Thursday, June 30, 2016

Blogging plans gone awry

Remember this post from a few weeks ago when I told you about some changes I was making in my life? One of those changes was to blog twice a week with an update post on Sundays and a regular post on Thursdays. I've been doing that, but I'm not happy with that setup. I'm happy with posting on Thursdays, but an update post every week? Nope. That's not working. It's not working because: 1) I didn't want this blog to be about me; I wanted it to be about reading and writing. 2) I don't lead a very exciting life so there's not much to update you on.
So, I'm here to say that my blogging schedule will change once again. I would still like to blog twice a week on Sunday/Monday and Thursday, but I may experiment for awhile until I find the right blogging balance.

Today, I've been re-organizing my bookshelves. I've vlogged it and maybe next Thursday's post will feature the finished video. For now, here is a sneak peak...

Don't forget: the Silmarillion Awards nominations will only be open for another two days (today and tomorrow)! So, if you would like to nominate or second (or sixteenth) your favorite fantasy villain for the Most Nefarious Villain Silmaril, do so now! Voting starts on July 4.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Beautiful People: June 2016 // King John

~Beautiful People is a monthly linkup for writers hosted by Cait at Paper Fury and Sky at Further Up and Further In.~

This month's questions are based around your character's childhood. Since I am writing a short story about one of the villains from my fantasy/fairytale story at the moment, I decided to do this month's Beautiful People about him.
King John rules one of the human countries and, at the beginning of the book, he is looking for a bride. He decides to send a prisoner from the dungeon and an old hag to rescue a princess imprisoned by a Wicked Witch on the top of a very tall mountain.

What is their first childhood memory?
John's first memory is sitting on his mother's lap, playing with a set of toy soldiers that she brought for him.

What were their best and worst childhood experiences?
Best: Every day until she died, John's mother would visit him for an hour. Sometimes she would play with him, sometimes they would walk in the garden together, and sometimes she would sit and John would bring her toys or crafts to show her.
Worst: I have a snippet for this answer!

One day, King Rupert summoned his son. Nervous and excited, John let Nursie take special care of his looks that morning. He even let her clean the dirt from behind his ears and from under his fingernails.
John had imagined this day for many years. He would stand in front of his father; he would be praised for his growth; then, his father would invite John onto his lap and they would play toy soldiers together.
Reality, however, was the opposite of John's dream.
A silent servant led the prince through the winding corridors of the castle to King Rupert's study. When they reached the study door, the servant announced John, and then the prince entered, standing straight and proud.
Bookshelves, maps, and mounted animals lined the walls of the study. John was proud of himself for ignoring these most interesting objects and keeping his eyes toward the desk behind which his father sat—at least, John was proud of himself for only taking what he thought was sneaky glances at the shelves, maps, and animals.
John did stare at his father. He couldn't help it. He could count the times he had met the man on one hand. The king didn't look any different than when John had seen him last, several months ago at John's birthday dinner.
Prince John reached his father's desk and waited for his father to speak. It took several minutes, for his father was busy writing something. John tried not to feel awkward and unwanted, but it was taking King Rupert so long to notice him!
Finally, the king spoke: "This is the boy, then?" He spared three seconds to glance up from his work and look at his son before starting to write again. "I didn't realize he was so plain-looking," continued the king. "Are you sure this is the right boy?"
John felt his high hopes fall and smash on the stone floor. The iciness from the stone seemed to seep into John's feet and up his body to his heart. He stood for several minutes, waiting for his father to laugh as if his words had been a joke, hoping his father would still take him upon his knee and comment on what a lovely boy John was becoming, hoping his father would suggest playing toy soldiers together. But, King Rupert said no more.
"P-please, sir," said John meekly. "I would so like... like to play toy soldiers with you."
King Rupert looked up from his work and, for a moment, John thought that he would smile and beckon the prince over to him.
"Do I look like I have time to play?" snapped the king. "Take him back to his nurse and see that the child does not disturb me again until he is old enough to hold his tongue!" he ordered the servant.
Prince John balled his hands into fists.
"I am seven years old and do know how to hold my tongue!" the prince shouted to keep himself from crying and further disparaging himself to his father.
Then, the servant's hand was at his back, guiding John from his father's study. As soon as they were in the hall, John tore away from the servant. He kept himself from crying until he reached the stables. There, he found an abandoned stall, threw himself on the ground, wept, and beat the flagstones with his fists.
What was their childhood home like?
The royal family's castle looks like a medieval castle, except much bigger. It has many, many rounded turrets, walls, courtyards, and towers. Over the years, various kings have added rooms to the castle in a haphazard manner, resulting in a maze-like floor plan. It is easy to get lost in the castle and takes months to memorize all of the twists and turns.
What’s something that scared them as child?
As a child, John was quite fearless. As he grew older, though, he became afraid of people seeing his fear or any other emotion, since he felt that emotions were a weakness that people could exploit.
Whom did they look up to most?
Until he was seven-years-old, he looked up to his father most. Then, when his father rejected him, John's trust was shattered and he only looked to himself, not to others.
Favourite and least favourite childhood foods?  
John has always enjoyed meat dishes. He especially likes pot roast. He hates peas, though.
If they had their childhood again, would they change anything?
He would change his interactions with his father. He would make his father love him.
What kind of child were they? Curious? Wild? Quiet? Devious?
John's mother spoiled him (maybe to make up for his father's lack of interest) so John was a prideful, commanding child. He nearly always had his way as a child, which later grew into an extremely controlling personality.
What was their relationship to their parents and siblings like?
John adored his mother because she gave him anything he wanted in addition to a lot of attention.
Though John hates his father, he learns to hide his hate behind a carefully constructed mask of indifference. This indifferent mask comes in handy later when John's father marries again and has three more children, whom John also hates. He is able to treat his half-siblings with civility, while loathing them in his heart.
What did they want to be when they grew up, and what did they actually become?
John never thought of being anything other than king when he grew up. This thought became a reality.

