Monday, June 30, 2014

The Bible Project: Week 25 (Job)

Let's talk (very quickly and briefly) about Job (because I am super busy and tired).

(Also, I'm sorry this post is late.)

Job is about the ultimate test. It's sort of like the Isaac story, where God tested Abraham to see if Abraham would trust in God so much that Abraham would kill his only son Isaac as a sacrifice to the Lord. In Job, God tests our title character to see if even in suffering he is still true to Him.

It's sort of like how you tell a true friend from a false one - the true one will stay with you through bad times. So even through his suffering, Job still stuck with God. And that proved to God that Job was a true friend of His.

There were a lot of speeches by Job and his not-friends, arguing about whether he should abandon God or not, and whether God had abandoned him or not. (I may have skimmed them rather quickly.) Actually, most of the story-story made up about one fifth of the text. It was an interesting set up - in the Bible, we don't usually see constant dialogue with little or no narration. In Job, we do.

That's fin for today. But there will be lots more exciting stuff being posted later this week! (If I actually find some time to write it. GUH.)

~Sophia (the Exhausted One)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Le Morte D'Arthur

Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur is possibly one of the most well known works of Arthurian Lit. It was the work that my Arthurian Lit class chose to end the semester with. (My final is on Saturday - wish me luck!) And here is my final essay for the course on the dissolution of the fellowship of the Round Table. Page numbers are from the Winchester Manuscript published by Oxford World Classics.

From the moment that the Knights of the Round Table set out on the quest for the Sangreal, King Arthur knew that the dissolution of the order was at hand. “I am sure,” he says, “At this quest of the Sangrail shall all ye of the Table round depart, and never shall I see you again whole together” (p. 316). This is really the beginning of the end, and from this point there are numerous causes that can be seen that bring about the end of the fellowship.
                The quest for the Holy Grail becomes the epitome of all the adventures that the Knights have had so far. The recluse’s chastisement and warning to Lancelot is a foreshadowing of problems to come – “Now have I warned thee of thy vainglory and of thy pride, that thou hast many times erred against thy Maker. Beware of everlasting pain…” (p. 350). Lancelot’s faults are emphasized when he is not permitted to see the Sangreal. Futhermore, when Galahad heals the Maimed King, he fulfills the prophesy from the time of Joseph of Arimathea. Once that has been completed, the Knights of the Round Table have not much left to aspire to or to fight for. Without a unifying purpose, it is only a question of time before the fellowship falls apart.
                 The downfall is jointly caused by Lancelot’s and Guinevere’s affair, and Mordred’s revelation of that affair.  Mordred, a recreant knight, only does this this because of his own selfish motives, and desire to obtain the throne. Ironically, despite his malevolent motivations, he is still exposing sin and what could potentially be considered Lancelot’s treason. Lancelot, on the other hand, is conflicted in his struggle to remain true to the laws of chivalry and courtly love. Chivalry demands that he remain loyal to his king, but courtly love insists that he protect and defend his lady – who just happens to be the king’s wife.
Lancelot prepares to fight his King for his Lady.
                Gawain, though not originally involved, becomes a major player in the downfall of the fellowship. When he first hears of Mordred’s and Agravain’s plan, he foresees that “the noble fellowship of the Round Table shall be disparbled” (p. 469). He persists in supporting Lancelot and the queen, until Lancelot accidentally kills Gareth, Gawain’s brother. Then, his wrath is so great that he convinces King Arthur to launch into full-out battle against Lancelot. Arthur, like Lancelot, is torn between his love for Lancelot and for Gawain.
                Another, less physical cause of the downfall of the fellowship of the Round Table is Fortune. Arthur has a dream about the Wheel of Fortune, where he, attached to the wheel, rises up to the top, and then is spun back down into the “hideous black water” of bad fortune (p. 510). By bad luck, a serpent stings a soldier who unthinkingly pulls out a sword to kill it, breaking the peace between Arthur and Mordred. And Lancelot laments what everyone is thinking when he says, “Alas, who may trust this world?” (p. 521).

