Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

I had high expectations for this book.  In hindsight, that may have been the problem.  

The Ocean at the End of the Lane was my second foray into Neil Gaiman's novels.  I greatly respect him as an author - for a variety of reasons - but I'm afraid Ocean disappointed my expectations.

To briefly set the scene, an middle-aged, unnamed narrator leaves a funeral (presumably a family member's) and drives back to the lane where his childhood home once stood.  Driving [literally] "down memory lane," he comes to the old Hempstock farm at the end.  He then remembers Lettie Hempstock and a long-forgotten week in his childhood that changed everything.  The rest of the novel is told as a sort of prolonged flashback of what occurred.

Being that it's Gaiman, the novel's commentary on life and memory is beautiful.  I also appreciated several of the characters - especially Lettie.  But this was the first book I've read in a long time where I preferred the style and characters to the plot.  At first slightly dull, by the mid-point of the novel I was rather disturbed.  If it weren't for my respect for the author and the book's multiple recommenders [like Patrick Rothfuss's delightful review / fantasy of tree-fort parties with Gaiman and Whedon], I may not have kept reading.  But I am glad I did, because I think the 2nd half was better. 

As for my dislikes, I can pinpoint a couple of things.  

  • I can only stand a character being oppressed without agency for so long, and, for such a short book, this 7-year-old boy dealt with agony upon agony - not even anything noble and epic, just meanness and the frustrated plans of a 7-year-old.  
  • There were physical descriptions that were just gross.  And there's just something with me and feet wounds - they make me extra queazy.  [Also, fyi, some adult content.]
  • Sometimes I think I'm an immature reader for thinking this, but... I do not love magic realism - and most of this book is magic realism.  I think it's because I love fantasy so much that this feels watered down.  I don't mind things being open-ended and left unexplained, but there's something just wonderful about entering the fantastical through a wardrobe or a police box or a train platform, rather than just gradually slipping into unreality without noticing.  I suppose it may have to do with characters generally unquestioning acceptance of magic-realism elements.  The narrator here asks a few questions, but in fantasy, when one enters another realm, they are very much aware of it and their curiosity mirrors my own.  Anyway, parts of the magic in this book were wonderful, but, again, most of them occurred in the 2nd half.

A few general closing comments...  This book felt like one I would have read in my English Honors class - both because of its theme (memory) and the focus on better style than substance.  I do think that the kind of excellent style Gaiman displays makes the book worth reading, just perhaps not as enjoyable.  In the end, I think I expected either more of a reveal or an impossibly brilliant ending [or that it was actually all a dream].  Highlights of the book included its intertextuality, Lettie's character, stunning metaphors for faith, and, we'll just say, the scene "in the Ocean."  Overall? *** out of 5 stars.

I believe the book would stand up even better to a 2nd reading, but I'll have to save that for later.  Off to new worlds - I'll just leave you with these quotes:

“I lay on the bed and lost myself in stories. I liked that. Books were safer than other people anyways.” 

“I liked myths. They weren't adult stories and they weren't children's stories. They were better than that. They just were.” 

“Nobody looks like what they really are on the inside. You don’t. I don’t. People are much more complicated than that. It’s true of everybody.” 

“You don't pass or fail at being a person, dear.” 

“How can you be happy in this world? You have a hole in your heart. You have a gateway inside you to lands beyond the world you know."