And there is a little peak at King John's childhood!

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Silmarillion Awards


Welcome to the first ever Silmarillion Awards!

DJ Edwardson and Jenelle Schmidt created the Silmarillion Awards as a way to honor J.R.R. Tolkien's influence on modern fantasy and also to honor fantasy as a genre! The Awards are like the Oscars, except that the grand prize (a Silmaril forged with the light from the Two Trees of Valinor!) is to be won by a character from a fantasy story, rather than an actor.

You have a large role in the Silmarillion Awards, for you will be nominating—and voting for—the fantasy characters that you want to win the Silmaril! Ten bloggers are hosting ten different Silmarils on their blogs:

DJ Edwardson Hosting the Best Friend Silmaril
Jenelle Schmidt Hosting the Most Heart Wrenching Death Scene Silmaril
Deborah O’Carroll Hosting the Strangest Character Silmaril
JL Mbewe Hosting the Best Redemption Story Silmaril
Tracey Hosting the Riddling and Poetry Silmaril
Jack Lewis Baillot Hosting the Best Fantasy Mount Silmaril
Madeline J. Rose Hosting the Most Epic Hero Silmaril
Zachary Totah Hosting the Wisest Counsellor Silmaril
Rawls E. Fantasy Hosting the Best Fantasy Weapon Silmaril
Abbey (that's me) Hosting the Most Nefarious Villain Silmaril.

Nominations for these Silmarils start today and are open until July 1. You may either nominate a fantasy character for a specific Silmaril in the comments of the host blog (for example, you would nominate Umbridge from Harry Potter for Most Nefarious Villain in my comment section, not in Madeline's comment section for Most Epic Hero); second, third, fourth, etc, someone else's nomination; or, you may nominate a character AND second someone else's nomination.

On July 4, the top five nominees move onto the next round where YOU get to vote on who you think should win the Silmaril! Voting ends on July 14, and from July 16-28, the Silmarils will be awarded by some of your favorite Tolkien characters. Because J.R.R. Tolkien's characters are the epitome of the awards that they are presenting, you cannot nominate any characters from Middle Earth. Also, since the Silmarils won are lifetime awards, this year's winners cannot be nominated again next year.
If you are an author, please do not nominate characters from your own stories; rather, let your fan base show their love by nominating your characters for you.