                There are numerous causes that brought about the dissolution of the Knights of the Round Table, and all are equally to blame – Lancelot’s affair with Guinevere, Mordred’s involvement, Gawain’s blind wrath, and the maneuverings of Lady Fortune and her Wheel. There is also fault within the systems of chivalry and courtly love, which caused Lancelot’s turmoil and played a part in the fellowship’s downfall. Malory illustrates that the ultimate failings were these systems, as well as the lack of honor at the core of mankind – shown in Mordred and in the nobles who followed him because they were so tired of war. Was there any one thing that could have been done to prevent the dissolution? I don’t think so. Too many different forces contributed in too many ways that the fall of Arthur and his knights was inevitable.

The death of Arthur and Mordred

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Allegiant by Veronica Roth // And a PSA Regarding Spoilers

First, a public service announcement:
PLEASE PUT SPOILER WARNINGS WHEN YOU ARE SPOILING BOOKS ON THE INTERNET. The big twist in Allegiant was SPOILED for me because someone DIDN'T PUT A WARNING before writing about it. Granted, it was in a comment, but there was no disclaimer in the post like: "You can write spoilers in the comments." Thus, I glanced at the comments and THERE IT WAS STARING AT ME. Not even a tiny spoiler alert. NOTHING. Not cool, Miss Commenter, not cool. SO for the good of everyone involved, please PLEASE REMEMBER TO PUT SPOILER WARNINGS especially when they involve huge twists like the one in Allegiant. Or I will find you and find out which book you are reading next and tell you EVERYTHING about it. HA.

Okay, enough of that. But if you've read Allegiant, you'll understand my frustration. And spoilers are bad no matter what.

On to the book.

I don't care what people say about this book, or all those hashtags like #AllegiantBrokeMe and whatnot - Allegiant is, probably, my favorite book of the three in the series, or at least in a tie with Divergent.

After finishing this book, my respect for Veronica Roth as a writer and as a person increased by a lot. There are multiple reasons why but the main ones are these: risk taking and strong morals.

A kind of twist like the one in Allegiant only comes up every so often in this kind of literature. It is the most unexpected  thing she could have done, and because of that I highly commend her for taking that king of leap.

On the other hand, it is not that unexpected. (Highlight for spoilers.)
Given Tris's character, and what we've seen of her, self-sacrifice is a huge part of who she is. Tobias keeps trying to protect her from that part of herself, and only when he realizes that he doesn't need to protect her and can let her go, does she make the greatest sacrifice. IT MAKES TOTAL SENSE.

Also, I love that Veronica Roth's morals come out. My favorite part is when Tris and Tobias figure out that love is a choice. You can fall in love, but to stay in love requires you to make that decision and that effort. This is something I have believed for my whole life, and to see it reflected in a book makes me love that book so much more.

Though I loved this book, there were some parts that weren't the greatest.
Firstly, the alternating POV between Tris and Tobias. It's cool to hear the story from Tobias's POV, but for me, I couldn't find a huge difference between their narrative styles. Tobias's was maybe a little more terse and less descriptive and lyrical, but it was hard to identify who was speaking based on style alone.
(Highlight for more spoilers.)
Of course, there was no other way that Roth could have done it, given Tris's death. BUT I'm not even sure if she was planning to kill Tris from the beginning, because if she was, I would have thought that she would have done the dual POV for all three books. It would have been more consistent that way, and given away even less about the twist.

Secondly, Tris and Tobias KISSED A LOT. It was a little bit too much. Every time they met (except when they weren't on the best of terms), they would kiss passionately. The rest of their relationship was realistic and raw. But the KISSING - it was overdone.
But that's not that big of a deal and can be overlooked.

Overall, I really liked Allegiant. I know that there is another book coming out called Four, with short stories about Tobias's life before Tris, and I'm not sure if I'm going to read it. I may read it some time in the future, we shall see. Allegiant had a fine sense of completion, and is a fine place to stop for now.

Have you read Allegiant? What did you think? Feel free to put spoilers in the comments but make sure to WARN so nobody else gets spoiled! :)


Monday, June 23, 2014

Library Trip!

