The Art of Togetherness

So, I recently took up nail art as part of my fundraising efforts (if you’re not sure what I’m talking about, you could read this post). Nail art is pretty much my new favourite thing though. I love the intricacy of it, and the way it makes your fingernails look iced – almost good enough to eat.

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An early attempt at something vaguely hipster-y

And the reason this slightly random topic is getting a blog post is this: every single nail I’ve ever painted – ever – is kind of messed up. I make mistakes all the time – I swear, it is impossible to make straight lines on that kind of scale! But most people have ten finger nails. The smudge on the little finger, or the chip at the base of the thumb aren’t the main focus; it’s the total, the summation of the ten tiny paintings, together. The art is not in one single nail, because I don’t think any of them could stand up to that kind of scrutiny. The art is in the togetherness.

[You can always trust an English Lit student to run with the weirdest metaphors – I’m not even sorry.]

This whole thing got me thinking about community – whether that’s family, housemates, colleagues, church or ‘squad’. I think every time, there’s something really beautiful about togetherness. We really really weren’t made to be alone.

There are an absolute tonne of books that deal with community, but today I wanted to point out some of my favourites.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis 

This applies to all of the books, but my particular favourite scene is in The Horse and His Boy, where we get a glimpse of a peace-time Narnian community. I love the way that everyone knows everybody, and there’s a real sense of inclusion and all round ‘getting along’.

The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare

Is this not everyone’s favourite, though? I am so in love with the Clave community: the way that although there are differences and personality clashes, there’s this fierce loyalty among the shadowhunters.

The Bible

Maybe slightly different to the other books on this list, but for real! The Bible is full of community – even in the Trinity (the doctrine of one God, three persons), there’s a real model of harmony and putting other people first. In the early church, we see the new Christians selling their belongings to provide for less well-off members of their community. (Acts 4:34)

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein

I think this is maybe an obvious pick – there’s such a heavy  emphasis in this series on friendship, and not going it alone. My favourite example of this is Frodo taking the ring to Mount Doom: his friend Sam his there with him until the end. There is such intense loyalty and selflessness in this story – gah. It’s great.

The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul by Deborah Rodriguez

This pick is maybe a little more obscure than the others, but I’d highly recommend it! I wrote a review here, if you’re interested. My favourite thing about the community in this book is the glaring differences in upbringing, culture and circumstance of each of the women. They each have their own stories, but they have a web of support as a group of friends.

Is this really cheesy? I find a lot of books (especially post-Romantic period?) have this really focus on individuality, and being strong enough to defeat the odds in your own strength. To my mind, that’s neither practical nor practicable – I think a need for community is not a weakness; but a strength!

“Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”

-Howard Zinn

I want to hear your thoughts! What are your favourite books about community?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

INTJ (Myers Briggs and Fictional Characters)

Happy Friday! A few days ago, I promised Kate of The Owl and the Reader a little post about what an INTJ might look like in the fictional world, so…here is that post!

I find Myers Briggs so interesting – so if you want to find out about other personality types, feel free to request! I’ve also done posts about INFP, ISFP and ENTJ.

Anyways, Kate is an INTJ – this means that she favours Introversion, iNtuition, Thinking, and Judging. I referred to my favourite Myers Briggs website (it has pictures) to see what that could mean in practice:

People with the INTJ personality type are imaginative yet decisive, ambitious yet private, amazingly curious, but they do not squander their energy.

I had a browse through this website to find some fictional characters that might share the INTJ personality type, and there was such an interesting mix that I put together a few more examples than usual!

Fitzwilliam Darcy from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Mr Darcy

Okay, so Darcy isn’t a saint, but he is definitely good at heart. I think this is one to be happy about!

Gandalf and Saruman from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein

Gandalf and Saruman

So we have two examples of people at opposite ends of the good/evil spectrum. I’d take this as confirmation that you can choose your own path…or something.

Professor Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Moriarty

Okay, so this is a little scary.

Severus Snape from Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Severus_Snape

Again, lovely at heart.

Amy Dunne from Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Amy Dunne

Yep. Also a little bit terrifying. I’m just going to leave this here and back away…

Thomas from the Maze Runner by James Dashner

Thomas (MR).jpg

This is a really interesting one! I would never have thought of Thomas myself, but now someone else says it, I can see it!

Jean Valjean from Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

kinopoisk.ru

I thought this was a great one to end on! There’s a really vast range of characters under this personality type, but I think Valjean is my favourite. He’s the definition of an overcomer!

That’s all from me – but are there any other INTJ characters you’d add to the list?