"The last hurrah," as my grandmother would say, is on July 29th. Join us on that day in posting Tolkien-specific blog posts to celebrate the 62nd anniversary of The Lord of the Rings' publication.
Until then, spread the word about the Silmarillion Awards on social media by using #SilmAwards2016! Share this blog post, or one of the other posts, with all of your fantasy-loving friends and family!

Here is a poster that Deborah made with all of the dates and other information:

And make sure to come back here on July 19, for three of Middle Earth's most heinous hooligans will come together to present the Silmaril for Most Nefarious Villain to the nastiest naysayer, the corrupt-est culprit, the sneakiest snake, the most malicious monster, the most dastardly and diabolical destroyer of dreams in all of fantasy!
It's not every day that a Silmaril can be won without a perilous journey to Angband and a fight with Morgoth's minions (or even Morgoth himself!), so make sure to nominate your favorite fantasy villain (excepting those from J.R.R. Tolkien's works) in my comment section so that they have a chance to win this most prestigious award!


Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Sunday Night Report: An Experiment

Last Sunday, we packed the car and drove to the Midwest. We visited my school and then travelled to the Black Hills for a family reunion.

I've gotten good work on a short story done this past week of travel. The story is about King John, one of the characters in my fantasy/fairytale story. In my head, I have detailed backstories for many of the secondary characters in this book. I'm hoping to write short stories detailing these backstories and figured that I would start with King John since he has been on my mind recently.
It feels great to write again.

Although I am mostly eating sugar free, I have not completely given up sugar. There is sugar in the bread I eat, for example. And sugar is added to many types of meat, too. In fact, to get our organic, sugar free bacon, we have to shop at our local hippie/granola store (but don't tell them I said so, or they might flash me with peace signs). I'm not opposed to an occasional sugary treat, either. So, a few days ago, I experimented by eating a small slice of Dairy Queen ice cream cake for my cousin's graduation.
I haven't noticed too much of a change, except that it's much easier to forget what has sugar in it and inadvertently eat something like a lollipop. Oops.
The first bite or two of cake tasted good, but, after that, I almost couldn't finish it because it was so. sweet. In comparison, the fruit I ate afterwards didn't taste as sweet as it usually does. How food effects the taste buds and brain fascinates me.

And now, I had better join the rest of the family. Make sure to come back tomorrow to find out about the Silmarillion Awards, an award "show" for fantasy books.

What was the best and worst of your week?

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Bookish Book Lover Tag

Recently, Jenelle did the Bookish Book Lover Tag (created by this person) on her blog and tagged anyone who wanted to do it. I was so inclined, so enjoy!

Use the Banner
Answer the Questions
Use Lots of Book Covers
Tag Your Bookish Friends
1) What Book(s) Are You Currently Reading?

My family and I have also been listening to Little Women in the car as we travel.  
2) What’s The Last Book You Finished?
This is one of the most unique books that I have ever read! It is also illustrated by the author. I'm at a loss at how to describe the plot, so you'll have to read it yourself to find out.
3) Favorite Book(s) You Read This Year?

4) What Genre Have You Read Most This Year?
Surprisingly, middle grade is my most read genre this year with nine books! Nonfiction comes in second with six books.
5) What Genre Have You Read Least This Year?
The classics, if they count as a genre. I've only read three classics so far this year. And only four fantasy!
6) What Genre Do You Want To Read More Of?
According to Goodreads, my nonfiction shelf holds the most "to-read" books. Though I do want to read a lot more nonfiction books, I would also love to read more swashbuckling adventure books like Treasure Island or The Three Musketeers.
7) How Many Books Have You Read This Year, And What’s Your Goal?
I've read thirty books so far this year, and my goal is sixty.
8) What’s The Last Book You Bought?
Into the Vast by DJ Edwardson and Yorien's Hand by Jenelle Schmidt.
9) What Book Are You Saving Up To Buy Next?
My school textbooks, haha.
10) How Many Books Did You Check Out Last Library Visit?
Only one! My dad and I drove thirty minutes away just so I could pick up Heartless by Anne Elisabeth Stengl.
11) What’s A Book You Can’t Wait To Read?
After reading The Silmarillion, I can't wait to re-read The Lord of the Rings! I'm reading The Hobbit right now and Bilbo's finding of the ring was much more significant after knowing the One Ring's history from The Silmarillion.
12) What’s A Series You’d Recommend to Everyone?
The Adventures of Tintin by Herge.
13) Who’s An Author You’re Hoping Writes More?
Jeanne Birdsall. She is working on the fifth and final book in The Penderwicks series right now. Her writing style and characters are charming and lovable and it would be a joy if she wrote more books after she finishes The Penderwicks.
14) A Few Books Your Heart Adores?