I  went to the library yesterday and got a pile of books:

Displaying photo 2.JPG

I've got:

Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

How exciting! I would have gotten more, but I had no bag and I couldn't physically carry more than seven books. Also, on topic with The Broke and the Bookish's post a few days ago on library summer reading programs: I picked up the Teen/Adult summer reading brochure at the library! After I read eight books, I'll get a free book bag - which I clearly need, as evidenced above.

I bring your attention to the fact that more than half of the books I got are YA. This is clear evidence of my expanding reading comfort zone. I literally have not stepped into the YA section of my library in YEARS - until yesterday. Thanks to blogging and reading other blogs, I have gotten more comfortable expanding into non-classics. The reason why I read classics is because I don't want to waste time on books that aren't well-written. There are SO MANY bad YA, fantasy, sci-fi, and contemporary books out there - I just didn't want to try them randomly. But with book blogging, I am able to read multiple reviews of books, and decide if they are for me. So yippee more YA! :-)

(And also, the YA section of my library is very nice and has a variety of seating options to choose from. I'm going to have to spend more time there. Actually, they redid the whole library, and it's way nicer, so I'm going to have to spend more time at the library in general!)

What books did you get recently? Which of the books that I got do you recommend I read first?


Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Bible Project: Week 24 (1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees)

(It's actually week 25 - I'm a bit behind...)
Also, both books of Maccabees are only in the Catholic Bible and not in Protestant versions. If you want to read them, here they are.

1 Maccabees is a lot about wars and treaties (wars are old, but treaties are something we haven't heard of a lot so far). There are a lot of copies of treaty documents. And the lesson learned is: Don't trust people named Demetrius. They don't stick to their promises, even if they are written in a treaty. (There are two King Demetrii in 1 Macc, father and son.)
The Romans, on the other hand, are pretty awesome allies.

My favorite quote from 1 Maccabees is the following:

"They made the elephants drunk on grape and mulberry wine to provoke them to fight." (1 Macc 6:34)

Now there are some fine military tactics!

I'm going to admit that 2 Maccabees made me a bit bored, and I may have had trouble focusing while reading. Just maybe.

It's less focused on the treaties than 1 Maccabees, and a bit more focused on how God saves his people. There's also one of the earliest models of martyrdom (2 Macc 7), and a huge focus on gruesome deeds. Not very pretty.

Sorry, not much today. The Wisdom books are next, so I'm hoping those are a bit more interesting.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Liebster Award Number Two!

Liebster Award

Here we go again! I am utterly honored to have received the Liebster Award yet again, this time from Skylar Finn at Life of a Random

Here are the rules, which I will conveniently copy from her website:
Here we go with 11 facts about me (they will be slightly more random than last time, I think):
1. My sister is taller than I am even though she is two and a half years younger.

2. I have $30-ish dollars in gift cards for Barnes and Noble that I need to spend. (Shopping spree coming up!)

3. Having only recently expanded from Classics into more contemporary literature (aka - my reading options have opened up tremendously), I am slowly becoming aware of the depressing fact that I will never read all the books that I want to.

4. I have a stuffed animal E.Coli, and my sister has a stuffed animal neuron. (They are from Giant Microbes, if you were wondering what the heck I'm talking about.)

5. I am doing July Camp NaNo!

6. The ceiling in my bedroom is painted like a mildly cloudy blue sky (my dad and his twin sister did it when I was born). When some friends came over when I was little, their dad said, "Look! The ceiling is like the Hogwarts' ceiling!" I finally understood what he was talking about when I read Harry Potter many years later. And my ceiling's better than at Hogwarts because in my room it's always sunny.

7. Following up on the theme of that last one: I have never seen any of the Harry Potter movies.

8. I like Thai food. You probably know that already from the left side bar. But I really do like it.

9. I also like my mother's chocolate cake. It is superb.

10. I like drinking my mother's iced mint tea on a day like today where our bit of the world is one big oven.

11. I am reading Allegiant right now and am loving recognizing the references to Chicago. And I really want to climb the canopy thing in Millennium Park now - but I'd probably get yelled at by some security person.