Thank you for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

ENTJ (Myers Briggs and Fictional Characters)

I know it’s not been long since my last ‘personality types’ post, but when the lovely Squid of Squid’s Cup of Tea mentioned that she didn’t know which book characters were of her personality type, I figured I could get away with writing more about Myers Briggs.

I’ve also written about INFP and ISFP, so you can check those out if you find this interesting!

Anyway, Squid is an ENTJ, which means she favours Extraversion, iNtuition, Thinking, and Judging.

If there’s anything ENTJs love, it’s a good challenge, big or small, and they firmly believe that given enough time and resources, they can achieve any goal. This quality makes people with the ENTJ personality type brilliant entrepreneurs, and their ability to think strategically and hold a long-term focus while executing each step of their plans with determination and precision makes them powerful business leaders.

(Source)

As for literary characters, this type has an interesting mix of folk (according to this website)

Gale Hawthorne from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Gale Hawthorne

Okay, so people have split opinions about this fellow, but I definitely think this is a positive person to share a type with! He’s a strong leader and a clear thinker.

Johanna Mason from the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Johanna Mason

Another Hunger Games person, lucky you. But seriously – Johanna is awesome – she is such a fierce character.

Irene Adler from Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Irene Adler.jpg

Irene Adler is a lot more prominent in the BBC adaptation of this series, but she does appear in one of the Sherlock Holmes books. She is one of the few people that Sherlock Holmes really admires, so that’s something!

Edward Rochester from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Edward Rochester

Mr Rochester is this dark, mysterious character with a past, but Jane falls for him, and I trust her judgment.

That’s about it for ENTJ!

NB: There is some discussion as to whether Lord Voldemort (of the Harry Potter series) is an INTJ or ENTJ – I’m choosing to reserve judgment. You can decide for yourself!

If you’d like me to write a post about your personality type, let me know! I’m having a great time researching these!

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

Why I read YA

Recently, I was having a chat with some friends from university, and – inevitably, as I am a literature student – the topic of books came up. They asked me what I was reading, and the dialogue went a little like this:

Me: Oh, it’s called ‘The Heart Goes Last’ – it’s a Dystopian.

Friend: *scrunches up face, unimpressed* Dystopian?

Me: I mean…it’s not YA. It’s a Margaret Atwood book.

Friend: Oh, I see. That’s alright then.

Just to clarify, I’m not at all cross about this; it just made me think. Because although I wasn’t reading a Young Adult book at the time, I do read YA – and I read it in copious amounts.

I’ll be the first to admit that there are some very repetitive genre tropes – especially in the Dystopian branch – and yes, sometimes there are aspects in the books that can be a little…well, juvenile. But if you ask me, YA has a lot going for it.

For starters, Young Adult books are making reading cool. People everywhere are going crazy for books like The Hunger Games and Divergent – and so what if they’re a little overrated? People are reading, and I think that’s awesome. Books are powerful, and if it takes a hype-fuelled craze to get people hooked, then so be it. I think reading is so important for every generation, and YA is acting as ‘gateway literature’ for thousands of young people. That’s not why I read it, though.

Another great thing about YA is that it doesn’t tend to take itself too seriously. Novels under this literary umbrella thrive in the fantastical, science-fiction realms, and they aren’t afraid to hurl their readers right into the depths of human imagination. These books are unashamedly adventuring and they are doing it fabulously. (It probably helps that I personally have very little time for scientific explanations – this may not be a good thing for other people.)  Look at Cinder for example: futuristic, sci fi fairy-tale retellings? I am all over that. So yes, I love the sheer creativity and freedom of imagination in YA novels.But again, that’s not my reason for reading them.

There are a lot of other good things about YA novels. They’re accessibly written – none of this elitist literature today, thank you very much.

Does he really think big emotions come from big words?

(Sneaky Hemingway quote.)

But seriously, books are for everyone.

I also love that YA books can be really thoughtful: Dystopians especially get people who might not usually take an interest in politics (okay, me. I’m talking about me) to think more critically about government, and what a healthy political system actually looks like.

Lastly, YA books are inspiring. I’m not talking about great literary achievements or anything like that – although I don’t rule that out. What I mean is, YA literature features over and over again young people stepping out to make a difference, taking action and being important. It highlights youth as game-changers, decision-makers and world-shapers, and I think that’s so so important! It kicks apathy’s butt and shows our young people examples of people they can relate to who are growing in independence and strength, and while they are fallible and don’t always make the right choices, they are absolutely never useless. I think that’s a pretty important message to get out there.