15) What Series’s Coming Conclusion Makes You Sad?
16) What Books Are On Your Wish-List?
It might be easier to answer what books aren't on my wish-list, hee hee. Several that come to mind, though, are Water Princess, Fire Prince by Kendra E. Ardnek, Brothers-In-Arms by Jack Lewis Baillot, and The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell.
As usual, anyone can do this tag. I would love to see Bethany and Becca do it, though!
Here are the questions so you can easily copy and paste if you decide to do the tag:
1) What Book Are You Currently Reading?
2) What’s The Last Book You Finished?
3) Favorite Book You Read This Year?
4) What Genre Have You Read Most This Year?
5) What Genre Have You Read Least This Year?
6) What Genre Do You Want To Read More Of?
7) How Many Books Have You Read This Year, And What’s Your Goal?
8) What’s The Last Book You Bought?
9) What Book Are You Saving Up To Buy Next?
10) How Many Books Did You Check Out Last Library Visit?
11) What’s A Book You Can’t Wait To Read?
12) What’s A Series You’d Recommend to Everyone?
13) Who’s An Author You’re Hoping Writes More?
14) A Few Books Your Heart Adores?
15) What Series’s Coming Conclusion Makes You Sad?
16) What Books Are On Your Wish-List?

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Excited to leave ~ The Sunday Night Report

This has been a tough week. I've been feeling discouraged with... well, nearly everything.
I'm discouraged with the world because it's so sinful and that hurts my heart. I know Jesus has already won the battle against evil, but it's hard to feel hopeful when looking around at death, destruction, and atrocity. I feel sad, and when I feel sad, I often turn to entertainment to take my mind away from reality, only...
I'm feeling disillusioned with entertainment because it's a poor substitute for a relationship with God. Entertainment is like sugar. It meets our needs while we're partaking in it, and maybe for a little while afterward, but then its effects wear off and we need some more. In my sadness, I suppose I've turned to food as well as entertainment. I haven't eaten any processed sugar, but I did have a pizza, which, though low in sugar, has high amounts of other unhealthy substances.
I'm discouraged with my writing, too. Sometimes, it's hard for me to read other writer's blogs because everyone else is accomplishing things or writing helpful posts about what they've learned through their accomplishments that week. And I'm sitting here with no accomplishments and no advice. It makes me wonder... am I disciplined enough to be an author? There is no doubt in my mind that I am a writer (for a writer does not only write fiction, but also writes various types of nonfiction), but am I an author? Will I ever be an author? I don't know. People ask me what my plans are for the fantasy book that I've been working on for two years and I don't know. Maybe I'll self-publish it. Maybe I'll try to get a small, independent publishing company interested. I don't know.
It's discouraging to be a writer, too, because it seems as though every idea has already been written, and when I do come up with an original idea, I don't think I'm skilled enough to write it the way it is in my head. Which is probably a self-confidence issue and I should stop whining and start writing... but it's so much easier to turn off my brain and watch someone else's creativity for a few hours.
And I wonder, if I'm not disciplined enough to off the entertainment and write or to practice music or read something instructional, how am I ever going to do well at college?

We're going away this week to visit family. I'm excited to leave ("Hey, that's the title of the blog post!" Anyone else watch Say Goodnight Kevin?). Maybe a change of scenery will do me good. I'm hoping to read lots and write lots on this trip, which shouldn't be hard considering the twenty-four hour road trip with no Internet connection (yay! That was a serious "yay," not a sarcastic "yay." I enjoy having no Internet because that gives me no excuses for my non-productivity).

What's the best and worst that happened to you this week?

Thursday, June 9, 2016

A personality test told me who I am!