Here are Skylar's questions:

1. How did you come up with your blog's name?
So "Ravens and Writing Desks" is from Alice in Wonderland, from the question "How is a raven like a writing desk?" You can read more about it in the About page of this blog.

2. Given the choice between having blue hair forever or a dragon tattoo on your arm forever (duh), which would you choose?
Probably the tattoo. It can be hidden with sleeves, and dragons are cool.
Hair should be a changeable thing. I don't like a single permanent hairstyle.

3. Do you like reading book blogs or watching booktuber videos better?
I'm going to go with book blogs, because I don't watch that many booktuber videos. I feel like people can occasionally be awkward and rambly on videos, so I'd rather spare them the awkwardness and let them think things through in writing. (Of course, not all people are like that. But I am, sorta. So I empathize with those who are.)

4. Do you have a bucket list?
Casually. It's in my head and changes constantly, but the one think that hasn't changed is "Publish a book."

5. I couldn't live without my computer... or books, obviously. BUT, excluding your computer, books, and cellphone/phone (you know, the essentials), what is one thing you couldn't live without?
(I'm guessing things like family don't count.)
I'm going to go with my piano, because music is a super important part of me.
But writing utensils and paper are up there too.

6.What is your least favorite food?
Papaya and any vegetable in the squash family, excluding cucumbers.

7. Do you make up new endings in your head for books or movies that stunk because they were so sad?
No. The writer wanted the tragedy (or whatever sadness) to end the book, and usually I can find their reason. The book wouldn't be the same without it. (I'll have an Allegiant review coming up next week talking about this.)

8. What does your handwriting look like? 
My handwriting depends heavily on my mood.

I try to use the nice cursive as much as I can, but it generally evolves into the sloppy fast cursive or this hybrid of cursive and print:

Then there's my Ukrainian handwriting, which also depends on my mood. (The Ukrainian alphabet is Cyrillic.)

You don't want to see my Ukrainian print. It is a MESS.

9. What do you want to accomplish in five years?
Well, a bachelor's degree would be nice. And a published book.

10. Hardcover or paperback?
I have nothing against paperback, but I do like hardcovers a teeny bit better.

11. What is your favorite sound?
Awesome question! (And a tough one, too.)
I really like orchestral sounds, especially strings. As for non-musical... I sort of like the whoosh of tall grass in a field.

My Questions:
1. What color describes you and why?
2. What is your favorite writing utensil?
3. Do you take notes when you read?
4. What color are your socks right now?
5. Would you rather go zip lining or scuba diving?
6. What's your opinion on owls?
7. Do you wrap presents in wrapping paper or in gift bags with tissue?
8. What is your favorite reading spot?
9. What does your handwriting look like? 
10. Would you rather be able to read any books you liked - but no rereads - or only read the works of one author of your choice? If you pick the latter - which author?
11. Staples or paperclips? Or folded-over corners?

My Nominations:
So, I'm supposed to nominate nine blogs with less than 500 followers. But since my last Liebster, I haven't added that many new blogs to my reading list, and I don't want to re-nominate people. So this isn't nine, but oh well.
Here we go:
Cleopatra @ Classical Carousel (getting her back for that first Liebster!)
Robyn @ Spiral Bound
Lois @ You, Me, and a Cup of Tea
Jean @ Howling Frog Books
YOU if you want it! I'm making this award free to take, so if you like my random questions and want to answer them - go ahead and grab the Liebster! [And if you don't have a blog, you can still answer the questions in the comments.]


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Summer TBR

As always, hosted at The Broke and the Bookish
So, the topic today is Top Ten Books on my Summer TBR list. I don't know how this is very different from two weeks ago: Top Ten Books in my Beach Bag. So this list will just be added to that one, and trust me, I have a TON of books I plan to read this summer!

1. The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak

2. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

3. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

4. Johnathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. So I just recently was glancing through my TBR and I saw this title. I don't remember putting it on there, and I don't remember who recommended it (it was probably Samantha, though... a good bunch of my TBR are her recs!). Hm.....

5. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. Because I have just got to get onto the Maggie Steifvater train with everyone! I already am in love with her and I've only read some of her tumblr posts.... :-P

6. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. See #5. :-)

7. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather. Classics Club!