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

One Bibliophile's Calendar

A time for every book under the sun
Or rather round the sun.
Different months call for different books;
A read for every season.
January is an amalgamation -
unfinished books from the prior year,
gifted books, bettering books.
February offers more choice:
What would you like to read?
March is best for modernism.
before marking her demise on the 28th
read some Woolf, and get into Eliot
before the "cruelest month."
April showers... mean sit in and read,
dive into that series, you have the time.
"Spring" for a re-read romance and
May-be find a way to "read out of doors."
June - despite the sun and celebrations,
your series is still making you feel "bibliosocial."
Summer is a time for sci-fi or short stories
or a good Shakespeare comedy.
If, in July, you can carve out a vacation
or just a rare quiet, sun-filled day,
binge-read a new author.
August is for finishing.  Just how much
can you finish before the re-start?
Sun to fog - September is transition
New routines, new books assigned in school
or cradled on suddenly-longer commutes.
At long last: Fall, the reader's utopia.
And Fall means fantasy.
For October - books, scarves, glasses are in vogue,
the bigger the book, the better.
Fantastical wanderings lead into November,
reifying characters and locales in our mind's eye.
Gothic is also good - Jane Eyre feels right
in a stormy or cold December night.
Then the holidays come, and with them,
re-assessed goals, another push to finish,
a search for the Word to make us real.
So we keep reading, keep becoming.


Today is my blog's 5th birthday!

5 years ago, in my "Introduction," I shared,
"words help me process things - and this will be where i'll place the words
that don't seem to have any other home."
Through many phases and changes and far more page views than I ever imagined,
that still remains a pretty accurate description of my blog.
I apologize for the times it feels scattered, but it's not a niche blog.
It's just a space for the homeless words in my head.

When I created this, I really didn't think I would be able to keep it up.
I was like that with pen-pals as a kid.  I would be all enthusiastic... but then
get behind after 2 or 3 letters and be too ashamed to finally write back 6 months later.
So I was more shocked than anyone that 1 year, 2 years in I was still blogging.
Now, it's a rare day I don't get on to check the blog or start another draft.
And though it took me 4 years of blogging to actually admit that just maybe I was a writer...
I am more enthusiastic about it than ever.

I hope to continue to expand and develop both this space and my writing
[keep an eye out in the future - wink, wink]
I want to thank everyone who has followed my blog at any point these past 5 years.
Writing and crafting this has helped me become more of who I am supposed to be,
and your encouragement of that means the world to me!
So, merci beaucoup, my friends.  Merci.

* Interesting fact - I didn't put this together till yesterday, but, though done unwittingly, I think it was Fate that I created this blog on January 28th, as it just happens to be the date Pride and Prejudice was originally published.  And I'd like to think that is a good omen :)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

teach us how to love
and swallow sadness,
find light in darkness,
 turn away from despair.
Crafting and grafting us
into a plot much bigger,
much smaller
than our own.
They remake us
like their protagonists,
from coward to courageous.

Each story that passes
through our hands,
through our minds,
is a gift
wrapped up inside words.
 "Hello, old friend
and here we are,
you and me
on the last page."
Where they end
our hearts break or smile,
crying from tragedy or delight.
But then, our next page.
While their story ends,
our journey is only mid-way,
another chapter,
a new gift.

Top:  Nurse, Young Man, Kiss-a-gram
Below:  Old Man, Journalist, Hero

"We are all stories in the end..."

- The Doctor

"The end of a matter is better than it's beginning."
- Ecclesiastes 7.8

“If seeds in the black earth can turn into such beautiful roses, what might not the heart of man become in its long journey toward the stars?"

- GK Chesterton

"It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer."

- Samwise Gamgee
“Stories make us more alive, more human, more courageous, more loving.”  
Madeleine L'Engle

"You were my new dream."
- Flynn Rider

"There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more. He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness. We must have felt what it is to die...that we may appreciate the enjoyments of living."
- The Count


"Though truth is heavier than fiction,
Gravity lifts as the projectionist rolls tape.
And it makes us brave again"
- Sleeping at Last

Friday, January 24, 2014


Guess who's graduating today...