The Internet loves the Myer-Briggs personality test. My Pinterest dashboard is always filled with pins relating to this test. I've visited several new blogs over the past few weeks and in almost every "About Me" page, the author states their Myer-Briggs test result in the first or second sentence, as if that is the most important thing that new readers should know about them.

For the unaware, the Myer-Briggs test was developed in the 20th century to "indicate psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions," according to Wikipedia. There are four categories with two options each:
Extraverted (E) or Introverted (I)
Sensing (S) or iNtuition (N)
Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)
These eight traits add to sixteen unique personalities.

The four traits that make up your Myer-Briggs result, however, do not make you who you are.

Let me use myself as an example.
In 2010, I took the Myer-Briggs test and my result was INFP. Let me go through each letter and tell you what that means according to the test results and according to me:

I for Introverted. According to the Myer-Briggs website, being introverted means that a person gains energy by being alone in their "inner world" of thoughts and ideas. Introverted people like reflection and they like having just a few close friends. Introverted people can also become tired from too much human interaction.
While I do enjoy my "inner world," I don't necessarily recharge from being alone in it. On the contrary, when I have a week where I stay at home, immersed in my "inner world," I am more likely to be depressed because I feel alone. I get my energy from being out of the house, whether that be hanging out with friends, going to work, or going shopping with my mom.
As you may know, I was a shy child. I could have used my Myer-Briggs result as an excuse: I'm an introvert so I'm supposed to be shy and have only a few friends. But, no; I was lonely, so I worked hard to become more outgoing. As a result, I feel comfortable talking to and joking with lots of different kinds of people now, rather than just with my close friends. I don't classify myself as an introvert; neither do I classify myself as an extravert. I have traits of both.

N for iNtuition. The Myer-Briggs website says that intuitive people trust impressions, abstract theories, and symbols more than experience and facts. Intuitive people like to see the big picture first, and then the facts.
While I do like looking at the big picture more than facts, when it comes to real-life problem-solving, I like to order my facts in a line and logically come to an answer. This is more of a Sensing trait than an iNtuition trait.
Yet, when it comes to a math, science, or multiple choice question, I often rely on my intuition. If an answer feels right, I will choose it (and then doubt myself, pick a different answer, get the question wrong, and then find out that my initial choice was right after all).

F for Feeling. The Myer-Briggs website says that people who are "feelers" are compassionate and are concerned with maintaining harmony. "Thinkers," on the other hand, look for logical solutions to problems, notice inconsistencies, and are compulsively truthful, sometimes without regard to people's feelings.
I always try to be tactful in order to spare other's feelings. I also try to "maintain harmony" because I hate confrontation. But, like I said for iNtuition, I like logical solutions. When something is illogical I act like the androids in that one Star Trek episode: "Illogical, illogical. Please explain, please explain." So, while I do have traits of a Feeling person, I have traits of a Thinker as well.

P for Perceiving. Perceivers, according to Myer-Briggs website, are spontaneous and flexible, often keeping an open schedule and working in bursts, spurred on by approaching deadlines. In contrast, judgers as task oriented and enjoy making to-do lists. Judgers like to get work done before starting leisure activities.
I am very flexible and keep an open schedule, but, other than that, I am more J than P. I can't get anything done unless I write a to-do list and order it according to priority. And, if I don't get work done before watching a movie or reading, I feel like my day has failed.

The danger with personality tests like the Myer-Briggs test is the temptation to excuse negative behavior or to ignore the opportunity for character growth. Just because I am an INFP doesn't mean that I have to be an idealist working to make the world a better place (as several INFP descriptions say), I don't have to be a perfectionist (another common INFP description I see), and I don't have to be lonely (supposedly INFPs are hard to understand and relate to since we make up about 2-4% of the population).

I'm not going to let a personality test tell me who I am. I, like everyone else on earth, am too multi-faceted for a simple personality test to explain. To steal a quote from Veggietales: "God made me special and he loves me very much." I enjoy seeing myself reflected in the descriptions for INFPs, but not enough to close the door on personal growth.
A Myer-Briggs affiliation is not a badge of honor; rather, it is a tool to help you understand yourself—both your good qualities and bad qualities. Knowing your good qualities can help you tailor your lifestyle to reflect your way of "[perceiving] the world and [making] decisions." Knowing your bad qualities can help you overcome them and become a better person because of it.