8. The Inimitable Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse.  Yes, I know I have Very Good, Jeeves! and that the Jeeves stories can be read in any order, but I read Wodehouse's prologue to VGJ, and he made such a convincing case for reading the first two.... and I'm such a stickler for doing things in proper order. Especially when the author requests. So VGJ will have to wait until I read The Inimitable Jeeves and Carry On, Jeeves!

9. 1984 by George Orwell. Another Classics Club book.

10. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. A reread from the Classics Club.

And those ten are added to my last ten (the beach bag ones). I've got myself a pile of summer reading to do!
What are you looking forward to reading this summer?


Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Bible Project: Week 23 (Judith, Esther)

Oh no, I'm a week behind again. :-( I'll catch up at some point, I guess...

Judith is a pretty badass character. The whole book of Judith* is about how she saved the Israelites basically singlehandedly (well, there was her handmaid too, but she just carried supplies).Judith is gorgeous, clever, level-headed, and not afraid of blood. Not only does she go weaponless with her handmaiden to the enemy camp, but she also makes up a darned good story about why she's there, doesn't flinch one bit through the whole thing, and, after three days of ingratiating herself into the enemy's favors, cuts off the enemy chieftains head. Boom. Done. Israel is free.I love Judith. :-)

~Sophia____________________________________________*I believe that Judith is like Tobit in that it is only in the Catholic Bible, and not Protestant ones. Again, a pity, because it's a fantastic story, and there are so many famous paintings such as this Caravaggio below that show Judith with Holofernes' head. And if you don't know the story, you have no clue what's going on. If you don't have a Catholic Bible, you can read Judith here. It's pretty short.

I think this week's theme is strong women! :-)
Esther is another female savior of the Israelites. Esther is a very important book in Jewish religion, and is the source of the holiday Purim. Almost everyone knows the story of Esther - how she braved court rules and went to see her royal husband without his permission, and how she tricked Haman into thinking he had won royal favor, and then denounced him in front of the king. (Admit it, we all inwardly cheer at that point - Haman is such a dirty, dirty villain.)

But what I want to mention is the ultimate punishment for Haman. He got hung on the gibbet he had prepared for Mordecai, and all his ten sons were also hung. They had done nothing - why did they have to suffer?
Two things that we need to remember before jumping to the conclusion that perhaps Esther overdid the idea of revenge just a bit:
 1. Jesus hadn't come to preach forgiveness yet.
2.The book of Esther, like those of Judith and Tobit, was probably not a historical work. It was most likely based loosely on a historical event, and it's prime motive was to teach faith and loyalty to God. Because of this, certain things get taken to extremes sometimes, to prove a point: here, the point is Injustice (aka Haman) and the enemies of Israel will fall before the justice of the Lord. 

That's all I have for today!
Hopefully I'll catch up soon.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell // Do You Have Gumption?

I finished Gone With the Wind yesterday, and goodness, that is some book! I know it was a reread, but I got ever so much more out of it than I did at 11.

In 1936, Margaret Mitchell was asked what her novel was about. This is her response:
"If the novel has a theme, it is that of survival. What makes some people come through catastrophes and others, apparently just as able, strong, and brave, go under? It happens in every upheaval. Some people survive; other don't. What qualities are in those who fight their way through triumphantly that are lacking in those that go under? I only know that survivors used to call that quality 'gumption.' So I wrote about people who had gumption and people who didn't."
The split between those with gumption and those without is pretty clear in the novel. Scarlett has gumption, that's for certain, and so does Rhett. Ashley doesn't, and neither does Mr. O'Hara, despite all his bombast. And then we come to Melanie. Does Melanie have gumption? You wouldn't think so, in the beginning. But as we progress further into the novel, we, along with Scarlet, discover things about Melanie that we would never have expected. She has her own kind of hidden, gentle gumption, almost more powerful than Scarlett's because it isn't obvious at first.

Scarlett has gumption and she knows it. She knows that it has helped her get where she is, and she is proud of it.
Melanie has no clue of her own strength and does not realize how many people depend on her.