[Starting a big year off together ;) ]

Sarah, you are such a favorite!!
Mom or I or someone else may have told you this story countless times before,
but this is my blog, so I get to tell it again :P
When I was a little girl, I really wanted a baby sister.
Jerry was great and all, but... not quite the same ;)
So every day before naps and every night before bed, I would pray for a baby sister.
And then one morning I woke up, the precocious 5-year-old that I was,
and marched into my mom's room to tell her I had had a dream the night before
that Jesus told me she was going to have a baby girl.
What she hadn't told us was that she was expecting
and that baby, which she would come to find out was a little girl, was you!
Now, I can't imagine life without you
And I'm so grateful that Jesus answered that prayer :)
As I've mentioned, you are one of the funniest people I know!
And even though we're 6 years and one brother apart, I have so enjoyed the past several years as you've become one of my dearest friends.
[We were babies :P ]
 Shortly after you came on the scene, I came to the realization that, one day,
this charming little girl was going to pass me up.
And I don't just mean in height (that's no great feat).
But I mean, I've just always known you would be a stunner!
Seriously - those big blue eyes and sleek blonde hair?
Ridiculously hot babe material!
And then that day came a while back where there was no more denying it.
And I don't mean this in some competition sort of way,
just more of Lord-help-the-Mister-who-comes-between-me-and-my-sister way ;)
[Seriously though... you've keep getting MORE stunning!!]
And on top of all that, you are wonderfully talented and creative.
You have the patience to make all sorts of things beautiful and personalized.

Graduating just marks the beginning of a new adventure.
And I think you're going to have SO much fun!

[Love us!]

Love you tons!  I'm so proud of you and can't wait to celebrate :)


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Funniest thing you'll watch today:
Jack Bauer presenting Sherlock Holmes with an award and, per usual, "he forgets his pants*."

*American transliteration of "pants" ;)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Within the last 24 hours I have scored a great deal on tickets to:

Gungor in concert - 3/26

An Emerald City ComicCon Sunday pass [to see Karen Gillan] - 3/30

John Newman in concert - 4/16

Spring is looking fantastic!!

*** Update ***

Did I mention... my flatmate and I are going to see The Lion King on April 5th? Oh yah, and that one was a gift!!

Yay! Yay! Yay!  My heart is getting ready for Spring already :)

[Cos]Playin' it Up

Ok... as previous posts show... I really like costumes.
Alice, Hobbits, Sherlock, Moonrise Kingdom, Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

 But I thought I should give you an update of some costumes and cosplay lately.

For Halloween, some friends and I decided on going as Fantastic Mr. Fox characters.
Even despite the "What does the fox say?" craze, this Wes Anderson inspired look was a fun one to pull together. 
[Foxy - mask, tie, vest, blazer, tail]

[Mr. Fox, Mrs. Fox, Ash Fox]
[Inspiration: Foxes on the right]

A few weeks later was the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special (extensive post here).
For the house party with friends, I went as Amy Pond from "The Impossible Astronaut"
[Amy: plaid, denim, sharpie necklace]
The next night, Rebekah and I went to a showing in Seattle.
She rocked it as Rose from "The Idiot's Lantern" (1950's ;) and I went as the 11th Doctor.
[11 & Rose]
 I even found myself an Amy from "The Impossible Astronaut" episode - perfect!
[11 & Amy]

December brought with it the Hobbit and, being that Bob wanted to see my costume, I threw an "Unexpected Party" at work.

[Hobbit: ears, vest, green blazer, cloak, Lothlorien Leaf, handkerchief.]

[The ears :]

And then, this past Sunday, Sherlock returned to PBS.  So, my flatmate and I hosted a costumed premiere party.
I knew right away, I wanted to go as "The Woman."  And no, not because of that.
[Irene Adler - dress: black, eyeliner: blue, lips: blood, earrings: diamond, hair: classic twist.]
[Irene Inspiration]

Somewhat last minute, not only did my brothers come, they brought their A-game as Moriarty and Sherlock - the gents in Irene's life.
[Moriarty: Westwood, Irene: Azagury, Sherlock: Belstaff]
So... those have been my costume adventures the last few months.
I'm looking forward to more soon.  Any reason for a costume. :)

Which are some of your favorite characters or costumes?  Who do you like to dress up as?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Oh, Brothers.