Don't let personality tests tell you who you are. Rather, let God mold you into his own image.

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Sunday... er, Monday afternoon Report

One week in to the new blogging schedule and I completely forget to post. Oops.

How was my week? It started fantastically. Last Monday, my family and I went to see a Star Trek exhibit at a local museum! Here are some pictures:


I'm still doing very well abstaining from processed sugar. There are temptations throughout the week: chocolate and caramel bars at a graduation party, cake at church, ice cream in the freezer... but if I don't concentrate on the things I can't eat and, instead, focus on the things that I can eat, I find that I'm a lot happier.
Right now we're having a heat wave (80+ degree weather in rainy Washington? Unheard of!!) and it's very hard to do anything other than lie in front of the fan. Unfortunately, the heat also makes me peckish. I suspect it's out of boredom. I snack on sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and raisins. I'm also drinking a lot of water.

I've been doing well with exercise, though because of the heat, I'm not sure how much I'll do this week. I tried doing a cartwheel today for the first time in a few years. I can still do them... but it hurt! I guess I don't use those muscles in my every day life.

Getting up with my alarm is getting easier. Going to bed on time is not. I've not been doing well with having my light turned off by 11:00 PM. I'm going to keep trying, though!

I finished two books last week. One was The Silmarillion, which I wrote a whole post about. The other was The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. I listened to the Focus on the Family radio theater-style audiobook. Andy Serkis as Screwtape was entertaining! I will have to read the book someday to glean the most out of it, though.
After finishing The Silmarillion, I started The Hobbit because I needed more Middle Earth in my life. I'm also reading Heap House by Edward Carey, which is very, very unique. The author is revealing the world, plot, and characters bit by bit, which makes the book mysterious and captivating.

I've been working on the alien races for my sci-fi café story this week. I've also had a new story idea which is begging to be plotted. I had an idea a month or so ago that also needs plotting. Ideally, I would complete my sci-fi café story and both of these new story ideas over the summer so that I wouldn't have to do any outlining at school and could just start writing, but we'll see how far I get.

I played "Rustle of Spring" by Christian Sinding for my piano recital a few weeks ago. Here is a recording:

Now I'm working on the entirety of the "Moonlight Sonata."

My two biggest goals for this week are to memorize my songs for the voice recital and to write the VBS skits.

What's the best and worst thing that happened to you this week? What are you reading at the moment?

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Let's talk about The Silmarillion

Whenever The Silmarillion is mentioned, eyes widen, heads shake, and hands outstretch in a protective manner. The bodies that the hands belong to step backwards; mouths protest, stammering how hard J.R.R. Tolkien's history of Middle Earth is to read. Indeed, when my dad tried to read me The Silmarillion when I was about thirteen, I was so bored that I couldn't concentrate on what he was saying. We had to stop.
But, six years later, I can proudly say that I have conquered the beast! And, you know what? It wasn't so beastly after all. I read The Silmarillion, and I liked it. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, that I am going to talk to you about it for a whole blog post. If you like, you can talk back at me in the comments. I would love to hear your thoughts on this book!

The Silmarillion, as you may know, tells the history of the Elves in Middle Earth. The book is split into five parts. (Forgive me if I don't put the dots and dashes above the vowels that should have them; I don't know how to do that.)

Iluvatar makes the Ainur—which are made up of the Valar and their lesser counterparts, the Maiar—and the Ainur begin singing a beautiful, harmonious song. One Ainur, however, named Morgoth, tries to hijack the music by singing discordantly. He eventually has a sing-off with Iluvatar and is stopped. The music that the remaining Ainur sing creates Arda, or, Middle Earth, where Iluvatar has plans to place Elves and men.

This was, perhaps, my favorite part of the book. There are clear parallels between Middle Earth's creation and our own world's creation as set forth in the Bible. As a musician, I loved that Middle Earth was created through song, but that evil Morgoth tried to take over by creating discord... literally. What a brilliant idea! It turns a hard-to-understand concept (good vs. evil) into something that can be understood by anyone, for discord naturally creates tension in music that even non-musicians can feel.

In the second part of The Silmarillion, we learn the names of the Valar. We also learn more about Morgoth—he wants to be the sole possessor of light, but, since he cannot, he turns to evil and darkness. He corrupts other Ainur, including a Maiar named Sauron.

I found this section very confusing as we are introduced to over fourteen characters who each have two names. Actually, that is my only major complaint for the whole book. There are so many characters, which is fine, because this is a history; but do they ALL have to have two names?

Quenta Silmarillion
One of the Valar creates two trees—one that shines with a white light, and one that shines with a yellow light.

Picture from LadyElleth on DeviantArt
Feanor, an elf, contains the light of the two trees in three Silmarils. The Silmarils were the fairest jewels in the world. Over the next few hundred years, many battles are fought over the Silmarils until two are lost forever and the third is placed in the sky as a star.

Quenta Silmarillion is the longest section in the book. It is composed of twenty-four chapters and tells the history of the Silmarils, of the elves, and of Morgoth's rise and demise. I loved the clear line between good and evil. I loved how Tolkien showed how one, tiny seed of evil, planted by Morgoth in a good character, could twist a person and make them do the will of Morgoth (who is also called Melkor) without even realizing it.
I came across many Biblical parallels, though I'm not sure if they were intentional or not. For example, the Numenoreans reminded me of the kings in the Old Testament—they started out as followers of God, but, as generations passed, they were tempted by evil and turned away from the Lord.

Akallabeth: The Downfall of Numenor
After learning about the elves from Quenta Silmarillion, we learn the history of men in this section; specifically, the Numenoreans, who are also called the Dunedain. We learn about their kingdom of splendor that eventually falls under the corruption of Sauron. We learn that a remnant faithful to Iluvatar escapes the island of Numenor and travels to Middle Earth where they set up the kingdom of Gondor.

Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age
In the final section of The Silmarillion, Sauron corrupts both men and elves. He teaches the elves how to make rings of power, but when they put on their rings, they find that they are directly connected to Sauron's One Ring. Over time, many of the rings of power come into Sauron's possession. He gives seven of them to the dwarves and nine of them to men. As Sauron continues to rise in power, several Istari (which are Maiar in the form of men)—including Gandalf, Radagast, and Saruman—are sent to Middle Earth to help fight the powers of evil.

There is a lot of great information in this section regarding Gandalf's role in Middle Earth before and during The Hobbit. Also, it's fascinating to learn the history of the rings of power. That's one of the best things about The Silmarillion: you get to learn the history behind things only hinted at in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

One of my favorite things about The Silmarillion was its epicness. Many people are probably intimidated by the language of the book—Tolkien wrote The Silmarillion primarily in highly detailed prose; there is very little dialogue—but I loved it. Even though the book is not written in verse, it made me believe I was reading an epic like Beowulf or The Faerie Queene.
And what does every epic have in addition to amazing language? Amazing characters! Like I said, there are many characters in The Silmarillion. There are brave action heroes, wise teachers, beautiful ladies, evil double-crossers, and a lot of terribly sad tales.
In the back of my book, there were family trees and an index of names to help me keep everyone straight. It's fun to study these resources and see how this character is related to that character.

For example, did you know that Elrond and Aragorn are distantly related? Because Elrond and his brother Elros were half-human and half-elf, they were allowed to choose whether they wanted immortal life like the elves, or mortal life, like men. While Elrond chose immortal life, Elros choose the mortal life of man and, through his line, came the race of Numenoreans and, eventually, Aragorn.

I'm already anticipating when I can re-read The Silmarillion. I think I will have to read it at least twice more to glean the entire story. For now, I will start reading The Hobbit and continue listening to the "Nightfall in Middle Earth" album by Blind Guardian over and over again (Blind Guardian is a heavy metal band who created an entire album based off of The Silmarillion. My favorite song is "Time Stands Still (On the Iron Hill)," which is about Fingolfin's single combat with Morgoth).
I'm also going to start preparing for The Silmarillion Awards.
What are the Silmarillion Awards? you may ask.
The Silmarillion Awards are like the Oscars, except instead of being broadcast on television, they will be held on some of your favorite blogs (including mine), and instead of being for all genres, the prizes are specifically for fantasy characters.
Stay tuned for more information!

Have you ever read The Silmarillion? What did you think of it?