Having said that, that’s not the reason I read YA.

Can I be real with you? When I pick up a Young Adult book, I find it really easy to jump right into the stories. They’re not too fussy or wordy or self-impressed, and they’re fun. I read YA because I like it, and you know what? I don’t really feel like I need to justify that.

 

Thanks for reading and have a lovely day!

~Dani

ISFP (Myers Briggs and Fictional Characters)

A while ago there was a little craze for taking Myers Briggs personality test (I like this one) and working out which fictional characters have the same type as you. I’m INFP, so you can read mine here, but today I wanted to talk a bit about ISFPs!

My little sister is an ISFP, which means she favours Introversion, Sensing, Feeling, and Percieving. It’s a really interesting personality type.

ISFPs live in a colorful, sensual world, inspired by connections with people and ideas. ISFP personalities take joy in reinterpreting these connections, reinventing and experimenting with both themselves and new perspectives. No other type explores and experiments in this way more. This creates a sense of spontaneity, making ISFPs seem unpredictable, even to their close friends and loved ones

Source

I had a look through this website to see which literary characters might share her type, and I wasn’t disappointed!

Edmund Pevensie from The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

Edmund Pevensie

When I took my test, I got Lucy! I’m feeling very secure in our sibling-ness right now.

Buttercup from The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Buttercup (TPB)

Of all the characters in The Princess Bride, I think Buttercup has to be one of the nicest one to be matched with. Great job!

Cinna from the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Cinna

While Cinna’s not the biggest character in The Hunger Games, he plays a really pivotal part in the story, and he is genuinely quite a wonderful person. I think this is one to be happy about!

Harry Potter from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter

This probably means that you are going to be famous, change the world, and become the face of an international franchise. Oh, and you should watch out for bald, noseless men.

Legolas Greenleaf from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein

Legolas

To be honest, this is the match I can understand the most for my sister. I know long, flowing locks, great height and proficiency for drawing blood aren’t really to do with personality type, but…

Liesel Meminger from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Leisel Meminger

The Book Thief is one of my all-time favourites, so obviously I’m thrilled to be related to a Liesel!

Soos Ramirez from Gravity Falls

soos ramirez.png

I felt I would be failing my duty as a sister if I only found you lovely matches. So you’re Soos Ramirez, you’re welcome.

So, how about you? What’s your Myers Briggs type, and which fictional characters match up with you?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

Month in Books: February/March 2016

This year I’ve been reading (if that’s the right word?) so many audiobooks. I honestly can’t get enough of them – how great is it to have a random voice reading you stories while you bake/paint your nails/practice being an artisan/partake in general fun activities? It’s ideal.

But this post isn’t just for rambling about audiobooks; here’s what I read in February!

The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper – James Carnac – 4 stars This is allegedly an old document written by a man who claims to have been Jack the Ripper. It’s intense, deeply disturbing, and really quite scary. It is also well written and very quick to read. I have no idea if it is legitimate.

That’s…actually all I completed in February. Hey, it’s a short month. I did decide that was a bit meagre though, so here’s March as well.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner – Samuel Taylor Coleridge – 4 stars I’ve been studying Gothic poetry, and this was the only one I felt was long enough to warrant a mention here. I did enjoy it – visually, it was very intense, and the story was vivid and unusual. It does kind of ruin things when you have to study them though.

The Yellow Wallpaper – Charlotte Perkins Gilman – 5 stars This is a Gothic short story that deals with the way people used to treat mental illness. It’s powerful and more than a little bit scary! I thought it was really wonderfully handled, though.

Confess – Colleen Hoover – 4 stars This is a contemporary romance (I think), set in the States. I’ve heard a lot about Ms. Hoover, and although none of her books jumped out to me as particularly exciting, I decided to give this one a chance. It was a real page-turner, and it was a good story…I’m just not sure that it was especially memorable. I may have just chosen the wrong book, but I may not be a Colleen Hoover person.

How to Live on 24 Hours a Day – Arnold Bennett – 3 stars This is a nonfiction self-help kind of book. The writer argues that although we have lots of help with how to live on the amount of money we get, no one is looking at how we can best use our time. He made a lot of very interesting points that definitely made me think, but the condescending and superior tone it was all written in made it a bit of a test of patience for me.

Ring for Jeeves – P.G. Wodehouse – 4 stars This was my first Jeeves story, and I loved it! I realise it’s the tenth book in the series, and is the only book that doesn’t feature one of the main characters, so it was maybe not the best one to start with…but I still really enjoyed it. It was funny and sweet, and was set in a period of British modern history that I found I know very little about.