I think that's the ultimate contrast in the book - Scarlett vs. Melanie, selfishness vs. selflessness, pride vs. humility. Everything Scarlett does is for herself and to further her own goals - everything Melanie does is for others.

I'm not at all like Scarlett - I can't just GO DO THINGS, and suddenly make friends with my enemies because that'll help me get where I want to be. I'd like to think that I'm rather like Melanie, but part of me is nervous that I'm actually more similar to Ashley. I haven't been tested yet.

If my world was completely torn apart, and nothing was as it used to be - what would I do? If nearly everyone I loved was gone, and I couldn't depend on anyone except myself, would I break down like Mr. O'Hara? Would I push it to the back of my mind to think about tomorrow and move ahead like Scarlett? Would I sit there wishing for the good old days to come back like Ashley? I'd like to think that I'd just go along calmly and loyally like Melanie, but a small part of me thinks that I might not be strong enough. I can see myself turning into the nostalgic, scared Ashley, who can't deal in a new, harsh world.

It sort of scares me. I'm living in a sort of perfect bubble right now, really, and I really don't want to have it popped. My grandmother and great grandmother had their bubbles popped, when World War II came to their small town in Ukraine. My great-grandma had Scarlett-like gumption, with a bit more selflessness. My grandma is very much like Melanie, to this day.Their gumption is what brought them here and what helped them survive. Would I have been able to do the same?

This post is turning into more of a self-reflection than a book commentary. But I suppose that's a good sign - excellent books make you reflect on your own soul. And Gone With the Wind is certainly an excellent book.

Have you read Gone With the Wind? What do you think of it? And how do you think you would fare if the-world-as-you-know-it crumbled around you?


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Beautiful People #1: Zaneta

Welcome to my first ever Beautiful People post! Beautiful People is a monthly feature for writers hosted at both the Notebooks Sisters and Further Up and Further In. Its goal is to help us get to know our own characters better. You can read more about it at either of those wonderful blogs.

My first character is my main character from my July Camp NaNoWriMo. Clearly this yet-untitled novel is going to be set in Venice, but other than setting I really have very little to go off of as yet. So some of my answers may be vague, and I may feature Zaneta in another Beautiful People post once I figure out a bit more about her and actually give her a plot.
But for now, here goes!

1) What is their full name and is there a story behind why they got it?

Her name is Zaneta Soranzo. She is named after her paternal grandmother, Giovanna Soranzo, but everyone just calls her Zaneta. (Giovanna -> Gianeta -> Zaneta)
Also, the Soranzi are known through Venice as superior maskmakers. (Not really. Just for the story.)

(Why did I choose these names for her? No particular reason. I googled Venetian names and found some awesome databases, and then put them together because I liked how they sounded.)

2) How old are they, and when were they born?

Zaneta is somewhere between 17 and 20, and she was born sometime in the mid 18th century.
But most importantly, she was born during Carnevale, the day of the Doge's Grand Ball.

3) Describe their physical appearance. (Bonus questions: 1. What is their race/nationality/ethnicity? 2. Do you have a picture of them? If so, include it!)

Willowy stature and moderately tall, with long, thick, wavy brown hair, and large green eyes. A delicate nose and high cheekbones. A small, cherry mouth, with a fantastically charming smile. Long dexterous fingers (occasionally with dirty nails). Can do a lot of intricate handiwork, but is rather clumsy otherwise.
Bonus question 1. Why, Venetian, of course, and proud of it! The Soranzi family goes a long way back.
Bonus question 2. Sorry, no picture yet.

4) Describe your character's personality first in one word, and then elaborate with a few sentences.

(This one was hard.)
Whimsical. That word has a certain innocent and pure quality, and Zaneta definitely is both to a certain extent, but there's also a hint of secrets and mystery. Zaneta loves discovering mysteries and also has some of her own.

5) What theme song(s) fit their personality and story arc?

(BUT DON'T THINK ABOUT THE TITLE. Ignore the title of the piece. Or the random weird picture of the redhead and the naked slenderman. Click play and close your eyes and just listen to the music. That is Zaneta, and her story. (Especially the beginning.))

6) Which one of the seven deadly sins describes your character?


7) If they were an element (fire, water, earth, air), which one would they be?


8) What is their favorite word?

Mask. Maskmaking is in her blood.

9) Who's one person they really miss? (It could be someone who's passed away, or someone they're not close to anymore, or someone who's moved away.)

Her father, Bartolomeo Soranzo. He died a few years ago, and she took over his maskmaking business.

10) What sights, sounds, and smells remind them of that person?

His maskmaking tools that she inherited, his final unfinished mask hanging on the wall.

Well, that was fun! If you're a writer, consider doing one of your own.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books This Year

Hosted by the lovely people at The Broke and the Bookish.
Today's topic is the top ten books I've read so far this year!

1. Persuasion by Jane Austen. The first book of the new year (though it was a reread).

2. Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett. This was my first never-before-read book I read in the new year, and it was a superb way to begin! (Fun fact: I'm going to see a theatrical adaptation of it soon!)

3. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. This book is just made of pure magic.

4. The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G.Wells. So much content in such a small book!

5. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. A fine introduction into Science Fiction for me. (Though this isn't entirely an introduction - I've read C.S. Lewis's Space Trilogy.)

6. Le Morte D'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory. What a fantastic way to finish out an excellent course on Arthurian Literature! (Post on this one coming soon.)

7. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I'm not quite done with this book, but it just had to go on this list! (Review also coming soon.)

I've only got seven today, which is the result of a very busy semester and very little reading time. Hopefully this summer will give me some more free time to work on that TBR!

Monday, June 9, 2014

I'm Hoooomme!

Yes yes, I know I missed the Bible Project post, but I've been getting things in order since my return. I'm back in the Windy City as of Wednesday afternoon, and goodness, it's nice to be home. But it was a truly fantastic trip, so I thought I'd share some things with you - especially bookish things. :-)

Rome is perfect for wandering - there are so many little side streets to get lost in. Even if you go to the same piazza four times, there are thousands of ways to get home. We thought we could get there without a map the third time. We were very, very wrong. 

One thing we found on one of our rambles was Geppetto's puppet shop! Here is a picture of Geppetto himself at work on a new Pinnochio. (He had a wooden nametag pin that actually said "Geppetto.") 

Also, here's a cool book fountain by our apartment. 

Over the course of our first bunch of days in Rome, we saw: the Pope, the Coliseum (and a cool little exhibit on ancient libraries), the Pantheon, Trevi fountain, Victor Emmanuele monument, the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, and St. Peter's. All the good Roman stuff. 

Then we went on to Venice. 

And my heart is mine no longer. Venice, that glorious city of dreams, has captured it forever. 

I've got to get back there. During Carnevale, if possible. :)
But most importantly, I've just GOT to write a story about Venice. It is THE ULTIMATE SETTING. It is made of pure MAGIC. 
Anyway, there were lots of mask shops (I bought a mask - how could I resist the charming enchantment?), but there was also this cool little bookbinding shop where the guy sold these tiny blank books. (That's my finger for perspective.) Aren't they adorable?

All of Venice is such a storybook village - my sister said it reminded her of Bree. (Except with some canals thrown in, of course.)

Ugh we only had three and a half days there. It was NOT ENOUGH.

Back in Rome, we saw the Vatican Museum, which is spectacular. And then we dashed off to Florence. 
The stalls in the bathrooms in the Florentine train station have become covered in tons and tons of scribblings over the years, in many different languages, but mostly English. There is one that I think deserves particular mention, and was the work of three different "artists". It looked something like this (if the first two are in sharpie and the last one is scratched in):

I am Satan
I am Jesus Christ
And I'm Javert

I laughed so hard at that. (Not out loud. I'm in a public restroom. That would be weird.)

We finished off the trip back in Rome, and spent our final days watching street performers on the piazza by our house. If you care to see a collection of a bunch of street performers that we saw around Italy, here's a video I recently put together:

So there you have it!

Some miscellany:

-The Bible Project from last Sunday will be combined with next week's post. Oh well.

