Sunday, September 17, 2017

Zoo Eruption

Crowds of kids jump, leap, and dance their way through the amusing park. But the animals behind cages of metal bars and smudged Plexiglas are not amused. Tigers and lions take cat naps in the afternoon sun. The wolves hide in the shade, and the giraffes search for snacks to go with their afternoon tea. Polar bears wade in icy water and penguins snooze atop their iceberg mountains. Buildings house reptiles, bugs, birds, and creatures of the night, but even those animals sleep in the dark of day. Balloons and music from the carousel fill the surrounding air. Laughter is masked by the chattering of monkeys and the sweet smell of fried food. Chaos, noise, color, and warmth erupt from every corner of the park, seeping into every visitor’s veins, so they all turn into ape-like creatures and monkey about hooting and hollering while swinging their arms about and bloating their cheeks to make faces.

And it makes me think of you, or more what you do to me.

When you stare at me with your Ent eyes, when you hold my hand and rub your thumb across my skin, I feel like the jittery bats of the night caves, swooping from invisible wire to invisible wire. The whole zoo—the noise, the color, and chaos—erupts when I see you. The monkey emerges, banging around in my internal organs, begging to be heard and noticed. My heart roars loud like the lions, tigers, and bears. But all I can do is stare silently with wide eyes like the jaguar atop the rocky cliff, watching her prey through the Plexiglas and wishing I could think of the words to explain how you make me feel.

My slimy frog with a slimy frog!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Silence

Recently, I finished reading Silence by Shusaku Endo. I first heard about this book when the movie adaptation was released at the end of last year, beginning of this year. (I was mainly intrigued because it starred Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, and Liam Neeson.) But then I did my research, looking up the plot synopsis and themes on Wikipedia and I knew I had to read this book.

Basically, the story follows a Jesuite priest during the 17th century as he travels to Japan to do missionary work. Only the Japanese government doesn't want Christianity in their country. If captured, the priests undergo torture until they renounce their beliefs or die. During all of this, as the priest hides and experiences various forms of torture, he wonders at the silence of God. People are renouncing their faith, being spit on, being tortured, and dying yet God stays silent.

It's definitely not any easy story to read, and I'm not sure how I feel about everything that was said within the pages. But there are a lot of ideas woven throughout the novel that hit hard and made me think. Here are a few of the more noteworthy quotes I found the most intriguing.


"But Christ did not die for the good and beautiful. It is easy enough to die for the good and beautiful; the hard thing is to die for the miserable and corrupt." 

"Men are born in two categories: the strong and the weak, the saints and the commonplace, the heroes and those who respect them. In times of persecution, the strong are burnt in the flames and drowned in the sea; but the weak, like Kichijro, lead a vagabond life in the mountains."

"Sin, he reflected, is not what it is usually though to be; it is not to steal or tell lies. Sin is for one man to walk brutally over the life of another and to be quite oblivious of the wounds he has left behind."

"True love was to accept humanity when wasted like rags and tatters."

"At first it was silent, but pierced him with a glance that was filled with sorrow. And then it seemed to speak to him: 'When you suffer, I suffer with you. To the end I am close to you.'"

"It was to be trampled on by men that I was born into this world. It was to share men's pain that I carried my cross."

"I was not silent. I suffered beside you."

"But Our Lord was not silent. Even if he had been silent, my life until this day would have spoken of him."

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Books and Waffles

I started this year with a few goals. Most were related to reading books and writing books. But one of the goals was to post at least once a week on this blog. Over the past six years of blogging, I've had seasons where I blog a lot and seasons where I don't blog at all. Recently, I've felt I was trying to make this blog "too many" things all at once. I want to post book reviews but also discuss my writing and my life. I just can't see that happening.

So.

I created another blog called "Books and Waffles." This is going to be my main hub for book reviews or Top Ten Tuesdays or discussing books. I like waffles, I like books, and I thought those two things went together nicely.

Steve Trevor also goes nicely with books and waffles. 

But I'm not abandoning "The Dancing Lawn." This place has become my little corner of the Internet. Instead, I'm giving this blog a focus. Mainly writing, though I'm sure other topics will show up. I might still discuss books or post quotes from books I adore. I'm probably going to post more writing, such as prose poetry.

