major and minor) that are necessary for discussing the topic at hand. Continue reading

Recent Reads: “The Perks Of Being A Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky

Perks-Wallflower 2012 cover

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower
Stephen Chbosky
Contemporary Fiction / Young Adult

Summary:

Charlie is a freshman.

And while he’s not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it.

Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mix tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But he can’t stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a deeply affecting coming-of-age story that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.

Rating: 4.25 / 5, and *Unputdownable*

Awwwwwww! Yes, I had to start my review of Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks Of Being A Wallflower that way. I’ll admit that I was already familiar with the story thanks to seeing the film adaptation starring Logan Lerman and Emma Watson (which I adored!). So, I was looking forward to reading the novel when I finally got it – but I wasn’t expecting it would further endear me to Charlie, the introverted, intelligent yet socially awkward protagonist.

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower chronicles Charlie’s freshman year of high school in the form of letters typed by Charlie to an anonymous friend. The novel acts as the character’s diary, revealing Charlie’s observations, secrets, and discoveries about life as well as the darkest corners of his childhood. Readers learn about his anxieties over high school, his family life, and the new friends who open his eyes and change his life forever. The most memorable of those friends are Patrick, a rebellious senior who celebrates and struggles with his homosexuality, and Patrick’s candid, nurturing, and equally free-spirited step-sister Sam, whom Charlie falls for despite her being in a relationship with someone else.

Chbosky’s epistolary format of The Perks Of Being A Wallflower brings the reader so intimately close to Charlie that it’s impossible not to bond with him. You’ll feel his excitement over attending his first party, his disappointment whenever he sees Sam with her boyfriend, his sadness when he recalls his birthday as the anniversary of his beloved Aunt Helen’s fatal car accident. Perks is also an excellent exercise in voice. Charlie’s language is plain and to-the-point; it truly resembles how high school students talk. At the same time, it masterfully explores the depth of Charlie’s intellect and emotions and lifts it all to the surface in ways that readers of all ages can understand and relate to.

I can understand why some people have challenged or been offended by the book’s mature content (mostly drug / alcohol use and sex). However, I wouldn’t place myself among those opponents, even though I chose not to participate in such experimentation as a teenager. Here’s my take: Had Charlie not dabbled in those areas of life, I doubt he would have grown in the way he needed to in order to move on from his past. Sometimes we have to be thrown out of our comfort zone in order to evolve. By the time Charlie writes his final letter, the core of who he is hasn’t changed, but he’s a stronger, more grateful character who’s ready to live life to the fullest.

The only thing I wasn’t crazy about was how the major revelation of Perks was handled. It sneaks up on the reader, without indication that something unspeakable had happened to Charlie when he was younger. Perhaps his younger self didn’t understand what had been going on, and he had repressed those memories until they clawed their way out at the story’s climax. I swear it was approached differently in the film (gradual hints instead of suddenly), but I could be wrong. Regardless, even though I knew the revelation was coming, the book treats it more like a last-minute plot twist than an explanation for some of Charlie’s behaviors.

I knew I loved The Perks Of Being A Wallflower when I finished it, though. It’s the first novel where I wanted to reach through the pages and hug the protagonist – on multiple occasions, and for different reasons. When a story elicits that kind of emotional reaction from readers, you have to applaud the author. That’s the ultimate reason why Perks is a must-have for every YA lit lover’s bookshelf (though the subject matter requires an open mind) and deserving of its recognition as a timeless classic in its genre.

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Deciding whether to buy The Perks Of Being A Wallflower from Amazon? Let me know whether you found my review helpful by clicking here and selecting either “Yes” or “No.”

Recent Reads: Neil Gaiman – “The Ocean At The End Of The Lane”

Ocean At End Of Lane cover

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane
Neil Gaiman
Fantasy / Magical Realism

Summary:

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. A stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

Rating: 4 / 5, and *Unputdownable*

Talk about timing. No sooner had I started writing this review of The Ocean At The End Of The Lane that the book won this year’s Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel. I wasn’t even aware it had been nominated. So, now is a perfect time to visit Neil Gaiman’s symbolism-rich story of childhood innocence, friendship, and unspeakable nightmares with resounding consequences. And even though I haven’t read the other nominees, I understand why Gaiman’s was chosen to receive the honor: It leaves the reader chilled to the bone, mouthing the word “Wow” over and over again.

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane follows a middle-aged, unnamed man’s recollections of the supernatural events that threatened to destroy him and his family when he was 7 years old. Just before hell breaks loose, he meets the Hempstock family, a trio of extraordinary women with the pluck, wisdom, and magical abilities to help him survive the impending danger. All three ladies are wonderful characters. Old Mrs. Hempstock is the family’s witty, seasoned sage and a grandmother anyone who love to have. Her (seemingly) middle-aged daughter Ginnie becomes a “second mother” to the protagonist with her hospitality, delectable meals, and her own poignant insight. Ginnie’s little girl Lettie, however, is the story’s true ray of sunshine. She embodies many of her elders’ traits while exuding the eagerness and stubborn determination of an 11-year-old. When Lettie reassures the narrator’s younger self that she can and will protect him, she reassures the reader as well. Her sacrifice toward the novel’s end may shock at first, but in hindsight it’s not the least bit out of character.