[Josiah as Moriarty, Me as Irene, and Jeremiah as Sherlock]
 So... I just really like these gents a lot.
And, last night, we got to cosplay as some of my favorite characters.
It was **such** a blast!
Birth-order wise, I'm sandwiched between these two and I feel pretty lucky.
Some girls with brothers talk about how they toughened them up
or wrestled a lot or whatever.
Well, I stayed out of their wrestling.
[Instead, we spent a lot more time playing playmobile -
I always got to be the princess to their knight, soldier, pirate, etc.]
But we did grow up arguing discussing a lot
and I felt like I got toughened up mentally because of them.
And though they made me fight the hardest,
they also made me laugh the longest.
Now that we're all adults, pursuing different dreams and paths...
it makes me really grateful for all those heated debates, N64 games,
playmobile-filled Saturday mornings, nerdy jokes, 
YouTube marathons of HISHE and good music,
and lots and lots of laughter.
Plus, I think they are smashingly dapper!
Thank God for brothers.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Get Dancin': John Newman

You've probably heard this song by now, but the flatmate and I can't stop dancing along to this Romeo and Juliet inspired [sorry about the ending :/ ] music video from John Newman.

This guy is seriously impressive.  He is bringing back "Northern Soul" and it sounds amaaaaazing!  Plus, the 23-year-old Brit designs all his own clothes and jewelry.
You can read up more about him on buzzfeed
You can join some friends and I seeing him live in April in Seattle (for under $20!!).

Happy Friday and... darn, I wished people still danced like that!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Things I have done in the first 2 weeks of 2014


I can't believe we're 2 weeks into 2014, and yet, January has already been a full month.  So, a few things I've done.

1.  Began a new journal
2.  Worked a lot on my "special project"
3.  Read 2 books - both short
4.  Cut my hair
5.  Watched all of Sherlock Season 3
6.  Asked for a lot of help
7.  Asked for a lot of forgiveness
8.  Like my sister, began my list of 1,000 gifts
9.  Cried - about so many different things
10. Got glasses   o-o
11. Seen the Lord's faithfulness
12. Talked to my mom a ton!
13. Had a spontaneous playdough date with some pre-schoolers
14. Had to be brave
Brilliant day for music!

Switchfoot's Fading West was released and is now streaming on The Drop.  It's fun.  Their first single, "Who we are" is a blast and the I rather adore the childlike rhymes of "Let it Out."  An underlying theme of the album - "we become what we believe."

 From the day we’re born
We are scarred and torn
We’ve been scared to sing out loud
But we don’t care no more
‘Cause we know life is short
And we don’t care who leaves us now
Breathe it in and let it out

John Mark McMillan's "Future Past" was also released with this music video.  It is simple.  It is beautiful.  I can't wait for the whole album.

And you,
You are my first
You are my last
You are my future and my past

And the one that made me most excited is that Kye Kye's sophomore album is now streaming here a week before it's release.  I've seen this band perform live twice and got to talk to them on both occasions.  They are such authentic artists with a sound I just love!  I've been dancing around my flat to "Honest Affection" and "Dreams (2 am)" since the singles were released, but I am loving this sneak peek at the rest of the album.

A part of me just wanted to know
But the other part was always so wasted
My heart was always made to be still
To wait because you promised you’d save it

Happy listening!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

I can't stop myself from reading. 

While munching Cheerios, I simultaneously read the nutrition facts. The ads on my bus are familiar to me & I notice if one of them is new. I've been known to peruse the phone book when nothing else was around. 

If there are words around, they will be eaten. 

I love the words no matter what they say. It's just relaxing for my eyes to be processing these symbols. 

