18.8.17: Up the Sun’s Path

This is the second post in my ‘Peace Poems’ series; be sure to click through to the Category to see the rest of the posts.

Peace: A Study – Charles Stuart Calverley

He stood, a worn-out City clerk —
Who’d toil’d, and seen no holiday,
For forty years from dawn to dark —
Alone beside Caermarthen Bay.
He felt the salt spray on his lips;
Heard children’s voices on the sands;
Up the sun’s path he saw the ships
Sail on and on to other lands;
And laugh’d aloud. Each sight and sound
To him was joy too deep for tears;
He sat him on the beach, and bound
A blue bandana round his ears
And thought how, posted near his door,
His own green door on Camden Hill,
Two bands at least, most likely more,
Were mingling at their own sweet will
Verdi with Vance. And at the thought
He laugh’d again, and softly drew
That Morning Herald that he’d bought
Forth from his breast, and read it through.

Against MAlaria Foundation.png

Today’s charity is the Against Malaria Foundation. According to their website, Malaria affects 400 million people every year – that makes this disease a humanitarian issue, as well as an economic issue. Deaths from Malaria are preventable, but when people lack bed nets to protect themselves from carrier mosquitoes, hospitals are forced to spend millions every year on treatments.

Against Malaria Foundation has already distributed over 4 million nets to people in need, but there’s more that can be done! If you’re interested in learning a bit more about their process, take a look at this page.

Each long-lasting insecticide treated net costs just $2.50, so if today you feel like you could spare the cash, consider buying someone a mosquito net. It’s such a small gesture, but it could literally save a life.

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

Dani

17.8.17: Patience Exquisite

This is the first post in my ‘Peace Poems’ series; be sure to click through to the Category to see the rest of the posts.

Peace – Gerard Manley Hopkins

When will you ever, Peace, wild wooddove, shy wings shut,
Your round me roaming end, and under be my boughs?
When, when, Peace, will you, Peace? I’ll not play hypocrite
To own my heart: I yield you do come sometimes; but
That piecemeal peace is poor peace. What pure peace allows
Alarms of wars, the daunting wars, the death of it?

O surely, reaving Peace, my Lord should leave in lieu
Some good! And so he does leave Patience exquisite,
That plumes to Peace thereafter. And when Peace here does house
He comes with work to do, he does not come to coo,
He comes to brood and sit.

Refugee Action

The first charity I want to talk about is UK-based: Refugee Action. They work with asylum seekers as they move into their new country, helping them settle in and giving advice as they build their lives again from scratch. Although there have been a lot of complaints about the number of immigrants coming into Britain, it’s important to note that asylum seekers – that is, people who have been forced to leave their homes because of violent situations – don’t even make up a quarter of a percent of the UK’s population. (0.24%)

I love their motto: ‘Dignity not Destitution’. Refugee Action is a group that sees asylum seekers for what they really are: people.

If you’d like to help – whether that’s by campaigning for refugee rights, fundraising, volunteering, or even getting a job with Refugee Action – there’s a lot more information on this page.

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

Dani

Peace Poems

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but a lot of things suck right now. There are tensions between the USA and North Korea, protests in Venezuela, ongoing unrest in the Middle East and an overwhelming refugee situation in Europe…the list goes on and on to the extent that it can be disheartening. Sometimes it feels like there’s just no way all of this can be fixed.

But the thing is, life doesn’t have to be this way. I am in no way saying we should ignore other people’s problems, but I do think listening to bad news all the time leads to a really miserable existence.

That’s why every day for the next two weeks, I’m going to share a ‘Peace Poem’ (a poem that reminds us of what’s good in the world, and what human harmony can be like) and a charity or group of people who are working to make a positive difference in peoples’ lives.

This isn’t a guilt trip, but I do hope it will inspire you! We may be far away from the conflicts, or they may be right on our doorsteps, but know this: there is still good. There are still good people and good projects and good things that we can support. We don’t need to sit back and watch the world go down in flames: let’s stay hopeful, let’s stay helpful, and above all: let’s not detach ourselves from other peoples’ realities.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

-Martin Luther King Jr.

I’ll see you tomorrow with the first post in this series, but until then – thank you for reading, and have a lovely day.

Dani

If you have a poem or a charity that you would like me to include, drop me an email or comment below.

 

Google Translate Does Long Book Titles

Dear Google Translate, you are the best and the worst.

These are unusually long book titles as re-re-re-re-translated by our dearest friend Google – can you guess what the original titles were? Some may be more obvious than others!

The Curious Incident of the Dog Night

I don’t know what this means but a Dog Night sounds pretty wonderful, right?

Worldwide, Do Not See

Is this a wise proverb or a stilted instruction? Who even knows.

Italy Hitchhiker Guide

A handy guide to free travel around…Italy. Actually that sounds handy.

The Agenda of Harijs and Felicia Ceramics

I don’t know what his agenda is, but it sounds shady as hell.

