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.

DSC_0057

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

B is for Bible

Okay, so however you feel about this book, no one can deny the societal, historical and theological impact that the Bible has had on the world. What I’ve collected today is a group of facts that I found really interesting – I hope you enjoy!

  • The Bible was written over a 1600 year period (1500 BC to AD 100) by around 40 people. (Source)
  • Around fifty Bibles are sold every minute.
  • The verse smack-bang in the middle of the Bible is Psalm 118:8. There are 549 chapters before Psalm 118, and 549 chapters after Psalm 118 – making the total number of chapters 1188. So cool! (Also, if you’re interested, the verse says: “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people.”)
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate birthdays, because the only two accounts of birthday parties in the Bible resulted in murder. You know – I can kind of see where they’re coming from. (Source)
  • In 1631, two London Bible printers accidentally left the word “not” out of the seventh commandment, which then read, “Thou shalt commit adultery.” You can buy a copy for $90,000. Interesting, but potentially not worth the money? Ah well, to each their own. (Find it here!)
  • The Seraphim (6 winged Angel of the Bible) could mean a Fiery Serpent. The word Seraph is actually a synonym for serpent, so…God could have an army of dragons. It is a subject of debate among theologians, and you know what? I’m cool with this either way. (Source)
  • The Bible is the most shop-lifted book.

That’s all I’ve got – what have I missed?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

Joy to the World!

It’s two days until Christmas! Needless to say, this is going to be my last post until the 26th, so I thought I’d better get festive. Today I wanted to look at the lyrics of a really famous carol and just unpick a bit about what we’re actually singing. ‘Joy to the World’ was originally written by Isaac Watts, in 1719. I’m guessing we’ve all at least heard it, so I went and found a really original version for you to listen to while you read on. Enjoy!

Joy to the world

I love this line! Think about it: the writer is wishing joy – exceeding gladness and rejoicing – on everyone in the world. He’s not explained why we should all be rejoicing of yet, but what a way to start a song! I also really love this quote by C.S. Lewis: “Joy is the serious business of heaven.” This makes a lot of sense! In the Bible, when the angels told the shepherds of Jesus’ birth, they said: “I bring good news that will bring great joy to all people.” (Luke 2:10)

The Lord is come!

And here’s where the good news comes in! Hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth, prophecies concerning him were already being recorded; check out Isaiah 7:14 – “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God with us’).”

Let earth receive her King;

You know that little baby that was born in a grotty stable? Yeah, he was kind of the King of the WORLD. Revelations 1:5 says that “Jesus Christ is […] the ruler of all the kings of the world.”

Let every heart prepare Him room,

This isn’t a literal heart, guys. I’m sure you picked up on that. Romans 10:10 says that “it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God.” Watts is telling his listeners to make space in their lives for God! This isn’t a weird possessive take-over though; Asaph (a really good Old Testament song writer) wrote “God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

And heav’n and nature sing,

David (an Old Testament king and really famous poet and singer) wrote that “the heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftmanship.” (Psalm 19:1)

I wanted to finish up with one more Bible verse – this one’s another prophecy, this time by a guy called Zechariah: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation.” (Zechariah 9:9)

“Shout to the Lord, all the earth!

Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy.

Acknowledge that the Lord is God!

He made us, and we are his.

[…]

Give thanks to him and praise his name, for the Lord is good.

His unfailing love continues forever,

and his faithfulness continues to each generation.”

-Psalm 100

I wish you all a very merry Christmas!

~Dani

Clockwork Angel and Poetry: Part 5

Here is the fifth – and final! – instalment of all the poetry alluded to and quoted in Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare. Enjoy!

The Old Church Tower by Emily Bronte – I really like this poem! I think its apparent simplicity makes it all the more lovely.

I watched how evening took the place
Of glad and glorious day
I watched a deeper gloom efface
The evening’s lingering ray

Genesis 31:49 – This Biblical quote made the list because it’s just great. The verse is taken from the story of Jacob and Laban, and is used in reference to a covenant. The way it’s used in Clockwork Angel is a little more romanticised!

It was also called Mizpah, because he said, “May the Lord keep watch between you and me while we are away from each other.”

The Lost Leader by Robert Browning – I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like Robert Browning.

Blot out his name, then, record one lost soul more,

One task more declin’d, one more foot-path untrod,

One more devil’s-triumph, and sorrow for angels,

One wrong more to man, one more insult to God!

And with that, we’ve finished! That was every poem/work of literature (excluding novels) quoted or alluded to in Clockwork Angel. I hope you enjoyed it!

Did you have a favourite poem from the selection? Is there any more Victorian poetry you’d recommend?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

Remembrance Day

Here in the UK, we take a minute’s silence on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. The idea is that we step out of our daily routine to think, pray for and remember the many people who have fought for our country’s freedom, and who still fight today. We wear a poppy; a symbol originating from the First World War. The poppy was the first sign of life to break through the barren, war-torn fields, and is therefore seen as a sign of hope.

Remembrance Day is not a celebration of war and violence, but an acknowledgement of the people who give up their lives to ensure our safety, and a way of showing our respect for their sacrifice. It’s not a day to debate pacifism or politics, but to remember the horrors of war that people go through for our sake. Vast numbers of men and women have chosen to put their lives on the line for the sake of their countries, and that’s not something we can or should erase from our history.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
-from Laurence Binyon’s ‘For the Fallen
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
-John 15:13
~Dani

Isaiah 43

The Bible is just crammed with beautiful writing, and all in the public domain (in the King James version). Again, I’ve edited this extract a little bit and drawn from alternative translations, but I hope that doesn’t take away from the beauty.

Fear not: for I have redeemed you, I have called you by thy name; you are mine.

When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not drown you. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned; neither shall the flame consume you.

For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.

You are precious in my sight, you are honoured, and I love you.

Fear not: for I am with you.

Bring all who claim me as their God: for I have created them for my glory, I have formed them; yea, I have made them.

From eternity to eternity I am God; and there is none that can snatch you out of my hand: I will work, and who shall undo it?

I love Isaiah so much. What other Biblical extracts do you like?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

Job 26

I am a firm believer that the Bible is one of the most underrated sources of poetry. This is the King James Version, but I’ve changed a few of the ‘hath’s for ‘has’, and so on. The extract I found for today is from the book of Job, and I just love the imagery here.

He stretches out the north over the empty place, and hangs the earth upon nothing.

He binds up the waters in his thick clouds; and the cloud is not rent under them.

He holds back the face of his throne, and spreads his cloud upon it.

He has compassed the waters with bounds, until the day and night come to an end.

The pillars of heaven tremble and are astonished at his reproof.

He divides the sea with his power, and by his understanding he smites through the proud.

By his spirit he has garnished the heavens; his hand has formed the crooked serpent.

Lo, these are parts of his ways: but how little a portion is heard of him? but the thunder of his power who can understand?

Are there any other Biblical passages you think are utter poetry?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

The Liebster Award

I’ve been nominated for the Liebster Award by Em from Alwaysopinionatedgirl – don’t forget to check out her blog. Thank you so much – I’m really excited to be a part of this!

The basic idea of the Liebster Award is that it comes from one ‘small’ blogger (i.e. 200 followers or less) to another, so we’re supporting each other and letting our readers know what great content we read ourselves.

Here are the instructions:

1. Link & Thank the blogger who nominated you
2. Answer the 11 questions your nominator gives you
3. Tag 11 other bloggers who have 200 or less followers
4. Ask the 11 bloggers you nominated 11 questions and let them know you nominated them!

These are the questions that Em set:

Which fictional character are you most like?

I’m going to go with Skeeter from The Help by Kathryn Stockett. She’s the headstrong writer who is a little awkward in social situations but passionate about justice. Skeeter is what I aim to be like, anyway!

Which fandoms are you in?

In all honesty, I try to steer clear of fandoms just because I don’t know if my emotions can take it! I dabble in the Dr Who, Infernal Devices/Mortal Instruments, Marvel, Disney, Sherlock, and Lord of the Rings fandoms.

What is your favourite book cover?

I don’t know about my favourite, but I definitely have a lot of love for this one.

The One Hundred Year Old Man...

Which 5 books would you take with you to a desert island?

