Tea Time at Reverie: Whispering Pines Tea Company’s Mirkwood Tea

Time for another Middle-Earth inspired tea from Whispering Pines! And I already know a few readers who might be interested in this one based on the name alone. 😉 Read on to learn more about Mirkwood, a unique pu-erh blend, at A Bibliophile’s Reverie.

A Bibliophile's Reverie

Whispering Pines logo

“But [the company] had to go on and on, long after they were sick for the sight of the sun and of the sky, and longed for the feel of wind on their faces. There was no movement of air down under the forest-roof, and it was everlastingly still and dark and stuffy. [
 Bilbo] felt that he was being slowly suffocated.”
J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit”

Today’s Tea Time brings us to one of Middle-Earth’s creepiest realms. Home of the wizard Radagast The Brown and the Woodland Elves, Mirkwood was once known as Greenwood the Great – until it fell under the Necromancer’s shadow. So, when Bilbo Baggins and Thorin Oakenshield’s Dwarf company arrive at Mirkwood during The Hobbit, the once lush and thriving forest is crawling with giant spiders and decaying from dark magic.

Despite its ambiance, Mirkwood has enchanted readers for generations. Now, thanks to Whispering Pines Tea


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Tea Time at Reverie: Whispering Pines Tea Company’s Rivendell Tea

I think I know a number of readers who will leap at learning more about this tea! And in my opinion, this unique and delicious oolong blend was a stunning reflection of its namesake. Head on over to A Bibliophile’s Reverie now to read my review of Whispering Pine Tea Company’s Rivendell Tea!

A Bibliophile's Reverie

Whispering Pines logo

“Shadows had fallen in the valley below, but there was still a light on the faces of the mountains far above. The air was warm. The sound of running and falling water was loud, and the evening was filled with a faint scent of trees and flowers, as if summer still lingered in Elrond’s gardens.”
J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”

Oh, have I been itching to introduce our fellow bibliophiles to Whispering Pines Tea Company! This Michigan-based vendor specializing in loose-leaf teas, herbal tisanes, and handcrafted tea blends. Many of Whispering Pines’ offerings are inspired by the wilderness of northern Michigan. A select few, however, are influenced by literature, including three coming from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth.

Which brings me to our first Whispering Pines tea for review. In Middle-Earth, Rivendell is the stunningly beautiful home of Lord Elrond and other Elves, and a


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The Cotopaxi Challenge: Eleven Favorite Adventure Stories (+ Lessons From Each)

Cotopaxi banner

Original photo courtesy of Tim Kressin and the Wondercamp Team (seen here: http://blog.cotopaxi.com/hornstrandir-iceland/).

You may have heard of Cotopaxi before if you’re a fan of camping and outdoor activities. This backpack and apparel company based in Salt Lake City, Utah creates innovative products that fund health, education, and livelihood initiatives to help alleviate poverty in underdeveloped countries. And for their customers, Cotopaxi hopes to inspire adventure. Take a look at their blog The Llama Chronicles, and you’ll see what I mean. The company shares travelogues, tips on outdoor sports and activities, recipes for campsite meals – even American road-trip routes inspired by adventure novels.

I confess that I’m not an “outdoorsy” person, though I relish walking and spending time outside. But when I recently came across a special blog project by Cotopaxi, I knew I wanted to take part in it. Here was their challenge:

Share in a post on your blog your favorite adventure story, along with what lessons you’ve learned and you continue to carry those lessons with you since.

Now, I thought it wouldn’t be hard to pick an adventure story to write about. But then I reviewed my bookshelf, and realized I’ve read a LOT of adventure stories over the years. (No wonder I’m currently writing one of my own.) This led to me hemming and hawing over the usual novels I talk about here and other choices I love but aren’t highlighted as often… and finally decided, “You know what? I’ll write about ALL of them.” 🙂

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The Real Neat Blog Award

real-neat-blog-award

Heather Jackson and Robin Rivera at WriteOnSisters.com have nominated me for the Real Neat Blog Award! Thank you so much, ladies! WriteOnSisters.com is one of my favorite writing resource blogs. So, regardless of whether you write novels, short stories, or flash fiction, I urge you to check it out at your next chance. 😉

Accepting the Real Neat Blog Award is pretty simple. You answer five questions posed by the person / blog who nominated you, then nominate four or five others and ask them five new questions. Let’s see what Heather and Robin wanted to know!

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Recent Reads: “The Silmarillion” by J.R.R. Tolkien

Silmarillion cover

The Silmarillion
J.R.R. Tolkien
Fantasy
442 pages

Synopsis:

The story of the creation of the world and of the First Age, this is the ancient drama to which the characters in The Lord of the Rings look back and in whose events some of them, such as Elrond and Galadriel, took part. The three Silmarils were jewels created by FĂ«anor, most gifted of the Elves. Within them was imprisoned the Light of the Two Trees of Valinor before the Trees themselves were destroyed by Morgoth, the first Dark Lord. Thereafter, the unsullied Light of Valinor lived on only in the Silmarils, but they were seized by Morgoth and set in his crown, which was guarded in the impenetrable fortress of Angband in the north of Middle-earth. The Silmarillion is the history of the rebellion of FĂ«anor and his kindred against the gods, their exile from Valinor and return to Middle-earth, and their war, hopeless despite all their heroism, against the great Enemy.

Rating:  3 / 5

How does one begin a review on a tome that Tolkienites call “the Bible of Middle-Earth”? The only way might be to nod in agreement. Even knowing how The Silmarillion was different from The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, and reading it slowly as a result, didn’t quite prepare me for the demands this book would place on me as a reader. However, J.R.R. Tolkien was the author who opened the gates of fantasy literature for me, and I intend to read anything he’s ever written about Middle-Earth. So I dutifully plowed through The Silmarillion and came away with wide-eyed bewilderment and a greater respect from Tolkien’s work.

For those of you who haven’t read The Silmarillion: This is not a novel. Rather, it’s a cross between a short story collection and an encyclopedia on a fictional world. The tales that comprise The Silmarillion recount the early days of Middle-Earth, from the birth of the Elves, to the rise of Morgoth and his loyal servant Sauron, to the coming of Men and Dwarves, and much more in between. One of the common threads is the Silmarils, a trio of jewels created by the Elf FĂ«anor and later stolen by Morgoth. This led to the first wars between the Dark Lord and the peoples of Middle-Earth, as well as conflicts within the Elvish race and between their Men and Dwarf neighbors. You’ll find betrayals and romance, slayings and torture, friendships and alliances, sibling rivalries and dysfunctional families – and a dragon or two for good measure. This might sound like a summary for any book from the Song Of Fire And Ice Saga. However, this is Tolkien and Middle-Earth, not George R.R. Martin and Westeros. Meaning that while Tolkien doesn’t shy away from those topics, he handles them carefully and in the unadorned writing style that trademarks his other works.

So much happens in The Silmarillion that it’s impossible to discuss actual plots, characters, and so forth without repeating the entire book. If I had to choose my favorite tales, I’d say “AinulindalĂ«” (“The Music of the Ainur”), “Valaquenta” (an explanation of who the Ainur were), and “Of Beren and Luthien.” All three contain some of the most exquisitely written passages I’ve ever read by Tolkien. “AinulindalĂ«” in particular is an origin story, relating the birth of the eternal spirits known as the Ainur and how they created music together before they were granted permission to enter and govern the world that eventually became Middle-Earth. It’s difficult to describe in more detail, but the idea behind it was beautifully executed. “Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin” and “Of the Voyage of EĂ€rendil and the War of Wrath” were also quite memorable, and two of The Silmarillion‘s more tragic tales.

It’s worth noting that “Of TĂșrin Turambar” is an abbreviated version of the the novel-length The Children of HĂșrin. I read that book a couple years ago, but wasn’t aware it would pop up in The Silmarillion until I checked the Table of Contents. Not that I minded; reading The Silmarillion‘s version refreshed my memory on the story of TĂșrin, his younger sister Nienor, and the curse Morgoth cast on them after capturing their father HĂșrin. Also, even though The Silmarillion (or the copy I have of it) is almost 450 pages long, the final tale ends on Page 366. The remaining pages are family trees, maps, pronunciation guides, and an index of all the character and location names that appear during The Silmarillion. These extras – especially the maps and the Index of Names – were quite helpful as I read the book.

I was advised to read The Silmarillion slowly, and in hindsight I’m grateful for that advice. This isn’t a massive book in terms of page count, but the number of characters, places, conflicts, and so on is staggering. Reading one tale per sit-down helped me digest everything gradually without getting overwhelmed. After a while, though, it became a real challenge to remember who everyone was and what they had done in the past. This is where the Index of Names came in handy.

One thing I always have to remember when reading Tolkien is his writing style. It tends to be simple and dry, emphasizing narrative over expressiveness or emotion (with some exceptions). That kind of writing was acceptable by publishing standards back in Tolkien’s days. I personally have a harder time enjoying that style, though it hasn’t prevented me from loving The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. But with The Silmarillion, I often felt like I was reading a history textbook. Which The Silmarillion sort of is, but it made my experience more of an obligation than a pleasurable ride. Struggling to keep characters’ names and roles in early Middle-Earth straight only compounded the problem further. I’m not sure how else to explain this, especially since I knew The Silmarillion had a different purpose from his more traditional stories… But I didn’t come away loving this book as other Tolkien enthusiasts have.

Maybe this is the best way to summarize my feelings about The Silmarillion: While Tolkien may not be my favorite writer in terms of his style of writing, I now have a deeper appreciation for his imagination and the depth of his world-building. He created for Middle-Earth a history as rich, layered, and turbulent as our own. That’s what makes it so believable, and such an accomplishment. That said, I’d only recommend The Silmarillion to die-hard Tolkien fans, or anyone who truly wants to know everything about Middle-Earth. This is a dense and demanding read that requires patience and the right mindset.

Have you read The Silmarillion? What did you think of it? If you haven’t read it yet, do you think you might check it out based on what you’ve read above? Let me know by commenting below or visiting the same review at Amazon or Goodreads.

Stacking The Shelves, Vol. 6: Post-Christmas Barnes & Noble Bonanza

book-stack

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly event hosted by Tynga’s Reviews that shares the books (both physical and virtual) that you recently purchased, borrowed from a fellow reader or the library, won from a giveaway, or received as gifts. Stacking The Shelves will post on Saturdays as new books are added to my shelves. 

I don’t normally go shopping right after Christmas, but with a Barnes & Noble gift card in my wallet and a wishlist that was still quite long, I decided, “Why not?” So, here are the books I bought the day after Christmas, with a “cameo” appearance by one of my tea mugs. *lol*
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Time Flies: December 2014 Edition

Time Flies Logo

Looking for this month’s Freelance Article Round-Up? It’s here – under a new name!

The Freelance Article Round-Up series will now be known as Time Flies!, a monthly wrap-up article that… well, does exactly what the Freelance Article Round-Ups had been doing. Originally, the round-ups were designed to share my columnist projects at A Bibliophile’s Reverie, Grub Street, and DIY MFA. Then I started including other happenings related to writing, this blog, and life in general. And so the round-ups evolved into something more – and a couple weeks ago, I realized the title didn’t fit the purpose anymore. What do you think of the new name? And the new logo? 🙂

Let’s jump right in with this month’s updates: Continue reading

The 10 Books That Have Stayed With Me

Recently I’d read Brian Klems’ article at Writer’s Digest about the 10 books that had stayed with him in some way after reading them. It inspired me to start thinking about my own list – and what good timing! Within days, two friends on Facebook tagged me on their top 10 lists and challenged me to share mine. Now that I’ve posted my list there, I thought I’d publish it here at the blog, along with the reasons why I chose each book – or in some cases, series.

LOTR book trilogy

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien

This is probably cheating, because this and #2 would fill all 10 spots automatically. However, I have to give Tolkien and the Lords Of The Rings trilogy due credit for being my gateway to fantasy literature. I don’t know if I’d be writing the novel I’m working on today if I hadn’t picked up that series. Also, the LOTR trilogy was responsible for rekindling my love of reading in 2003. I went through a period in high school where I absolutely resented reading. Most of the assigned stories didn’t appeal to me; and with little time to read for pleasure, I lost interest in the activity altogether. It wasn’t until I saw the LOTR film trilogy and decided to read the source material that I finally enjoyed reading again. Now I can’t stop! So, thank you from the bottom of my heart, Tolkien. Continue reading

Stacking The Shelves: Volume 2 – Post-Birthday Fantasy Haul

book-stack

Welcome to the latest volume of Stacking the Shelves! This meme is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may those books be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in a physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts, and e-books.

Volume 2 of Stacking The Shelves includes one gift (yay!) and three book purchases since Volume 1. Here they are! Continue reading