The protagonist’s 7-year-old self is adorable in his own right. He’s bookish, curious, quiet, and misunderstood by his peers and his younger sister. Lettie and the other Hempstock ladies welcome him with loving hearts, though, and the reader too bonds with him. Gaiman’s simple yet intelligent narrative voice brings you into the boy’s mind and soul: You’ll be fascinated by his inquisitiveness and desire for escapism, sense his frustration as he tries to come to terms with the evil around him, and feel the pulse of his terror at the most crucial moments. At the same time, the novel’s voice also carries Gaiman’s personal style. I had watched Gaiman’s 2012 commencement address at the University of the Arts (an inspiring speech and well worth its 20 minutes, by the way) not long before reading The Ocean At The End Of The Lane. So, as I read the book, sometimes I could hear the author reading it to me, as if the words were very much his own as they were the little boy’s. This didn’t distract me – in fact, it made the experience all the more authentic.

For some reason, though, I can’t see the connection between the South African man’s suicide and the ensuing madness. The only possible link is when Lettie sets off with the boy to stave off the darkness, which eventually enters their world through a physical connection with the boy. But, other than giving the boy a reason to meet the Hempstock family, how does the man’s death trigger the rest of the external plot? Maybe we’re not meant to understand, just as the boy couldn’t. Or, maybe I missed something when I was reading. Or, maybe I answered my own question somewhere in my musings.

That’s the only part about The Ocean At The End Of The Lane that trips me up. Otherwise, this is one of the most haunting and resonant novels I’ve read in a while. It’s also a relatively short read, at less than 200 pages, and one that rushes by if you get engrossed in the story. I also agree with the publisher describing the novel as “elegiac.” By that, I don’t mean that The Ocean At The End Of The Lane is unhappy or depressing. Rather, it’s a brilliantly told allegory about outer and inner darkness, and how – at some point in our lives – we’ll all have to face such a conflict.

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Deciding whether to buy The Ocean At The End Of The Lane from Amazon? Let me know whether you found my review helpful by clicking here and selecting either “Yes” or “No.”

Chronicling The Craft: 40,000 Words

Writing Rituals for the Spiritual and the Eccentric

Chapters In Progress: 9

Chapters Completed: 9

January 2014 was a kind of “calm after the storm” month. After a hectic holiday season, the past few weeks have been pleasantly uneventful. I’ve enjoyed the downtime not only because it’s allowed me to breathe and unwind, but also because it’s given me time each weekend to write. Yay!

Maintaing such a positive attitude isn’t easy, though. The past few writing sessions have been a struggle. Even though I had already planned a particular scene, I’ve almost given myself headaches trying to write down what I see in my mind. When that happens, my initial reaction is a twinge of disappointment: wishing I could have written more words, wishing I could have gotten farther along in that scene. But then I remind myself, “A writing session is a writing session. No matter how many words you put down, it’s an accomplishment to dedicate time and energy to this kind of project.” This reassurance works every time; I feel better about myself and my craft, and all the more motivated for the next sit-down.

Which explains why the 40,000-word mark snuck up on me. I thought I still had a couple hundred words more to go, and then I checked my writing stats. 🙂 So, here’s what’s happened since the previous Chronicle: Continue reading

Chronicling The Craft: 35,000 Words

A Music Playlist for My Work-In-Progress

Chapters In Progress: 10

Chapters Completed: 8

Somehow I’ve developed a bad habit of forgetting how chaotic life can be during the end-of-year holidays. And writing a book amidst the stress of work, Christmas shopping, baking, braving winter weather, and going to or planning parties… Well, who has time for all that? (Ha ha!) So, due to a combined lack of time and concentration, it’s taken from before mid-November to January 2 to write another 5,000 words. But that’s OK. Forward progress is forward progress, especially during one of the busiest times of the year. And progress is always worth celebrating. Continue reading

Chronicling The Craft: 30,000 Words

I vs. She: Which Point of View Fits Best?

Chapters In Progress: 9

Chapters Completed: 6

I have to admit, the 30,ooo-word milestone snuck up on me. Once I passed it, I did my little celebration dance – then I realized I hadn’t brainstormed possible topics for the next Chronicle. Oops! But after a get-together last night with friends, I have an idea now.

As always, I’ll start with which chapters I’ve worked on since the previous Chronicle: Continue reading

New Poll Is Online!

Hello, again!

As I had promised, I’ve launched a new poll here at my site. I decided to do a more general topic about literature and reading. The question is, “What kinds of literature do you like the most?”

Select as many answers as you’d like. And if I missed one of your favorite genres, feel free to add it in the “Other” textbox.

Have fun!

~ Sara