Hello, Inklings!

2019 was a good year for reading, and today I'm excited to share those reads with you. Feel free to share some of your notable reads of the year in the comments!

~
The Verdict: I'm a wee bit embarrassed with the ridiculous amount of Wodehouse and murder mysteries on this list. What can I say--they're quick and snappy reads perfect for busy seniors! Junior and senior year are definitely heavy on the textbook-reading and paper-writing, so it's nice to have some lighter books to enjoy.

Next Year: I'm hoping to read more nonfiction, particularly historical. I have difficulties finding well-written historical nonfiction so if you have any suggestions I'd love to hear them!
~

No single stars here.

★★

Kilmeny of the Orchard by L.M. Montgomery - This was Montgomery's earliest published standalone and just didn't measure up to her other books (it's hard to measure up to Anne). I found the characters flat and the ending rather anticlimactic.

Jack's Life by Douglas Gresham - I found this book in the adult biography section at our library, but felt that it was geared towards children. I appreciated the  overview of Lewis's life, but frankly found the writing terrible. A little disappointing as this was written by Lewis's stepson--perhaps I'll find the author's Lenten Lands more appealing? Nonetheless, I came away with a desire to get to know Lewis more. He led such an interesting life!

Crooked House by Agatha Christie - I always enjoy Christie's writing style, but I personally found this one to be especially disturbing. I still don't know how the protagonist went back to normal life after that ending??


★★★

Merry Hall by Beverley Nichols - A fun romp through the English countryside + gardening + snarky and cat-loving bachelor battling with his various neighbors. An interesting post-WWII perspective.

Whose Body by Dorothy Sayers - My first introduction to Whimsey.

Boys of Blur by N.D. Wilson - A quick and rather sad read with a lovable homeschooled character.

Curtain by Agatha Christie - Gripping, but not what I expected for Poirot's last case. The moral dilemma at the end is quite intriguing and I still don't know what I think of Poirot's solution.



★★★★

The False Prince, The Runaway King, The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielson - These were enjoyable, gripping reads with complex characters and plenty of plot twists. Highly recommend if you're looking for a new fantasy series. Also, a fourth book was just announced!

An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde - Wilde is witty and thought-provoking, and his plays are always enjoyable.

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones - This book was a fun read with lovable characters, but I think I love the Ghibli adaptation even more. (Gasp!) Sophie Hatter is such a refreshing female protagonist and you can't help loving Howl despite his flaws.

The Chinese Shawl by Patricia Wentworth - A friend of ours recommended Wentworth to me, and this was an enjoyable read--I couldn't put it down! I've been told that Wentworth rivals Christie, but I'd have to read more of her books before I make a judgement.

Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers - Lord Peter Whimsey is now on my list of favorite characters--no wonder, seeing as Sayers described him as a "mixture of Fred Astaire and Bertie Wooster." I'll definitely be reading more Sayers mysteries in the new year.

St. Thomas More of London by Elizabeth Ince - An easy but enjoyable read as preparation for a history paper I'm writing.


★★★★★

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis - It feels so good to revisit Narnia!

Skyward and Starsight by Brandon Sanderson - Check out my post on the first book here.

Fawkes and Romanov by Nadine Brandes - I'm new to the historical retelling genre, and really enjoyed these two books. The writing isn't stellar, but Brandes' storytelling skills are superb and I really enjoyed her diverse cast of characters. I love how these books inspired me to learn more about the time periods they take place in.

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh - This excellent book is definitely a re-read. Check out my post on it here.

Macbeth and Hamlet by William Shakespeare - I read the former for my summer program and the latter for literature class. Both are incredible! But I feel like I should read a comedy now...

Paradise Lost by John Milton - I read select books from this poem. It's a very interesting perspective and the writing is superb--but I won't pretend to have a great understanding of it just yet.

Paradiso by Dante Alighieri - The last book of The Divine Comedy and (I think) my favorite.