Today, though, as I was writing something and misspelled it, I was struck by the reminder that even my literacy is a gift. I take it for granted so quickly - that these symbols mean something at all. But not everyone has that privilege. And it makes me want to steward this gift even more intentionally. 
My younger sister, Sarah, can make me laugh like nobody's business!  She and I shared a room up until I moved out last Summer and there were so many late-night giggle sessions.  Last night, she and I were texting about, among other things, the Iliad - which she is about to finish.  Here are some choice excerpts from the hilarity that ensued:

Sarah: I'm drowning in the terribleness of the Iliad...
Me:  Did you finish the Iliad?  Isn't the end so touching!  Well, call "the Homeric Hotline" [inside joke, meaning me] if you have specific questions.
S:  I have one chapter left.  I am sure it will be touching.  The question is - will I understand it?
... [later on]
S:  Iliad for 500, please.  Smartest Achaean?
M:  Well, the wiliest was Odyssesus.  Smartest could be Nestor
S:  Man!  You're good! I just learned that 2 months ago and I already forgot it.  If you get this next question, then my search for the perfect woman is over - How many lines is the Iliad poem?
M:  HAHAHAHA!!  Around 16,000.
S:  You are off my 37 lines.  Tisk. Tisk.  Still.... pretty dang good if you ask me :)
M:  Did I have to have an exact answer?
S:  I was expecting one!  I mean, 15,963 is like 24601 - pretty easy to remember :)
... [even later]
M:  Btw - can I post the Iliad bit of this convo on my blog?
S:  Of course.  I hold no copyright infringements.

Isn't she just amazing?  Sarah - I LOVE you!!!
"Ender is making it possible for the others his age to be playing in the park." 
"And Jesus died to save all men, of course." Graff sat up and looked at Anderson almost sadly. "But we're the ones," Graff said, "we're the ones who are driving in the nails." 

I'm reading Orson Scott Card's First Meetings, a collection of short stories in the Enderverse - including the original "Ender's Game" as it appeared in 1977 as a 50 page story.  It's so fascinating having first read the 1985 novel to approach this. 
Comparatively, this feels very in media res, but with surprising depth, making it very apparent that Card had already begun his complex world-building.  This makes me wonder if this is, perhaps, the best way for an author to enter their created world in sci-fi or fantasy.  Composing a short story would force the author to establish the mythology, history, and projected future while also presenting just a fraction of that story to test the waters.  Well, that's what I'm wondering, anyway.
Being shorter, things are much more direct - such as the lines above - but they are also profound.  Not quite a re-read, I'm still moved by earlier decisions - knowing the ramifications later on.  It's funny actually - I've read abridged versions and then later full versions of novels; I've read parallel novels; but this is the first time I've read the condensed version after reading the expanded story.  I suggest trying all three if you can at some point.  It's a marvelous exercise in narrative choices.

Ok, enough rambling.  Happy Thursday.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

I feel like renaming January: "Maybe tomorrow I won't cry"

4-for-4, people - the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Friday, January 3, 2014

New Year's Wishes

Copied in it's entirety from Neil Gaiman's Tumblr.  Happy New Year and enjoy:

The whole New Year’s Wishes sequence in one place…

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.
...I hope you will have a wonderful year, that you’ll dream dangerously and outrageously, that you’ll make something that didn’t exist before you made it, that you will be loved and that you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and to like in return. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind.

In 2011, my wish for each of us is small and very simple.
And it’s this.
I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.
Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.
So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.
Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.
Make your mistakes, next year and forever.
And last year, I wrote:
It’s a New Year and with it comes a fresh opportunity to shape our world. 
So this is my wish, a wish for me as much as it is a wish for you: in the world to come, let us be brave – let us walk into the dark without fear, and step into the unknown with smiles on our faces, even if we’re faking them. 
And whatever happens to us, whatever we make, whatever we learn, let us take joy in it. We can find joy in the world if it’s joy we’re looking for, we can take joy in the act of creation. 
So that is my wish for you, and for me. Bravery and joy.