Bite

I can’t stop laughing at how this one came out – it was originally a three word title, and if you can guess it, you can seriously have the crown of Book Title Guessing.

Alice

Short and sweet, would read.

Killing a Crap Sword

I only had to put this through once, and it came back a masterpiece.

So If you have any idea what these beauties are, let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.

Dani

 

 

Month in Books: July 2017

Am I the only person who struggles to register July as a month, and just lives in a 60-day June? Either way, I read eight books this month, and here they are!

Lion – Saroo Brierley – 5 stars This is the memoir that inspired the recent movie of the same name: it follows the story of a 5 year old boy who gets separated from his family by mistakenly getting on the wrong train, and ending up on the other side of India. He gets adopted by an Australian family, and as a grown-up manages to use the internet to track down his home town. It’s an amazing story! (Although actor Saroo and real-life Saroo don’t look remotely similar)

Nomad – Alan Partridge – 4 stars For those of you who aren’t British, Alan Partridge is our Ron Burgundy. This book is pretty short, and genuinely hilarious.

The White Tiger – Aravind Adiga – 4 stars This is Adiga’s debut novel, and it is fantastic. Set in India, the story plunges into the caste system, politics, and poverty, and I could not put this down.

Lady Mechanika: La Dama de la Muerte – Joe Benitez – 4 stars This is a collection of comics set in historical Mexico, and I really enjoyed it! Find my review here.

Heathen – Natasha Alterici – 3 stars Another comic! This is a beautifully drawn Viking story – my review is here!

A-List – D.P. Lyle – 3 stars An American mystery/comedy/thriller novel, and the second in the Jake Longly series. I wrote a review for this one, too – check it out here!

Collins Art Class: The Essential Guide to Creative Painting Skills and Techniques – Simon Jennings – 4 stars This book is pretty much exactly what it says on the cover. I particularly liked that it was full of little galleries of other peoples’ paintings, not just instructions. Inspiring and practical!

Once an Arafat Man – Tass Saada – 5 stars This is an autobiography of a Palestinian man born right in the midst of the conflict with Israel. He talks about running away to join the Palestinian armed forces, training to become a sniper, and how he managed to find new life for himself, and get free of all his anger and hate. I thought this book was really insightful, but most importantly, full of hope.

If you’ve read any of these books I’d love to hear your thoughts! What was your favourite book you read in July?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

Dani

Review: Heathen Vol.1 – Natasha Alterici

Heathen Vol. 1 – Natasha Alterici – 3 stars

Heathen

So is Viking mythology cool now, or did it just never go out of style? I’m seeing these tropes all over the place – and loving it. Heathen draws from the raw warrior energy of ancient Scandinavian tales, and it works fantastically. Thanks to Diamond Book Distributors for letting me have a copy!

This is the first Volume of a comic series drawn and written by Natasha Alterici, due to be published on 8 August. The art is beautiful: thoughtful and bold, and perfectly paired with well-written and concise dialogue. I could look at some of these pictures forever.

The protagonist of this story is a lesbian Viking girl who has been kicked out of her village for being different. It’s moving, and great for representation, but I think I wanted to know a bit more about her than just her sexuality. I wanted to meet her father properly, to know how she felt about the loss of her mother, and how she befriended Saga…I think the emission of more rounded character details meant that the story came off as slightly moralistic, which is such a shame because the premise is so wonderful.

It will be interesting to see how the series progresses, as there are some hints towards the Christianisation of the country, as well as a pending showdown with the god Odin. Having said that – it’s definitely the illustrations that will stick in my memory. Three stars for Natasha Alterici – I’m impressed!

If you’ve read this too, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

Dani

Things to Write About When You’re Out of Ideas

We’ve all been there – you’re ready to start wielding your extensive vocabulary and syntactical prowess…and the ideas just stop. The words don’t make sense any more, and you can’t remember how it was ever possible to pull a story out of your barren brains.

First of all, I want to encourage you. This happens to everyone! Writer’s block is temporary. Your beautiful tropical garden of a brain will soon bear inspiration-fruits again, but until then, here are some ideas to tide you over.

1: People-Watch

Go outside, get on public transport, and just observe (in the least creepy way possible.) Who is that man with a moustache like an eyebrow? And does that woman have a…ferret? In her sleeve? Fill in the gaps yourself – where they’re from, where they’re going, what’s they’re deepest darkest secret…

And if all else fails, I suppose you could just ask them.

2: Record your Dreams

Dreams are one of my favourite things to keep track of – not to analyse, but to laugh at at a later date. But dreams can also be amazing writing prompts; no one is as creative as Subconscious You! I have recurring nightmares about octopuses, and that fear of the unknown depths is actually something that feeds into a lot of my stories.

And no stress if your sleeping self isn’t coming up with best-seller material – even just writing down what happened in a coherent way is a great writing exercise, and probably quite good for your psychological health.