Persuasion by Jane Austen - I can't believe that I hadn't read this book until this year! I loved Anne's character and the ending is just so...well, squeal-worthy. :D

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte - I had mixed feelings about this book at times, but overall I really enjoyed it. I adore Victorian-era novels, and Charlotte Bronte poses some interesting questions about mercy, human dignity, and a woman's role in society.

Agatha Christie - The Seven Dials Mystery, Sleeping Murder, The Underdog & Other Stories 

As I have read nearly 30 of Christie's mysteries now, I'm starting to notice how her writing changed over the course of her career.

A Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux - Truly inspiring and changed my perspective on so many things. I highly recommend this one if you're looking for an encouraging spiritual read!

P.G. Wodehouse - Leave it to Psmith, Psmith, Journalist, Something Fresh, Bill the Conquerer, The Inimitable Jeeves, Very Good Jeeves, Indiscretions of Archie, Love Among the Chickens

Yes, one could say Wodehouse lacks plot originality. But with his sparkling prose and sharp wit (not to mention lovable characters), you might say I have a bit of a Wodehouse addiction.



Etc - Short Stories and Essays I Enjoyed This Year:

On Fairy Stories by J.R.R. Tolkien
A Good Man is Hard to Find  by Flannery O'Conner
Letter to Artists by St. John Paul II


What is your favorite (or least favorite) read of the year? Any recommendations? 

~ K A T H R Y N




















2019 Reading Wrap-Up

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

It's a busy month for the pro-life movement! The annual National March for Life will be held in Washington, D.C. on January 24th, 2020 and there will be numerous local marches held all over the United States. I'll be going to the March for Life for the second time this year, and I'm beyond excited!

However, many pro-choice advocates want to know what pro-lifers actually do when they aren't marching for the unborn. Valid question, but it's no secret that the pro-life movement knows how to put actions to its words. There are countless ways that you can contribute to the pro-life movement when you aren't marching--here are ten ideas!


1) Raise awareness through social media.

Social media is a great way to spread a pro-life message with a wide audience. Reposting pro-life infographics/news or sharing a short reflection on human dignity is a simple but effective way to get the casual scroller thinking. 

Remember to be purposeful and kind about what you post. If you receive angry or frustrated comments, try starting a respectful dialogue. 

2) Educate yourself.

It can be difficult to articulate your stance when faced with a difficult claim. Fortunately, there are several credible (and free!) resources you can use in order to optimally defend human dignity + respond to common pro-choice arguments. Know statistics that support the pro-life movement, because people love numbers. A calm, compassionate explanation is always better than yelling and name-calling.

If you encounter an argument you don't know how to respond to, be honest. Refer to someone better equipped to answer the question/claim you're stumped on and make a note to examine the question later. 

Resources:


3) Volunteer at your local crisis pregnancy center.

I recently got involved with my local pro-life woman's care center and it has been an amazing experience. Many woman considering abortion are scared and overwhelmed, being told that they need to kill their babies in order to be successful and live a fulfilling life. The pro-life movement is ready and willing to offer support and options to any woman experiencing a crisis pregnancy. Instead of offering them one fatal "choice," these centers are empowering woman to choose life by providing resources and counseling. 

4) Back pro-life leaders and legislation.

Know the stance political leaders have on abortion in order to make informed voting decisions. Know your state's legislation regarding abortion, and let your representatives know your view on the issue. 
Last year my state was considering two extreme abortion bills and citizens aged 13+ could fill out witness slips against the bills. In addition, I traveled to the state capitol with my youth group to peacefully protest the bills. Your representatives have a duty to REPRESENT the people, so make your voice heard! Those that cannot respect the smallest humans in our society are not fit to lead. Find out what the 2020 presidential candidates think about abortion here.

5) Find community.

Surrounding yourself with staunchly pro-life people will provide inspiration and remind you that you're not alone. Try joining a local pro-life group and get involved with pro-life activities in your area. If there aren't any around you, start your own! If you want to start one at your school, check out Students for Life.