-Ravens and Writing Desks now has both a FACEBOOK and a TWITTER. Go follow me! :-)

-Venice has so inspired me that I will be doing Camp NaNoWriMo this July, with my novel set in that glorious city. I don't have a plot yet, but that will come in time. Is anyone else doing July's NaNo? If so, I'd love to be in a cabin with you! Let me know your username so I can request you - mine is Philomena.

-Does anyone have any good books to recommend that are set in Venice? I'm clearly going through Venice withdrawal. 


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Moby Dick by Herman Melville // Non-fiction Disguised as Fiction

Most of the classics, I enjoy. A good bunch, I tolerate. And there are only a few that I absolutely dislike and will never read again in my entire life.

One of the latter is Moby Dick, which I read for AP Lit a few years back. 

It starts out all fine and dandy. "Call me Ishmael." Interesting characters, interesting places, interesting situations. An inn where the only two options on the menu are two types of chowder, which only come in Size Large? That's pretty funny. An awesome fellow named Queequeg with tattoos all over him? Neat character. And of course, Captain Ahab - who can disregard the fellow with the most famous motivation in all of literature? Spectacular.

But then, somehow, it all stops. And becomes, not a story of a man with a burning passion to revenge himself on the villainous white whale, but a nonfiction book on the methods and history of whaling. Yes, the story does pick up again somewhere near the end, and ends magnificently, but most people would have quit by then. (I have a rare and sometimes self-torturing persistence when it comes to boring books.) Why does Melville do this? Why can't he just stick the whole story together and add the informative parts to an Appendix at the back of the book?

Well, one reason is that it's not very common for the Appendix to be twice the size of the book itself.

But seriously, isn't one of the rules of historic fiction, "Don't inundate your reader with information."? Your're supposed to weave it into the story. Make sure the reader isn't in the conundrum of not seeing the forest for all the trees. The forest is the story. The trees are the twenty chapters on the methods and history of whaling. What was Melville thinking?

I have a theory. My theory is that what Melville really wanted to do was write a nonfiction book on whaling. But, it wasn't such a hot topic then in the literature market. Publishers wouldn't take it! "Aha!" thought Herman, "I shall disguise it as a fiction novel, and maybe then I'll finally get a couple bucks out of the deal." So he slapped his original manuscript in the middle of a novella about a crazy captain and an albino whale, made some minor tweaks, and - lo and behold - it became a classic. Who knew that Captain Ahab would become one of the most well known characters in fiction? Though I did read somewhere that the book was rather ill-received during Melville's lifetime, so he didn't get any revenue out of it anyway. Though I'm sure he got lots of enjoyment from writing it!

Also, our narrator Ishmael disappears after a while. It's not exactly nice of him to do that - he made a commitment to be the narrator, and then cops out. And he was rather a good narrator.

Now that I think about it, I actually really do like Moby Dick - if only it weren't for the twenty-something chapters in the middle.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Books in My Beach Bag

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.
Today's topic is Books That Will Be In My Beach Bag this Summer! (Frankly, I'm not sure how different this is from June 17th's topic, Books on my Summer TBR list - unless today I'm supposed to list the kind of lighthearted books I'd read on a beach. If that's the case, then let me tell you: I don't read specific kinds of books in specific places. And if #2 (or #3) makes me cry while I'm sitting on the sand surrounded by all the people at a Chicago beach - who cares.)
Trust me, this was hard to narrow down to ten... :-) I've been waiting to read these books for months, and now that school's out, I'm going on a mission to the library!

1. Cinder by Marissa Meyer

2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - just in time for the movie!

3. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

4. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

5. Allegiant by Veronica Roth

6. All the Harry Potter Books!
(HBP gets featured because it's my favorite cover)
7. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

8. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell - it's my Classics Club Spin #6 book, so I've got to finish it by July 7th!

9. Dune by Frank Herbert - my sister is reading this and I  don't believe how jealous I am! Who knew that I could develop book jealousy?

10. The Once and Future King by T. H. White. For the Arthurian Literature Challenge, but also because for some reason, a couple people have strongly recommended it to me very recently. It's a sign! :-)

What are some books in your summer beach bag?