I would take the Bible, Paul Muldoon’s ‘New Weather’ (because you get so much out of it every time), ‘The Shack’ by William P Young, ‘Mr Gum and the Power Crystals’ by Andy Stanton (just for the laughs) and ‘The Book Thief’ by Markus Zusak (for imaginary friend purposes.)

What is your favourite children’s picture book?

This one. Partly because it’s fantastic and partly for nostalgic reasons.

Ladybird Stories for Bedtime

What do you like most and like least about book blogging?

The thing I like most is being prompted write something every day. The thing I like least is…having to write something every day! In all seriousness though, I love interacting with other bloggers and chatting about our mutual interests.

When was the last time you cried reading a book?

In July I read Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken (the second in the Darkest Minds trilogy), and that got pretty emotional.

Which book are you most embarrassed to say you haven’t read?

I’ve never read the Lord of the Rings series. I’ve wanted to for ages, don’t get me wrong, I’m just…busy?

Why and when did you decide to start your blog?

I started my blog just over a year ago for posting the odd review, in the hope of finding like-minded people to connect with. Over the last few months I’ve started putting more effort into the content, and have been producing more posts and interacting with more people.

What are three things about you that not many people know?

a) I am allergic to cats.

b) I play guitar and piano.

c) I love musicals, action songs and traditional African church.

What one book would you recommend I read?

I’d recommend Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I feel like there’s a lot to get out from it and a lot of adaptations and interpretations you can dig into once you’re done. Also it sounds really cool to say you read Jane Austen.

These are the blogs I tag (and recommend that you check out!):

Amy from Shout Ame Reads

Adira from On the Shelves

Emmie from Another Night of Reading

Fien at Touched by the Page

Casy at Today’s Literature: My Thoughts

Lorna at Suddenlylorna

Bernadette from The Bumbling Bookworm

Majoring in Literature

Jada at My Pleasure to Burn

Liana at Liana Skrzypczak Writing

Annie at Book Hunger

And here are the questions for anyone accepting the award:

1. What was the last book that made you laugh?

2. What amazing book do you think has a horrible cover?

3. When did you start blogging?

4. Do you have a favourite author (or authors)?

5. What’s your favourite movie adaptation of a book?

6. Is there a book that has changed your life, or the way you see the world?

7. Do you have a favourite genre to read?

8. Opinion: should people bend covers and dog-ear pages?

9. Where do you get most of your books?

10. What music (if any) do you listen to while you read?

11. What book will you force upon your kids (whether your kids are hypothetical or real)?

And that’s the Liebster Award! Thanks again for my nomination, and I hope you all enjoy checking out the blogs I mentioned.

Are there any other bloggers you think I should read?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

My Top 5 Favourite Book to Movie Adaptations

A lot of film adaptations of books can be acutely disappointing (don’t even talk to me about Eragon), but it’s summer, so I wanted to take a more positive approach. Here are my top five favourite movies based on books:

  1. Everything is Illuminated (Jonathan Safran Foer) This movie had to make the top of my list because – strangely – I preferred the film to the book. I think it was a story better told with music and colours and actors than in the words of Foer. Don’t get me wrong: he’s a great writer, but I felt like the story needed more.
  2. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (J R R Tolkein) I haven’t met many book lovers who didn’t also have a deep respect for these movies. Of course they aren’t flawless, but I’d say the fact that they are made by and for LoTR enthusiasts make them special.
  3. The Help (Kathryn Stockett) I love this film (and book) so much. I loved the acting choices in spite of minor aesthetic inaccuracies, and the sensitive balance of humour and heart-break is beyond perfection.
  4. The Prince Of Egypt (story of Moses – the Bible) I wasn’t sure if I could count this as a ‘book-to-film adaptation’, which explains the reason for such a fantastic film being so low on this list. The mind-shatteringly awesome grandeur of the animation, story-telling and scripting brings the ancient story to life (and that’s without mentioning the beautiful Hans Zimmer/Stephen Schwarz soundtrack)
  5. Catching Fire (Suzanne Collins) I think most of us can agree that this film surpassed ‘The Hunger Games’ by far – a really satisfying adaptation that was faithful to – and yet not limited by – the book.

What are your favourite book/movie adaptations?

If you’ve seen any of the films mentioned, let me know what you thought of them!

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.

~Dani