6) Shop intentionally.

This one can be difficult and many think it's extreme to follow strict boycotts. But, every little bit does count, and it's important to know where your money is going. Try to research and just do the best you can. Avoid patronizing companies that openly support abortion or donate to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers if you can help it. 

Some mainstream cosmetic brands that have blatant affiliations with Planned Parenthood are MAC, Glossier, Benefit, and Lush. When there are tons of other brands on the market, who needs to put the ugliness of lies on their face? I also no longer use Netflix and Pinterest, two companies that have openly declared their support of abortion.

7) Share the truth through art.

One of my favorite books ever is The Giver by Lois Lowry. I read it in middle school but the beautiful pro-life message present in the book did not escape me. There are countless other books and movies with pro-life messages that are fabulous discussion material. If you're not ready to discuss your pro-life views with your friends, consider discussing pro-life themes that you identify in books and movies. 

The importance of celebrating human dignity through art was impressed on me at my local march for life last year where several anti-lifers were dressed as characters from Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. This is just one example of how entertainment is manipulated to propagate an anti-life culture. In today's society, it's crucial that we promote entertainment that celebrates human dignity. Here is a list of films to get you started. I'll be sharing some great pro-life books in a future post.

8) Consider a career dedicated to fighting for the unborn.

Do you wish you could turn your passion for life into a job? Well, you can! Organizations such as Live Action and Students for Life hire people of all talents that are united by one common goal. You can do anything from social media management to activism to journalism to legal defense! There are countless opportunities to work at the heart of the pro-life movement.

9) Consider adoption.

Like idea 8, this may not be an option/path for everyone. But adoption is a true testament to the beauty of human life, and I have several friends who have adopted children/are adopted. If adoption is not an option for you, you can still educate yourself about adoption laws, adoption agencies, and share the choice of adoption with others. (And if you or someone you know has adopted/been adopted, I'd love to hear your story!)

10) Be joyful!

A joyful heart exudes hope. Show everyone you encounter that life is worth fighting for, even during the tough times. Infuse your everyday life with the excitement and conviction you experience when surrounded by thousands of people at the March for Life. Treat everyone with kindness and respect because each person has dignity--and that's what the pro-life movement is shouting from the rooftops! 

Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.
~ J.R.R. Tolkien

What would you add to this list? Share below!

~ K A T H R Y N







































10 Ways to Live the Pro-Life Message

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Note: I intended this post to go up on Christmas, the day my story was published. Unfortunately, I'm new to the pre-scheduled post thing and the post did not publish. Luckily, Havok is opening all its story archives from Friday @ 6pm - Sunday @10pm, so all is not yet lost! ;)

~

 Hello, Inklings!

 *happy dance* I'm super excited to announce that I'm published on Havok!

Once upon a time I didn't feel like doing my Latin homework so I wrote a story about dust instead. While I'm not proud of my procrastination tendencies ('tis a ceaseless battle), I ended up having a lot of fun with this story and decided to submit it to Havok.

The editors at Havok were very kind and gave me a plethora of helpful critiques and tips. As I have never been published before I didn't have much experience with detailed criticism of my work and it was extremely helpful to have someone looking at my story with a fresh pair of eyes. I am now aware of many of my writing weaknesses (and strengths) and I consider the learning opportunity to be the best part of having my story published.

Today is the only day you can read my story for free if you are not a member of Havok! It's a light-hearted drama about the household pet that everyone has...the dust bunny. Quite different from the short stories I usually write, and a ridiculous romp through the fuzzier parts of my imagination. So hop on over to Havok and check it out! After you're done, I'd love it if you left a comment (either on Havok or here or both!) telling me what you thought. :D If you're a member of the Havok Horde you can also vote on my story + guess the song that inspired it! If you guess correctly, you will be entered in a giveaway to win a $10 Amazon gift card. Also, depending on how many votes my story receives I could have my story featured in a paperback anthology--so go give it some love!