Humility – Andrew Murray – 5 stars This is a Christian non-fiction book that argues for the absolute necessity of humility. It was well written, thoroughly explained, and very helpful!

The Three Strangers – Thomas Hardy – 3 stars This is a Victorian short story. To be honest, I read it because I wanted to be able to say I’d read something by Thomas Hardy. It’s…well…maybe his novels are better?

Howl’s Moving Castle – Diana Wynne Jones – 5 stars I’m obsessed. This is a fantasy novel, which I actually don’t read that often, but this is just my favourite thing. I love the sheer creativity of it, and the humour, and the way it doesn’t take itself too seriously. I love Sophie’s no-nonsense nature, and Howl has already made it onto my list of characters I’m pretty much in love with. I know this is getting a bit gushy, but the books I tried to pick up after this just couldn’t quite compare. So, naturally, I had to read the rest of the trilogy:

Castle in the Air – Diana Wynne Jones – 5 stars This isn’t as good as the first one. It is, however, still wonderful. I think Diana made a really good choice to take a step away from the main characters in the first book, and although they are heavily involved in the plot, focussing on some new characters made the story new and refreshing.

Guess which book will be first in my April wrap-up?

So that’s all I read in February and March. How many of these books have you read, and do you agree with my ratings? And what are your thoughts on audiobooks?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

Review: Flawed – Cecelia Ahern

Thank you to Harper Collins and Netgalley for letting me have a copy!

Flawed – Cecelia Ahern – 4 stars

Flawed

I picked this up out of love for Cecelia Ahern. I couldn’t get enough of Love, Rosie (I reviewed it here), and I was really excited to read her take on YA.

This story is set in a Dystopian society, where moral perfection is encouraged and enforced by ‘The Guild’. If these people catch the slightest hint of weakness or defectiveness of character, they march you off to court and physically brand you as punishment. Those who are branded – or ‘Flawed’ – are ostracised from society and are forced to live under an oppressive and separate set of rules.

I have mixed feelings about a lot of things in this book, but I want to be completely fair: once I got into the story, I couldn’t put it down. This book is pacy and intriguing, with an interesting protagonist.

It might have been the first couple of chapters that gave me doubts. It wasn’t that they were uninteresting, it was just that they reminded me so much of Divergent that I struggled to see this as an original story.

Once I got to know some of the characters, however, I pretty much managed to get over my inhibitions. It’s a thoughtful story, and although there’s not a lot of ‘letting the reader decide what they think is right’, the concept is strong.

I liked Celestine as a protagonist. She was shy and rule-abiding to a fault, and we got to see some real character growth throughout the story. I also loved that she was mixed race – I always think we need more diversity in YA! We have an awful lot of white western girls represented, and I think we can even out that ratio (And no, Cinder doesn’t count. She’s from the moon.)

I also loved the parents and the family dynamic. In fact, I thought all the relationships in the book were dealt with well…except for Celestine’s romance with Art. Art was written off as weak and unsupportive, as a quitter, although I’m fairly sure he disguised himself to see Celestine at her trial, barged into the courtroom and publicly stood up to his father. I’d have said that was fairly good reason to stick around?

Overall, there were a lot of really lovely things about this book. It was mature enough to be shocking, and tastefully dealt with so as to be accessible. I enjoyed it, and will probably read the next book. That said – there was something a little unmemorable about it, too. It wasn’t at all bad, I just found it a little lacking in that special spark – that intangible something that slips a story under your skin, and sets it apart from everything else in its genre.

I gave this book 4 stars, and I really think a lot of people will enjoy it.

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

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.

~Dani

The Huntsman: Winter’s War

The Huntsman Winter's War

I saw The Huntsman: Winter’s War! I’m counting it as a loose book to film adaptation, as the concept was originally a retelling of the story of Snow White.

While the film has come under a lot of criticism, and there are some – shall we say shaky? – elements to it, I want to start by saying that I did definitely enjoy a lot of it.

There were some things in particular I thought this film did fantastically, and the first was the casting. Charlize Theron as Queen Ravenna is utterly terrifying, and although Chris Hemsworth’s face now has a lot of Marvel baggage to it, he did a great job as the Huntsman – to the extent that you could almost brush away the image of Thor. For me, though, the real star of the show was Emily Blunt. She brought a really thoughtful and nuanced ‘villain’ to life, and the way she portrayed the character as both damaged and powerful, vulnerable and untouchable, was a huge part of what made this film not-intolerable.

I also loved the British-isms in the language of the dwarves: they were humorous without being mocking, and I thought they were a nice – if not completely original – interpretation of the dwarf trope. My only confusion was about the accents of Eric and Sara: was that meant to be Scottish?

So the film was promising. It was also painfully derivative from the very start. Images from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe; The Golden Compass; and The Lord of the Rings were generously scattered throughout, and one of the main characters was a white-haired, blue-dressed girl with emotional baggage and ice powers, who ran away from her sister to build a ‘kingdom of isolation’…out of ice. Really, Universal Studios? Did you actually think anyone was over Frozen?

One critic for the Guardian wrote:

Now Snow White is awol, this dreary and incoherent CGI mashup of plots from Frozen, Narnia and The Incredibles really cannot justify its existence.

I wouldn’t have been so harsh; I personally didn’t pick up on The Incredibles vibes at all.

The last major thing that tainted this sequel for me was the complete absence of Snow White. Surely they should have found a replacement actress? Or…not made the movie at all? The subplot about the mirror causing problems for Snow White was fascinating, and could really have been developed.

Honestly, the mirror is one of my favourite things about these films. I think the design is stunning, and I love the dark – if completely unexplained – powers that surround it.

So to conclude: there’s a lot about The Huntsman that could have been wonderful. Unfortunately, it did end up a little bit like a messy and extravagant tour of high fantasy tropes.

To end on a positive note, did you know that one of the writers was called Evan Spliotopoulos? Now that’s a surname.

 

If you’ve seen the film too, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.

~Dani

Clockwork Princess and Poetry #4

A while ago, I started a series of posts that explored Clockwork Princess (the third book in Cassandra Clare’s Young Adult urban fantasy trilogy ‘The Infernal Devices’), picking out all of the wonderful poetry references, and pointing you in the direction of their sources. I’m sure there’s a much simpler and quicker way to do this, but I’ve been enjoying myself, and I hope you do too!

That said, here is the fourth instalment of ‘Clockwork Princess and Poetry’:

Confessions, Book IV – Saint Augustine This isn’t a poem, but it was so close to the novel, and so beautifully crafted, that I couldn’t leave it out.

For I wondered that others, subject to death, did live, since he whom I loved, as if he should never die, was dead; and I wondered yet more that myself, who was to him a second self, could live, he being dead.

Catullus 101 – Gaius Valerius Catullus This is a beautiful Latin elegiac poem, written for the poet’s dead brother. It’s absolutely heart-wrenching; it’s only short, so I advise you to go and read the whole thing.

atque in pepetuum, frater, ave atque vale

(And forever, brother, hail and fairwell)

The Old Astronomer – Sarah Williams This line is one of my favourites in all of literature, ever:

Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;

I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.

Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady – Alexander Pope I’m not the biggest Pope fan, but I do like some of the stuff in this poem.

Poets themselves must fall, like those they sung,

Deaf the prais’d ear, and mute the tuneful tongue.

No Worse, There is None – Gerard Manley Hopkins This little project has been my first introduction to Hopkins, and I’m really liking his work! This sonnet is sad, but powerful.

Oh, the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall

Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap

And that’s all for today – let me know what you thought of these poems!

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.

~Dani

Month in Books: January 2016

Last year, I managed to get through 120 books. It was a push, but at the same time, it was a lot of fun! I really got to broaden my book horizons, and I’ve learned a lot. This year, I’ve decided to take things a bit slower. I’m getting into the more serious parts of my degree, and I’ve got myself heavily involved in all sorts of extra-curricular things at university. My target is to read 52 books this year – we’ll see how that goes!

Without further ado, here’s what I picked up in January.

Holiness – J.C. Ryle – 5 stars This is a non-fiction Christian book, originally published in the 1800’s. I read a slightly updated version, so it was very easy to read – which was helpful, because there’s a lot of really juicy theological things to get your teeth into! It took me a while to read, but I really liked it!

The Red House Mystery – A.A. Milne – 4 stars I was so excited when I found out that the creator of Winnie the Pooh also wrote novels! This mystery was charming and intelligent, and I thought the main characters were really very sweet. I enjoyed it!

Seriously…I’m Kidding – Ellen Degeneres – 4 stars A memoir by the famous American talk show host. I can remember laughing at this book – it was light and witty and quite enjoyable. What I can’t remember is exactly what it was about…

So that’s a run-down of the whole three books I read in January. What have you read this year? Have you read any of the books I mentioned?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani