Best Book Related Memories

my bookshelf

For a bit of #FlashbackFriday fun, I want to join in on the “Best Book Related Memories” tag. The rules of the game: list 3 of your favorite memories that relate to books, whether it means reading a book, writing a book, or just has anything to do with books in general.

Thanks to Jenna Moreci for tagging me (and all her other viewers).

  1. My first real “short story.” For the longest time, ever since I had internet access, I wrote fanfiction. Really, really, really bad fanfiction. But then I decided to write what is called a “song fic” to Avril Lavigne’s “Sk8er Boi” because basically, everyone was doing it and created original characters to fit the story of the song. When I printed out the first version of this short story, I marveled at how many pages I wrote. This “short story,” dear friends, was what inspired me to want to write a novel. It eventually led to the creation of Jack, Lorelei, Kira, Travis, and Evelyn. You will be meeting them in my Tales of the Vocati series. It took me a long time to find the right story for these characters.
  2. How I got into Jane Austen. The way I got into Jane Austen wasn’t through watching Becoming Jane or reading one of her books, although when I was a kid, I saw episodes of Wishbone that adapted a few of her novels. No, it was through a biography: Emily Auerbach’s Searching For Jane Austen. It was in my high school library. It’s not an easy biography to find, but to me, it fascinated me that someone tried to understand a writer based on the works they wrote. It’s a modern way to figure out a person and it doesn’t always apply to every writer, but I liked the idea of Jane being more than just someone who wrote romantic stories. There was some real depth to them. If you’re a fan of Jane Austen, I highly recommend reading this biography.
  3. Sci-fi Meets Classic Literature I don’t usually read sci-fi as a genre. I am tired of dystopias and stories of corrupt governments oppressing everyone. For me, fiction is about escapism and getting to know characters on a personal level. Then I read the Jane E trilogy by Erin McCole Cupp. Die-hard Jane Austen fans like myself will tell you that most of the time, fans of classic literature will either pick Austen or the Bronte Sisters for their favorite 19th Century female writer. That particular disagreement applies to me and my best friend. The ironic thing is that in spite of having Asperger’s Syndrome, I can understand the witty ironies and sarcasm in Jane Austen’s prose whereas my neurotypical best friend can’t. In contrast, my best friend doesn’t consider herself a romantic, but really loves Jane Eyre. I love the character of Jane Eyre, but hate Rochester with every fiber of my being. It took reading this trilogy for my best friend and me to find something we agree on in terms of Jane Eyre. The classic heroine is a lot more active in this version, Rochester is somewhat more sympathetic and likeable, and the themes of integrity ring truer here than in the original version.

Share your favorite book-related memories in the comments.

 

Eve The Awakening-A Book Review

I discovered Jenna Moreci while browsing for writing tips on YouTube. She’s snarky, funny, and intelligent when it comes to knowing what makes a good story. Naturally, it was only a matter of time before I ordered a copy of her debut novel Eve The Awakening. My copy is autographed!

So what is this novel about?

In the distant future, humanity has discovered a type of mutant that they call “chimeras” or “chimes” (pronounced kime, rhymes with lime). Evelyn Kingston was a girl whose chimera powers manifested after her parents died in a traffic accident. Over a decade later, the world is now dealing with Interlopers who are hunting chimeras and causing destruction for reasons unknown. Wanting to get away from it all, Evelyn goes to college at Billington University. Of course, not everything there is what it seems to be.

I love this novel. It’s not perfect, but the good outweighs the bad.

First of all, I love the world they live in. It feels like something out of the Marvel comics, with chimeras being Moreci’s version of the X-Men. Even as Eve adjusts to life in college, there is always a tension lurking under the surface and by the time I got to the last few chapters, my nails were bitten down to the quick. Chimeras, based on what Eve has shown, are powerful, but not invincible and the Interlopers are equally intimidating, but thankfully not overly powered. Even though I know Jenna hates setting up places, I could easily imagine Billington and all the other places Eve went to, as well as all the fight scenes.

Most of the characters are compelling as well, especially Eve and Jason. I understood Eve as this skeptical loner who emerges into this new role of being a leader against the Interlopers. Jason is equally endearing because he’s sweet and considerate and the best guy to have fighting by your side. The romance that develops between them is genuine and thankfully undeterred by love triangles and stupid misunderstandings.

The supporting characters are definitely unique, with their own distinctive voices and plenty of diversity. My favorite side character is Sancho, btw. Filipino firecracker.

The entire story had me hooked from beginning to end. There are seriously no “filler” scenes. In fact, in spite of the fact that the book is over 500 pages long, I was left wanting more. The story is driven by both character and plot and the underlying tension, as well as the wonderful relationship that Eve and Jason have are basically the fuel that drives it.

Now I said before that this novel isn’t perfect. There’s no explanation for why exactly chimeras are considered the scum of the earth and the reason why Billington is set up doesn’t make a lot of sense, either, especially considering the people they hire to be their teachers. If the founders were pro-chimera, why hire people who are anti-chimera and accept students with anti-chimera views?

Eve initially checks off a lot of boxes on the Mary Sue Litmus test: meaningful name, gets special treatment,  is described while she looks at herself in the mirror (even though this novel is written in third person), and doesn’t get along with other girls. Aside from Eve, most of the female characters are two-dimensional. They all start out hating Eve or being fake. Madison especially didn’t make sense to me. What exactly were her motivations in this story? I knew her purpose to the plot, but her motivations were all over the place.

Regardless of the flaws, I still recommend Eve The Awakening to fans of sci-fi and comic books, especially if they are fans of X-Men, Buffy, or Agents of SHIELD because there are a lot of elements of all three things here. I especially like how Jenna wrote out the third act of the novel. She was able to play around with a very familiar movie trope and still have you going “That sneaky *bleep*!”

If you are a writer, check out Jenna Moreci’s channel on YouTube. If you’re interested in the book, click the link here to get it on Amazon.

Shadowmancer: A #ThrowbackThursday Book Review

I first read Shadowmancer back when I was in middle school. On the surface, it seems like this novel that takes place in a sleepy little English countryside fishing village would be the last place for an 18th century apocalypse to occur. In fact, Shadowmancer is similar to the gospel of John or the book of Revelations in its rich complexity and imagery. There are layers upon layers of metaphor and subtext as shown in this passage:.

The sky grew darker and darker and the full moon was blotted out by thick black cloud as streaks of lightning flashed from sky to sea, exploding in the water. A lightning sword hit the ship. The mainsail cracked, then crashed to the deck, sending startled crewmen bolting from their hammocks.

As they rushed on deck, another sail crashed down, splitting the deck in half and sending shafts of splintered wood into the air. The ship lifted and dropped with each wave; a crewman was thrown through the air and into the cold sea, never to be seen again.

“A direct hit,” shouted Demurral, laughing and rubbing his hands together in glee at the sight. “One more strike and the Keruvim will be mine.”

He raised the statue into the air and chanted more magic. “Wind, hail, lightning, thunder and wave.” The sea rose at his command, each surge growing higher and higher. Breakers like black fists smashed against the ship, almost engulfing the vessel.

Two local villagers, Thomas Barrick and Kate Coglan join up with a mysterious African man named Raphah to stop the main villain, Vicar Obadiah Demurral, from destroying the world. Demurral rules over the local villages with an iron fist, but the power he lords over the villages isn’t enough for him. He dabbles in dark magic that gives him the power to raise the dead, creating creatures called the Glashan, and steals the Keruvim (the MacGuffin of the story) with the hopes of using it and its other half in a ritual that will bring on the apocalypse.

Thomas starts out as your typical village street urchin. With his father dead and his mother in the hospital, he calls the vicar out on his hypocrisy and greed, lamenting his own poor status. He gets pulled into the action when Raphah rescues him from drowning. Although he is uncertain, Thomas is resolved to help Raphah on the mission to get the Keruvim back from Demurral. A young village girl, Kate Coglan gets thrown into the adventure when she tries to kill a Glashan, a zombie that Demurral raises from the dead, using the power of the gold Keruvim.

Raphah, the mysterious African from Cush, arrives in this small English countryside village to get the Keruvim back to his people. He’s the oldest of the trio and helps exposit important information regarding the dark magic and otherworldly creatures shown in this story. Prejudices towards Africans are prominent and he even gets branded as a slave, but his determination to do God’s will makes him a compelling character.

What makes Shadowmancer compelling to read is the attention to detail and the overall atmosphere. Whenever I open this book, I find some new detail I missed, another piece of the puzzle that adds depth and it entices me to read the book again in search for more. Most of all, I love why this book was written. In an interview with Christianity Today, GP Taylor said:

“I was out there talking to a church group about the threads, the dark and sinister threads through children’s literature. At the end of one of these nights, this woman came up to me and said, I think you should write a children’s book, but have the main theme of a God who’s triumphant. On the way home this stuck with me.”

Shadowmancer is a complicated, challenging read that fantasy fans will definitely find intriguing because of its dark atmosphere, threatening villain, and the timeless storyline of three unlikely heroes who, despite overwhelming odds, help to defeat the dark forces that were bent on destroying their world. I recommend this book for fans of dark fantasy and young adults who love a good Gothic atmosphere.

Not Just Good, but Beautiful: A Book Review

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In light of Pope Francis’s recent visit to the US, I am gonna look into Not Just Good, but Beautiful, a compilation of interfaith talks from Humanum: An International Interreligious Colloquium. This book gives perspectives on marriage from Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, Mormon, Jewish, Muslim, Jain, Buddhist, and Hindu perspectives.

Since the Humanum Colloquium was organized by Pope Francis, there are more Catholic perspectives, but the beauty of this book was that while the theme of of the colloquium was to show the beauty of marriage between a man and a woman, each Catholic had a unique way of showing how marriage is beautiful. Pope Francis begins the colloquium with the word “complementarity” which a word that gets echoed in the subsequent essays. To Pope Francis, “complimentarity is the root of marriage and family.” In this day and age where love and marriage seemed to lack concrete definitions aside from feelings, Pope Francis says “Family is an anthropological fact-a socially and culturally related fact.” Pope Francis’s love for the family was easily seen in his visit to the US and I pray that people will look further into it and realize the truth, beauty, and goodness that the family has to offer.

Gerhard Cardinal Muller looks at marriage from a theological perspective and sees that the differences between man and woman as “an essential element to understanding the human being and our journey toward God.” Sister M. Prudence Allen looks at “complementarity” from a philosophical perspective. Jean Laffitte’s perspective looks into marriage as a sacrament and how marriage reflects Christ’s relationship with His Church. Ignacio Ibarzabal looks at marriage from a millenial perspective.

BC_NotJustGoodbutBeautiful_1The perspectives from other faiths were equally beautiful. I love how Jonathan Sacks looks at marriage from a historical and anthropological perspective, tying science and history into his Jewish faith. Penecostal director Jacqueline C. Rivers also looks at marriage using a lot of history and the perspectives from African-American culture as well as the Pentecostal beliefs. Kala Acharya, a Hindu, looks at marriage combining history, philosophy and the beliefs of Hinduism. Johann Christoph Arnold, an Anabaptist, looks into his personal life and shows how marriage can have its ups and downs when playing out in the real world. Henry B. Eyring, a Mormon, does something similar with his essay. Wael Farouq (Muslim) and Nissho Takeuchi (Buddhist) look at the languages of their faiths for insight on how their faiths see love and marriage. Reverent Nicholas Thomas Wright looks at marriage from a strictly Biblical perspective while Rick Warren gives a good practical “how to” perspective. Tsui-Ying Sheng’s essay is one of my favorites because it looks at yin and yang beyond the coolness of the symbol and actually applies the philosophy of the symbol to her life. Russell D. Moore, a Baptist, also ties in the theologies from the Baptist denomination into how things are today.

Complementarity is the overall theme in this book. Many people look at marriage and family and think that it’s just about feelings. But from observing my married friends, I realized that you don’t have to have everything in common with your spouse. The best relationships I know (fictional and in reality) involve two people who aren’t exactly alike but still work together perfectly because they balance each other’s needs. Men and women are always going to be different, no matter how many times people on tumblr and the media say otherwise. But it’s not a bad thing.

I highly recommend this book for people who want to understand marriage on a deeper level.

Visit the Patheos Book Club on Not Just Good, But Beautiful here.

Encountering Jesus: A Book Review

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When Elizabeth Scalia shared Encountering Jesus (the latest read from the Patheos Book Club) with me, I was definitely interested in reading it. The book (compiled by James Stuart Bell) is a collection of people seeing Jesus or witnessing a miracle in their lives that they attribute to Jesus’s intercession.

I’ll admit that I like this book, but I don’t love it. I completely understand the idea of encountering Jesus through prayer or through a miracle that they can’t explain, but the problem is that it lacks depth. I mean, there’s a story about the compiler of the book encountering Jesus through drugs, for crying out loud! I’m sorry that I sound skeptical, but while I believe that God can work with us through whatever bad things we experience, I highly doubt that Jesus would appear during a drug-induced haze.

I also wonder how the encounter with Jesus has affected the lives of the people who contributed to this book. It’s one thing to encounter Jesus, but if you don’t let that encounter change you, then that experience was all for nothing. I will give the people who contributed to this book the benefit of the doubt.

I definitely agree that we can encounter Jesus outside of the Church. I still remember the day that I felt that I was drowning in my anxiety and how Christ pulled me out of it one rainy afternoon. But I wish I could’ve seen stories of encountering Christ within the Church. I love hearing stories of Eucharistic miracles, especially knowing that they still happen. (Pope Francis witnessed two of them! How awesome is that!?) I love the peace that I get whenever I go to Adoration. I love teaching kids about the faith and seeing Christ in them. I love what Mother Teresa said about Christ being in distressing disguise of the poor. As much as I loved reading this book, there weren’t any wonderful stories like that.

I am definitely glad that Jesus can come into the lives of anyone who asks for his presence and that he makes miracles happen even now. It’s just that compared to the myriad of ways I encounter Christ, the book feels a bit like swimming in shallow water.

Chasity Is For Lovers: A Review

First of all, I think a really good alternative title for this book could be: You Say “Virgin” Like It’s a Bad Thing. I’ve read books about finding love and the standards one should have when it comes to relationships, but the best thing about Arleen Spenceley’s Chastity is For Lovers is that it provides a lot of perspective on being single.

I love that she saw her dating history as a series of learning experiences. Yes, she cried and racked her brain trying to figure out what went wrong, but she eventually learned from her relationships and in my opinion, she has a wonderful, healthy, honest perspective of them. The entire chapter about dating is worth the price of the book alone because it reveals the actual purpose of dating. Dating isn’t about having fun or riding on the emotional highs of attraction, but about finding a spouse and gain learning experiences. And I mean learning experience, not sexual experience. She emphasizes the importance of having boundaries and standards, but never in a way that shames the reader.

Next to the dating chapter, the chapter that deals with the concept of purity has got to be my favorite. I still have bad memories of seeing rants and raves on Tumblr about the concept of purity, smashing of patriarchies, slut-shaming…you know, the usual Tumblr stuff. I want to share this book with those people in particular because purity is a very, very sad misconception. I might start calling the ring I wear on my left ring finger a chastity ring as opposed to a purity ring now.

Overall, I highly recommend this book for people who want a different perspective about relationships. I also recommend this book for people who have misconceptions on purity and abstinence because chastity is very, very different. Bust most of all, I recommend this book for us single ladies. Whether we are single by choice or by circumstances or because we’re all socially awkward, we need to at least appreciate that being single is a blessing and this book will show you why.

Summer Reading

You know a tradition from school I really miss? Summer Reading. Not the part where I was required to write book reports, but just the idea of getting to read books over the summer. This summer, I signed up for my library’s adult summer reading program. I’m also doing a reading challenge on Goodreads.

Aside from one re-read (Eat, Pray, Love), all of the books I read this year were new ones. The list I have is a mix of Catholic nonfiction, mystery novels, and young adult novels. And right now, I’m reading poetry. I’m starting with the poems and short stories of Edgar Allan Poe and will start reading Emily Dickinson next month. I’m planning on checking out a lot more poetry from my library soon.

One particular author that I love so far is Richard Castle, author of the Nikki Heat series. I finished Frozen Heat and I just couldn’t put it down. I had one of those nights that I decided to stay up just to finish a book. When was the last time that happened to me? Next to never. Now I can’t wait for the release of the next Nikki Heat book. At the very least it will feed my Castle hunger until it returns this September.

One thing you can say about books: they don’t have hiatuses or commercial breaks. And reading these new books reminded me that there was a lot more out there than just the next big post-apocalyptic YA sci-fi series. (They’re all starting to look the same to me, no offense.)  I’m hoping to read Rainbow Rowell’s books soon, but right now, I’m waiting on my e-book copy of The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennetwhich comes out this month.

I started out this year with the resolution to read 12 new books. I think it’s safe to say that I’m definitely on my way.

So what are you reading this summer?

Lent Day 2: The Virtue of Humility

Fr. Robert Barron’s Lent Reflection for today reflects on the virtue of humility. There’s a quote from Oscar Wilde that I love:

Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.

Now the best way to NOT be humble is to brag about how humble you are AKA Humblebragging. So how exactly can we practice the virtue of humility?

Read about saints who were the embodiment of humility or the writings of saints who emphasized humilty. Think Mother Teresa, St. Theresa of Avila, St. Paul, St. Augustine.

One of my friends recommended Josemaria Escriva’s “The Way” as something to read for Lent.

As for me…

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This book is one of my favorites. This has been with me since high school, back when I was seriously lost. Although at the time, the book was way beyond the reading level of a teenage girl, there were a lot of passages that helped me put things in perspective. As an adult, this book still holds up, only now I’m reading it with a different mindset. Back when I was 16, I read the book to find words of comfort. Now I read this book as my Lenten reading.

Song for today: The Litany of Humility by Danielle Rose

Simplicity Project Progress Report And Coming Attractions

Happy Chinese New Year!

In honor of the end of the month and the start of the Chinese New Year, I’m gonna give a progress report on my Simplicity Project.

As I’ve stated before, I’ve been taking photos every day as part of my personal 365grateful project.

Here are what I consider the best photos that I took this month.

And as far as novel writing is concerned, I finally found a website where I could submit my work to have it critiqued by others in the industry. It’s called “Scribophile” and the way the website works is that once you join, you critique works from other writers in order to gain enough karma points to post your own work. Give to get.

TRIGGER WARNING ABOUT ANXIETY AHEAD. IF YOU HAVE AN ANXIETY DISORDER OF ANY SORT, PROCEED WITH CAUTION OR SKIP AHEAD.

While it was easy for me to look over the works of others and give a critique, I wasn’t quite as ready when I received my first in-depth critique. I was super-close to having an anxiety attack. Why? Because the last time I put my work out there for others to criticize, I actually had an anxiety attack and nobody was there to help me. In fact, the leader of the writing class was so unsympathetic that she told me to drop the class or else she would kick me out. I left the class crying and felt scared of her whenever we were in the same room. But thankfully, now I can be in the same room as her without wanting to head for the hills.

THIS HAS CONCLUDED THE TRIGGER WARNING

This time, I decided to take my time reading the in-depth critiques. I made a cup of chamomile, which always calms me down and kept telling myself that I needed the feedback. I took notes on what I thought I should change and ignored what I felt was right for the story. And after reading the first in-depth critique, I took a break and felt relieved. Reading the second in-depth critique was a lot easier now that I knew what to expect. I know it sounds really amateur of me to worry so much, but this was the first time I really had my work critiqued in-depth in years. So overall, I’m proud of myself for overcoming my fears and doubts towards receiving critiques from other people.

I also read one book this month and am planning to read 11 more new books in 2014. Books on my list include Strange Gods by Elizabeth Scalia and The Kick-Ass Writer: 1001 Ways to Write Great Fiction, Get Published, & Earn Your Audience. I’ve also subscribed to daily quotes from The Society of the Little Flower, a group devoted to St. Therese of Liseux, one of my patron saints for 2014. And I’ll tell you right now, St. Therese is awesome. The quotes I’ve read have given me a lot of comfort and she recently answered a prayer of mine after I prayed a novena dedicated to her.

Next month on my blog, I will be writing a series of themed posts. Every Tuesday in February will be titled “True Love Tuesday” in which I ramble about my favorite couples from television. Oh yes. We’re gonna delve into the wonderful world of shipping. You have been warned. Every Friday in February, on the other hand, will get a little more philosophical with C.S. Lewis’s The Four Loves. Entitled “Four Loves Friday,” I will be writing a series of posts focusing on one of the four loves that C.S. Lewis goes in-depth about. I’ll also be looking more into St. Paul Miki, who is another patron saint for 2014, by getting to know more about Jesuit spirituality.

I’ll end this blog with a quote from my simplicity-themed planner. (Yes, I found one at Barnes & Noble for half-off. Total score!)

Happiness is where we find it, but rarely where we seek it- J. Petit Senn, French-Swiss poet.

 

Dear Journal

As I’ve stated a week ago, I’m blogging in pursuit of getting my novel published. And I’ve been writing with the intent of getting published for a while. But before I started blogging and novel writing, I was writing my thoughts down in journals. It all started with one of those tiny Lisa Frank notebooks that I had in first grade. I now use composition notebooks because they remind me of one of my favorite children’s book series: Amelia’s Notebooks by Marissa Moss

There are many ways to keep a journal such as a diet journal, a budget journal to keep track of spending, and stuff like that. Right now, I’m keeping a regular journal along with a gratitude journal, a goals journal, and this blog.

Why so many journals? I tend to compartmentalize things. My regular journal is where I can be honest with myself. My gratitude journal helps me to remember the little things I appreciate about everyday life, my goals journal is to help me keep track of the big picture (while my planner takes care of the details), and this blog is sort of a progress report about everything overall.

So why do I call it a journal and not a diary? Blame it on the 90s, specifically this guy:

 

So yeah. My biggest influences for journal writing were from an obscure children’s book series and a 90s cartoon. Not exactly transcendental or high brow, but I’m a millenial.

Here’s a secret about me: I love reading famous diaries. Anne Frank, The Diary of St. Faustina, and the journals of Thomas Merton are all wonderful reads. In a way, diaries give me an insight to a person in a different way than an autobiography. Autobiographies have a way of glossing over things. Don’t get me wrong. I love autobiographies. But journals and diaries are a lot more immediate. Just like a video blog that’s done spur-of-the-moment, a diary or journal captures the thoughts of the moment. There’s no way to gloss things over when emotions are spilling over.

There is sort of a downside to the emotional honesty, though. In a lot of my journals, there are rivers of denial. It’s clear now that I wasn’t thinking clearly during those times and that I wanted to convince myself that things were going to turn out a certain way. I guess I thought that if I wrote it down in my journal, I convinced myself that I could keep things at a distance. Now I realize that complete honesty is required when it comes to journal writing.

There’s just one thing: if you do decide to keep a journal, I don’t recommend sharing your journal unless it’s done to keep yourself accountable for something. And for goodness’ sake, don’t burn your journals, no matter how lame they are! Keep them in storage, send them to the other side of the world, but for God’s sake, don’t burn them! Someday, there will come a time when you will look back on what you wrote and find that you’ve become a totally different person, a sense of closure from the bad things, and laugh at the stupid things.

So what do you think? Do you keep a journal? What are some famous diaries that you’ve read? Any recommendations?