I'm Published on Havok!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019


Balancing on your toes, supported only by a thin layer of paper mache and shiny pink fabric is a precarious place to come to a life-changing realization. 

People say that pointe shoes make the dancer look graceful and airy; they do, on the outside. On the inside are swollen, bloody feet, blisters rubbed raw, and toenails bruised a vivid blue and purple. The shoes offer some support, but the dancer must have strong feet, ankles, and calves in order to make her movements appear effortless. Her brain must always be a step ahead of the music, because a single mistake could result in painful injury. 


Ever since I earned my pointe shoes at age 14, I told myself that I was meant to be a professional ballerina. Losing two toenails didn’t deter me, although it did prevent me from wearing open-toed shoes. Yet, as I balanced on the top of my toes, I realized that I had let the shoes support me a little too much. Not literally (because I would have had a broken ankle or two if I hadn’t worked tirelessly to make my leg muscles strong and supple), but certainly figuratively. Rather than the light and airy tools they were meant to be, my pointe shoes had become concrete sneakers, pulling me down into a dark abyss in which I had completely lost a sense of what was truly important to me. I had conformed my identity to these shoes. 

Gradually, however, I realized that the more I danced, the farther I got away from finding myself and what I was truly meant to do. I need to stop, I thought as I crashed down onto my heels, no longer motivated. I realized that rather than filling my life, dance was emptying it. 


After class ended, I walked quickly out of the studio, trying to hold the tears back. When I got into the car, I let the floodgates flow. It felt nice to have a good cry, but I still couldn’t stop the whispers of doubt creeping into my mind. Why can’t you do this? This is failure. If you give up now, you’re admitting that you can’t do this. But a resounding voice in the back of my mind grew louder: What if this isn’t what your were meant to do? What if it was all just a learning experience?

Over the next few months, I reflected on all the times I had been truly happy--and dance was not at the forefront of these reflections. As much as I wished to prove that I could be a prima ballerina and as much as I admired the art form, I realized that my happiness lay elsewhere. Reading and discussing good books sets me on fire. I feel like I am expressing myself when I write a story. I am passionate about being aware of cultural and political issues, and I am fulfilled when I am doing something to help another. My memories of dance are filled with snide comments from jealous girls and looking in the mirror and criticizing every aspect of my body. I recall popping hips, suffering tendonitis for weeks, and taking my teacher’s relentless critiques a little too much to heart. Dance was not allowing me to grow and was even negatively impacting my physical and mental health. I’d have to face the scary possibility that I might be meant for some other purpose. 


I wanted to be a professional ballerina, but I didn’t really have a reason for this wish. When I quit ballet, I felt like I had failed. But this failure, as I have come to realize, was a dramatic success. I realized that I would only be happy if I harnessed my talents and passions for the good of others. I realized that poetry, not pirouettes, is what inspires me. I can share my ideas better through blogging rather than battements. Now, I look at my dance career as a learning experience rather than a failure. 

It’s been said that if you give a girl the right pair of shoes, she can conquer the world. Sometimes it takes a while to find the right pair, but when you do the right pair feels great.

~

About a year ago when I stopped dancing I wrote up a very long, rant-y post about how much I hated ballet culture and my 13-year dance experience. It was a decidedly bitter and sad post, and I really just poured out a torrent of confused emotions. I'm glad that I gave myself some time to think about the whole situation before clicking publish, because my perspective has changed dramatically in the last year. 

Friends, if you're experiencing regret or a sense of failure for moving on, it will get better. Whether you want to quit a sport or distance yourself from some friends, we are are all dynamic beings that respond to new seasons of life in different ways. Life is too short to keep doing something that makes you unhappy, so be proud of yourself for trying new things and making new friends. I'm positive that you'll find your niche, a happy place that's worth the wait! 
~ K A T H R Y N

Paintings by Degas via the Public Domain.

