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

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

Book Characters I’m Secretly in Love With

Hello lovely bloggers! It’s been a while – but I promise there are very valid, work-and-Chile related reasons for my absence. I hope everyone is doing well and I’m looking forward to catching up with everyone’s blogs! (Oh – and happy Easter!)

I wanted to kick off my return with a little something I think everyone – or at least, everyone who reads – can relate to: you know those literary characters that you aren’t exactly in love with…but if they walked out of those pages and proposed, you would totally say yes. Here’s my list – but please let me know I’m not alone! Who’d be on yours?

  1. Edmund Pevensie of The Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis)

I understand that this may seem strange – betraying your family for turkish delight is never really okay. In Edmund’s defense, he really grows up after ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’, and does end up quite a great human. Everyone loves a redemption story!

     2. Howl ‘Pendragon’ of Howl’s Moving Castle (Diana Wynne Jones)

I’ve just binge-read this trilogy, and I am a little bit obsessed. Howl is obviously very showy and spontaneous, but hey – never a dull moment!

    3. Will Herondale of The Infernal Devices (Cassandra Clare)

If you’ve read this trilogy, you’ll understand. If everyone could just be 19th-century gentlemen, that’d be great.

    4. Charles Bingley of Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)

I think I’ve said this before here, but I’m not a huge Darcy fan. I just think Bingley is super sweet, constant, and, overall, the drama-free option.

    5. Todd Hewitt of The Knife of Never Letting Go (Patrick Ness)

While his spelling’s not great, his heart is…? Sorry, that’s a bit too cheesy, even for me. Todd does a lot of growing through this trilogy too (by the way – if you’ve not read the Chaos Walking books, what are you doing? Go!) and the thoughtful, ethical person he grows up to be is…well, it’s cool.

So that’s my top five! Do you agree with any of mine, or does your list look completely different?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

Month in Books: April 2015

Fair warning: I was finishing off my Creative Writing portfolio in April, so there’s going to be a lot of stuff about writing. Sorry but also kind of not sorry.

How to Write your First Novel – Sophie King – 4 stars It is what you think it is. It’s quite a light read with some good advice – nothing too earth-shattering, but I’m glad I picked it up nonetheless.

Servant Leadership for Slow Learners – J. David Lundy – 5 stars I loved this book! It’s another non-fiction thing, talking about leadership in a Christian context. It’s not quite as sassy as the title might suggest, but it is challenging.

How I Found the Write Path – Carrie Butler – 4 stars I love this idea – it’s a compilation of letters from authors to their younger selves, giving advice on writing, publishing and just the chaos of being a creative person. It’s lovely and inspiring – worth a read if you’re interested in writing yourself! Also, dat pun.

The Wisdom of C.S. Lewis – Brian Sibley – 5 stars This is basically a tiny hardback book full of illustrated C.S. Lewis quotes. I love it.

How to Write Better Essays – Bryan Greetham – 4 stars Again…this is exactly what you think it is. There’s a lot of good advice in this, but I happen to passionately despise writing conventional essay plans, so I took the whole thing a bit bitterly. Still, 4 stars.

Akarnae – Lynette Noni – 4 stars I’ve actually been following this lady’s blog for a while, so when I saw that her book had come out, I knew I wanted to give it a try! I was not disappointed. This is a young adult fantasy novel, and it’s just wonderful. I had so much fun reading it! I left it a bit long to write a review though, so I’ll be giving it another read and reporting back 😛

Just Write: The Virgin Guide to Telling Your Story – Gabrielle Mander – 3 stars I kind of disliked this book, just for the heavy reliance on genre fiction. To paraphrase an exact quote: “if you don’t write in a clear cut genre no-one will read your stuff”. Well, excuse you. I happen to hate categories like that in literature: let your story breathe! (Other than that, this book was quite alright)

Writing: A User’s Manual – David Hewson – 3 stars More writing stuff. If I’m honest, I don’t really remember anything about this one, but past Dani gave it three stars, so…there you go.

True Worship – Vaughan Roberts – 5 stars I read so much non fiction this month! This book is a little gem about…er…true worship. Do you have to go to church to worship? (Clue: nope)

A Caribbean Mystery – Agatha Christie – 5 stars I think by this point, I was all non-fictioned out, so returned to my trusty Agatha Christie. It’s a Miss Marple story, and I freaking love that little old lady.

The Silver Chair – C.S. Lewis – 5 stars This is usually considered the fourth book in the Narnia series, and it’s my absolute favourite (after The Horse and His Boy. So, like, second favourite). Children’s fantasy can be a bit touch and go, but this series is the actual best.

Yes Please – Amy Poehler – 4 stars I never read celebrity autobiographies, so this was new to me! I loved the tone of the book, and it made me chuckle a lot. It was more than just a comedy thing though; I felt like Ms. Poehler put a lot of herself into the book, and it was really touching.

The Virgin Suicides – Jeffrey Eugenides – 3 stars I’d heard from a lot of people that this book was really good, and I could appreciate that it was well-written…but mostly I thought it was creepy. Everyone is a stalker, please stop.

V for Vendetta – Alan Moore – 4 stars This is a British Dystopian thing, and it’s a real downer. Good writing though, so four stars. Even if it is also a bit creepy.

Chosen – Ted Dekker – 3 stars If you’ve been around for a while, you know that I have a lot of love for Ted Dekker. This is one of his children’s/YA fantasy novels, and it was a good strong…average. I like his adult stuff better, sorry!

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – Edward Albee – 4 stars A friend recommended this to me after I complained about not understanding Postmodernist literature, and I have to admit: it’s a pretty fantastic play. If a little sad.

And (finally!) that’s the end of what I read in April. Sorry it was a kind of boring month – I promise May got more interesting! If you’ve read any of the books I mentioned, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

C is for Christian Fiction

I feel like the label ‘Christian Fiction’ can be a bit off-putting. Admittedly, I’ve read my fair share of this genre that I found severely lacking, but there is also a great deal of really really good content out there!

This is going to be My Guide to the Christian Novel (for Newbies)!

‘Christian fiction’ is a really broad title – like ‘classic’, ‘YA’ or ‘Adult’, you’re inevitably going to find a whole spectrum of sub-genres to explore, and by extension, there’s every chance you’ll find something you enjoy!

As with every genre, there’s going to be stuff you hate, and stuff you can’t put down, but I’m going to go ahead an recommend a few titles that I really loved.

The Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis Duh. I feel like this series makes its way onto every list I’ve ever made, but I don’t care. For those of you yet to read these books, it’s a timeless children’s fantasy series of seven short novels, with a little bit of allegory and a lot of awesome. Go.

Obsessed – Ted Dekker Do you like adult thriller novels about history and finding out about your family roots and adventure? Great, you can just go grab this. Right now.

The Wormling Series – Jerry B Jenkins and Chris Fabry This is another fantasy series, slightly allegorical and really beautifully narrated. I’d put these more in the YA section than children’s just because of length and a few scarier scenes. I’ve read all the books multiple times, and really loved them!

The Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan This is a bit of a classic. Written during Bunyan’s spell in prison, this book is an allegory of the spiritual journey of a Christian. There’s monsters and kidnapping and battles and stuff, so it pretty much caters for you whatever you’re into. Worth a read!

The Dopple Ganger Chronicles – G.P. Taylor I can’t get enough of this series! They’re ingenious combinations of the graphic novel, conventional prose and beautiful typography (coined ‘illustra-novellas’, if you were interested). I love the art, and the stories…just everything. there are three books at the moment, and I’ve given all of them five stars so far.

That’s all from me! There’s so much variety out there in this genre, and I guess I just wanted to encourage you to explore.

Also, any recommendations you can leave me will be much appreciated!

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.

~Dani

Month in Books: January 2015

It’s my first monthly wrap-up this year! Yey!

Death on the Nile – Agatha Christie – 5 stars I’ve had a little Agatha Christies spree, and am loving these stories about Hercule Poirot. I think this little moustached Belgian is my favourite detective ever – I love that he’s calculating and crazily intelligent, but still very much in tune with his compassionate and human side. This story is – surprise, surprise – set in Egypt, and I loved being transported into the close world of a planned holiday. It’s the perfect (if that’s the right word?) setting for a murder mystery.

The Horse and His Boy – C.S. Lewis – 5 stars My favourite book from my favourite series! I’m sure most of you are familiar with the children’s fantasy work of genius that is the Chronicles of Narnia, so just take this as a recommendation to get re-reading. I wrote a post about my love for this book here!

Hamlet – William Shakespeare – 4 stars I had to read this for my Literature course, and while I did enjoy it, it’s not my favourite Shakespeare play. An over-quoted and somewhat depressing historical tale, Hamlet is a hugely ambiguous and thought-provoking work of literature that we could probably all argue about until the end of time.

P.S. I Love You – Cecelia Ahern – 4 stars I’d heard so much about this book! I started watching the movie, but didn’t get very far – thankfully I liked the book a lot more! It’s cute and surprising, teary and really heart-warming. I’m glad I found the time to read this!

The Thief of Always – Clive Barker – 2 stars I don’t know why I picked this up. The cover’s ugly and the premise isn’t exactly inspiring, so I guess it was more of a procrastination read. It was okay – just very obscure and kind of emotionally detached.