3: Write Someone Else’s Story

Disclaimer, I’m not talking about plagiarism here! I’m thinking more of verbal stories (although retelling your country’s traditional stories can be fun too!) – the kind your grandma probably likes to tell. I’m sure your family or friendship group have a wealth of stories that you all love to remind each other of, and that would translate really well into the story you’re working on! Sometimes the funniest literary anecdotes are those derived from a true story.

4: Write Someone Else’s Words

This one’s less creative, but I often find it helpful to choose a page by one of my favourite writers, and just copy it out by hand. It trains you to use words and sentence structures you might not normally use, and just feel the way their words flow when you write them. It’s not about learning to imitate their style, but learning from their strengths and expanding what you know how to write.

5: Re-Write Something Old

If you’ve been writing for a while, you might find it helpful to go back to some of your older work, and see how you can improve on it with all your newfound experience! Rewrite your poems, edit and expand your stories…if nothing new’s coming, it just might be time to revisit an old treasure.

I hope this helps – and do leave a comment if you have any other tips! Also if you’ve had a particularly interesting dream, I’d really like to know about that. Dreams are great.

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

Dani

Review: A-List – D.P. Lyle

A-List – D.P. Lyle – 3 stars

A-list.png

This book is a contemporary American murder-mystery novel, and the second in the Jake Longly series. (Thanks to Oceanview Publishing for letting me read a copy!) Here we have a high profile murder with an apparently obvious culprit, and a surprising resolution, speckled with humour, sex and showbiz. And I didn’t really like it.

Let’s do positives first: this is quick and readable, witty at times, and had a satisfactory conclusion. And can I just say, a protagonist who learns self-defence from a book is the most adorable thing.

We can’t talk about ‘A-list’, though, without talking about tautology. This book was repetitive not only semantically (I think jokes need to be delivered as quickly as possible, and NEVER twice) but thematically – the same theories and facts and clues were repeated over and over again throughout the book, to the extent that it wasn’t just unnecessary but patronising. I understand that a mystery without much evidence means everything counts for more, but readers aren’t stupid. We prefer not to have things spelled out to us!

Some of the dialogue was very stilted, and there was no character in particular that stood out to me as particularly rounded, but superficially, the story was interesting, and I didn’t work out who the murderer was until about 70% through.

I think some people will really like this book, and I’m happy for them! But I have to admit that I was very happy to finish with this, and to tend to my craving for a sentence with more than one clause.

If you’ve read this too I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.

Dani

Month in Books: June 2017

June was a pretty slow reading month for me, but the books I did get through were very satisfying!

The Plausibility Problem: The Church and Same-sex Attraction – Ed Shaw – 5 stars This is a hard topic to write about well, just because both sides of the argument are so so emotionally charged. Ed Shaw knows his stuff, but most importantly, he is compassionate. This book was full of stories, and I found it so helpful to hear such a reasonable account of same-sex attraction in the context of Christianity.

The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton – 4 stars I reviewed this here! This is a beautifully written historical novel set in Amsterdam. Some magic realism vibes, and a lot of love from me. I really enjoyed this story!

A Court of Thrones and Roses – Sarah J Maas – 3 stars This is a YA fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast, and it is very imaginative! It’s not my favourite Maas book though – something about this fell slightly short of the magic of the original story.

Have you read any of the books I mentioned? What have you been reading this month?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

Dani

Review: Lady Mechanika: La Dama de la Muerte – Joe Benitez

Lady Mechanika: La Dama de la Muerte – Joe Benitez – 4 stars

Lady Mechanika

This edition of Lady Mechanika is due to be released on 26th September (thank you Diamond Book Distributors for letting me have a copy!), and it includes all the comics pertaining to Lady Mechanika’s adventures as ‘La Dama de la Muerte’.

This was my first time meeting Lady Mechanika, and although she does seem to have a lot of backstory, this snapshot of her life – as a stand-alone – did a pretty good job of introducing her. There are a few major gaps that I definitely need to know more about (EYES??), but on the whole our protagonist seems like an altruistic – if troubled – badass.

The illustrations in this book are beautiful. I always think you need a certain standard of visual representation if you’re going to deal with El Dia de los Muertes in your story, and ‘La Dama de la Muerte’ nails it. The colour and vibrancy of the art is enchanting, dragging the reader into the more mystical elements of Mexican culture.

The story is interesting and hard to put down, if a little…quick. I suppose it might be different for readers who are already familiar with the characters, but I felt a bit like it was all over before it had started. There’s something to be said for compact story-telling, but this is a little extreme.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my first introduction to this comic franchise, and although I feel like I’m missing out on a lot of back-story elements, I guess that’s probably the point! I gave this collection a four stars, and although I’m not sure I would pay $10 for something this length, I have to admit that this is a pretty fantastic work of storytelling.

If you’ve read this too, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

Dani