The Dance Discovery

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Hello, Inklings!
I'm a loyal friend of the Bard and consider him one of the greatest souls to ever set pen to parchment. As such, I've gained quite the reputation (a rather paltry claim to fame) for quoting good 'ol Will whenever occasion and the volatile moods of teenagerhood give me the opportunity to do so.


Following this quick compilation of some of Shakespeare's best zingers, you'll quickly impress your teacher, parentals, true love, plumber, and dog with your ability to strategically drop a bit of Shakespearean wit and wisdom into an otherwise mundane utterance.

Tips for an effective execution: 
  • Dramatically beat your chest and roll your eyes [see lament]
  • Have some pearly tears roll slowly down your cheeks
  • Rend your hair (or wig) and mustache/beard
  • Duel
  • Wear yellow stockings 
  • Play dramatic music (try thisthis, or this for starters)
  • Talk to a skull
  • Talk to yourself [see monologue or insanity]
  • Sigh
  • Faint
  • Die (preferably by poison and/or stab wound)
  • Come back as a ghost and annoy your friends, family, and foes from the grave



Love / Affection
Granted, I have never had occasion to use these lines in a traditionally romantic situation (like a dinner date or a moonlit walk in the garden) but I find that everyday romances can be found if only one looks for them with the keen eye of the romantic. For example, if you are expressing your affection for that hot and steamy slice of pizza or would like to proclaim your passion for ping-pong, I recommend any one of these lines for a striking conveyance of your feelings.

"If music be the food of love, play on." (Twelfth Night – Act 1, Scene 1)
"Love hath made thee a tame snake." (As You Like It – Act 4, Scene 3)
"The course of true love never did run smooth. " (A Midsummer's Night Dream - Act 1, Scene 1)
"Hear my soul speak. Of the very instant that I saw you, Did my heart fly at your service"
(The Tempest – Act 3, Scene 1)
"Love is a smoke and is made with the fume of sighs" (Romeo & Juliet – Act 1, Scene 1)
"Doubt that the stars are fire, Doubt that the sun doth move his aides, Doubt truth to be a liar, But never doubt I love" (Hamlet – Act 2, Scene 2)

Anger / Consternation / Insults
I have no shame in admitting that I use these lines the most often. Many a time have I cursed my enemy with a creative insult or deemed him the worst of eggs. These will pack a punch more than any four-letter word ever could. Wield them well and see your opposition tremble before you.

"More of your conversation would infect my brain." (The Comedy of Errors - Act 2, Scene 1)
"There’s no more faith in thee than in a stewed prune." (Henry IV - Act 3, Scene 3)
"Thou flea, thou nit, thou winter-cricket thou!" (The Taming of the Shrew - Act 3, Scene 3)
"What, you egg?" (Macbeth - Act 4, Scene 2)
“I am sick when I do look on thee" (A Midsummer Night’s Dream - Act 2, Scene 1)
“Methink’st thou art a general offence and every man should beat thee.” (All’s Well That Ends Well - Act 2, Scene 3)
 “Peace, ye fat guts!” (Henry IV Part 1 - Act 2, Scene 2)
“Thou leathern-jerkin, crystal-button, knot-pated, agatering, puke-stocking, caddis-garter, smooth-tongue, Spanish pouch!” (Henry IV  - Part 1 Act 2, Scene 4)
 “You are as a candle, the better burnt out.” (Henry IV Part 2 Act 1, Scene 2)
 “Thou sodden-witted lord! Thou hast no more brain than I have in mine elbows “ (Troilus and Cressida - Act 2, Scene 1)


DO SHARE: Which of the Bard's plays do you find yourself quoting most often? 

~ K A T H R Y N


I started this post back at the beginning of this year, hence some of the outdated pop culture references. :D I've been very busy with school, college applications, volunteering commitments, and babysitting, hence the lack of posts. So here's something short, sweet, and snarky for your Tuesday. 


Shakespeare for the Well-Spoken

Tuesday, December 3, 2019