Losing It All – Marsha Cornelius – 4 stars Find my review here! An adult fiction novel dealing with family, poverty, homelessness, and – as cheesey as it may sound – redemption. I loved this story so much!

The Rosie Effect – Graeme Simsion – 4 stars I reviewed this here! The sequel to ‘The Rosie Project’, this book is a strong continuation of a sweet and slightly awkward story. I had mixed feelings about it, but the ending was lovely.

Murder in the Mews – Agatha Christie – 3 stars Another Poirot novel! This is a particularly clever mystery, so I’m not quite sure why I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did the other Poirot books I read. Maybe it was the lack of exotic location?

The Magician’s Nephew – C.S. Lewis – 5 stars After having a fantastic time re-reading The Horse and His Boy, I just needed more Narnia! The first book in the series, The Magician’s Nephew is just fantastic and you should all read it.

If I Stay – Gayle Forman – 5 stars I’d heard so many good things about this book, and about Gayle Forman, so I was a little worried about over-hype. The book was pretty much what I expected, but I did enjoy it and it did get me emotionally involved. I really don’t think it needs the sequel though!

You Are Special – Max Lucado – 5 stars This is one of my childhood reads! It’s a beautifully illustrated allegorical children’s story, about individual worth and how the opinions of others are pretty inconsequential. It’s a great book for people of all ages, and I loved re-living the experience.

That’s all for this month! What were your favourite reads for January? Have you read any of the books I mentioned?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

My Top 5 Literary OTPs

For the uninitiated, ‘OTP’ stands for One True Pairing; this post is basically going to be outlining my five favourite romantic pairings in literature!

  1. Aravis and Shasta from The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis – This is probably an obscure one, because their story is not explicit: we’re told that they fight and make up, and get married “so as to do it more conveniently.” Firstly, that’s hilarious, and secondly really really cute! I love these guys.
  2. Alex and Rosie from Love, Rosie by Cecelia Ahern – Need I say more? If you’ve read this, you know that they are the loveliest, and you can’t help but root for them.
  3. Jane Bennett and Mr Bingley from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – I know this isn’t the most popular couple from this book, but these two really are my favourite. There’s none of this impractial ‘proposal in the rain and admitting stuff in really long letters’ drama, just pure cuteness. I would happily read a book just about these guys; I don’t give a toss about the Darcys. (I do really, but I wanted to leave that sentence in because it sounds like I know what I’m talking about.)
  4. Leisel and Rudy from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – I can’t talk too much about this because of spoilers, so let’s just say they’re so sweet it hurts and leave it at that.
  5. Day and June from Legend by Marie Lu – Again, I can’t say too much, but these two are so perfect (together, not in general) and they just had to go on the list somewhere. They’re opposites in terms of social standing, but their personalities just click. They’re great characters in a really great story.

I’m assuming this is some sort of tag somewhere, so if you fancy taking up the ‘challenge’, consider yourself tagged.

Let me know your favourite pairings – do you agree/disagree with any of my picks?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

Why ‘The Horse and His Boy’ is my Favourite Book in the Narnia Series

The Horse and His Boy

This is often a controversial opinion – I’ve heard people say it’s the worst, that it’s pointless and irrelevant, and that it doesn’t really belong in the series. I disagree! Today I’m going to be outlining a few reasons why I personally think this book the best in the series.

  • It’s not set in Narnia. Okay, I realise this doesn’t make a lot of sense, but hear me out! I loved learning more about the wider world, and especially Archenland. I also loved seeing Narnia through fresh eyes – it makes such a difference to come from somewhere like Tashban, and see the contrast in all its glory.
  • The protagonists are freaking amazing. The recklessly selfless fisherman’s ‘son’ and fiercely loyal Tarkhina are an absolute joy to read about, and I loved getting to know some characters that weren’t English or Narnian. I also love the horses! I think this is a really important book to drive home the fact that in Narnia, talking animals are really equals.
  • It’s full of references to the other books. It’s so much fun! We get to spot plot points from ‘The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe’, and – more excitingly – see them through the eyes of non-locals. I also loved getting to see Mr Tumnus again! It makes my heart happy that they all kept in touch.
  • It’s set during the Golden Age. We get to see a comfortable (and rather plump) Narnia in peace time, but more importantly, we get to see the Pevensie siblings in action as royalty. I love learning a little bit more about their time on the throne(s), and also seeing how they grew up.
  • We get to see LOADS of Aslan. I love Aslan, and his appearances in the book, in my opinion, are the most powerful. I love the breadth in his character that we’re shown here: he’s the secret guard of a tiny baby, the patient cat that comforts a terrified boy, the fierce protector, and the bringer of justice.

That’s all from me – now over to you! Which is your favourite book in the Chronicles of Narnia, and why?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani