It has been I awhile since I have posted anything about my recent books, so here is an update. I have been reading some lighter fare recently as I have recently returned to full time teaching and have less time for reading and blogging at the moment.
I hope you enjoy these reviews and if the books sound interesting please check them out for your self ( I have included links that you can use to purchase them if you so desire). I always appreciate any thoughts shared in the comments at the end of the post. Please check out the article/ blog links at the bottom as well.
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Smith of Wooton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham by J. R. R. Tolkien
This a delightful book containing two of J.R.R Tolkien’s short stories, Farmer Giles of Ham and Smith of Wooton Major. Both excellent, though of a completely different tone and focus.
Smith of Wooton Major is one my favorite short stories. It takes place in the village of Wooton Major in a fictional land near the borders of Fairy. In this village, the Master Cook is person a particular importance, tasked with providing meals for important village events. The yearly winter festival ended with a ‘Feast of Good Children’ in which a the Master Cook made a special meal for a select group of children. Every 24 years at this event, the Master Cook would make a special ‘Great Cake’ that would have a lot of trinkets baked into the cake for the children. Master Cook’s legacies were largely defined by the success or failure of their Great Cake.
In time we discover that a particular apprentice cook (all Master Cooks took an apprentice) seems to have a connection with the land of Faery. The story focuses on the responses of various people in the village to the apprentice and connects it to their willingness to believe that there is more going on than meets the eye in the village. Some people notice a certain goodness, beauty or at times even magic in the village. Most see nothing, while a few sense something but are hostile to what they don’t understand. A precious few are granted the right to actually go to the land of Faery and explore through the land itself.
The story has a beauty and depth to it that belies the short and somewhat simple story of a medieval village that honors their Master Cook. It pulls one in and creates a desire, in me at least, to such for lands the eye cannot see and the ear cannot hear; lands of beauty and goodness that transform our view of the reality we live in each day.
The other story is Farmer Giles of Ham, a hiliarious, mock heroic story of an unfriendly farmer who, through a serious of fateful events is changed from a comfort seeking cowardly man into a knight would eventually claim his own, albeit small, kingdom. The story is a sort of comedy of errors where chance events and misunderstandings lead to Farmer Giles rise to glory. He firsts encounters and drives off, accidentally of course, a giant that was plaguing the land. Later, when a dragon begins to menace the land, who to do the villagers turn to when the kings knights shirk their duty? Who else but Farmer Giles? Forced to face the beast to maintain his reputation, Giles is saved when he discovers a sword he was given is actually an ancient, magical sword with a high reputation for dragon slaying. The dragon, begin an ancient dragon, recoginizes the sword and flees from Farmer Giles. Thus begins the transformation of Giles from a farmer into a man with the courage to face down the King and claim his own realm.
I would highly recommend this book as these are two excellent, though lesser known, of Tolken’s works. Thoroughly enjoyable read.
Tales from the Perilous Realm
By J.R.R. Tolkien / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
A must-have for any Tolkien fan, this collection of Tolkien’s short fiction features some of his early fiction for his children (Roverandom), as well as tie-ins to the LOTR series (The Adventures of Tom Bombadil). Five selections in all provide a unique look into his “faerie” realm, while the included essay “On Fairy-Stories” provides a fascinating look into the mythology and understanding that served as the foundation for his creative genius. 403 pages, hardcover with dust jacket.
Sackett’s Land by Louis L’Amour
Sackett’s Land is the first in a series of 18 books written by popular Western writer Louie L’Amour. The series traces the fictional Sackett family from their home in the fens of central England through the early colonization of America and eventually to era of the settling of the American West. I have always enjoyed his stories and Sackett’s Land is no exception. Here we meet Barnabus Sackett, a free man living in the fens, a dense marshy area that is traversable only be those who live there and know intricately the connected waterways that lead through it. He owns a small plot of arable land and has little else but a restless desire to make something of himself. His fortune takes a turn when he discovers an ancient treasure of valuable gold coins. Unfortunately he quickly makes enemies as few believe that a poor farmer could end up with such a treasure through legitimate means. This ultimately leads him to decide to try his fate in the New World.
A story of adventure, Sackett’s Land has chases, pirate battles, encounters with Native American tribes, and as well as stories the forging of friendship through these adventures. It is the story, told through the hand of L’Amour, of what sort of people may have been the ones to leave Europe and settle in an unknown, foreign land to try to start a new life for themselves.
On the whole I like the book. L’Amour’s books sometimes feel a little repetitive in terms of themes and the action in them, but they are engaging stories perfect for a rainy afternoon complemented with a cup of tea.
Interesting Articles or Blog Posts
Here is part two of a four part series by Pastor Timothy Keller on the decline of the Evangelical Christian community in the U.S. ” The United States is slowly running out of traditionally-minded Americans to be converted, and conservative Protestants on the whole are unwilling or unable to reach the highly secular and culturally different.“
Russell Moore with an excellent reminder to not allow tribal loyalties to drive our thoughts on the recent ‘Roe vs. Wade’ discussion. “When one looks past the power brokers and politicians, one can see countless small pro-life ministries around the country, where people genuinely believe in caring for the suffering of their neighbor—for the unborn child in danger of dying, the pregnant woman in peril of facing violence or poverty, or the born child in need of food or a home.”
Pastor/Blogger James E. Lawerence with a very helpful devotional on ‘Prayer, Silence, and Solitude’. “Silence is an essential element of our life of prayer. In fact, I have noticed that when I am struggling in prayer, it is often because I am not spending enough time in silence. That is when I remind myself to do as the Psalms teach: “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation” (Psalm 62:1). “
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