Basically, this blog will still be updated. Maybe not weekly. It won't be about books any more. But that's okay because I'm not going to stop talking about books. (I don't think that's even possible.) You can follow "Books and Waffles" to read my book reviews and other bookish discussions. (There's a link on the tabs at the top!) You can stay here to learn about my characters, the stories I'm writing and dreaming about, and the ideas in my head that want to put to page.

So welcome to "The Dancing Lawn." Here, we like to laugh and dance with fauns. Here, we gather to save Narnia. Here, we are whisked away into an adventure. Join me?

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Beautiful People: August 2017


So I was planning to answer August's Beautiful People about one of the characters from Thieves of Bakkaj, the high fantasy serial story I'm writing with a few friends. But it just wasn't going to work this time around. Most of the questions would have similar answers of "well, he doesn't have a house or money to buy food, so it's irrelevant!" Alas.

Instead, I debated between several characters to spotlight, and on a whim, decided to go with a new character. One of my biggest writing dreams is to write a so-called "urban" fantasy novel. As in a fantasy story set in modern day times, most likely modern day America. Stories like The Raven Cycle or Percy Jackson or Supernatural. Not the future or the past, not another world. Our world but... with magic.

Meet Evie (name is pending, as are most details about the world and plot, so you know, don't judge me if things change). Her family is part of a magic society that is mostly unknown to the regular world. She can use magic, and she works at a magical pet store that sells magical creatures. However, there's been a recent shortage in certain creatures, such as dragons, due to many hunters in the world hunting them down for sport. Right now, the basic premise of the story is that she and another magic user set off to find hidden dragons in the wilderness and bring them into safety, where they won't be killed off. (Hey, I said it's a work in progress!)

The Questions

What are they addicted to/can’t live without?
She'd probably say bewitched coffee brew, but in reality, she'd mope if she didn't have a book to read.

Name 3 positive and 3 negative qualities about your character.
Positive:

  • She's friendly to almost anybody right off the bat unless you do something that enrages her.
  • She has a knack for cooking and baking, even without using magic.
  • She's loyal to her friends and family, so if you're on her good side, she'll defend you until her last breath.

Negative:

  • She doesn't often hold her tongue, saying whatever comes to mind.
  • She isn't often open-minded about her opinions and beliefs. She has a hard time seeing the other side of things, which makes her often judgmental about others.
  • She's naive about how the world works.

Are they holding onto something they should get rid of?
Probably tons of knick-knacks and old trinkets she's had for ages. She keeps almost everything from school--papers, awards, badges, etc.--and she has a hard time getting rid of old clothes because she thinks she can use it to make something new. Upcyling is her thing along with cooking, reading, and taking care of animals.

If 10 is completely organized and 1 is completely messy, where do they fall on the scale?
It usually depends on what she's organizing. Her life: 8 or 9. She has things down pat. She knows what she wants to do and how she wants to do it. She doesn't want anybody to mess up her plans. (Ha ha, guess what happens?) But her room is a disaster. She has stuff shoved in her dresser drawers and piled around her bed. Her desk is a dumping ground for half-finished projects, dead plants, and trinkets she's picked up at the fairy market. Her closet is exploding with more stuff as well.


What most frustrates them about the world they live in?
How people use magic. She doesn't understand why some people are greedy with their magic or use it for shady business. She wants everything to be a colorful and comforting as the coffee shop or the menagerie she works at where magic just seems to thrive.

How would they dress for a night out? How would they dress for a night in?
For a night out, she'd pull on a cute dress, leggings, boots, and a jean jacket. She might even put her hair up. For a night in, she's all sweatpants, baggy shirt, and big, fuzzy socks with her hair in a simple braid or bun.

How many shoes do they own, and what kind?
She owns half a dozen pairs, all for different uses and occasions. Boots for style and for rainy or winter weather (charmed, of course, not to get damp). Flats for special occasions with magic inserts so her feet don't hurt. Sneakers for comfort that give her a boost of energy. Sandals for style and warm weather; they sparkle with a self-esteem lift. Converse because they're cool.

Do they have any pets? What pet do they WISH they had?
She doesn't have any pets, but her siblings do. They have a pair of guardian lion-dogs, lucky fish, and a healing hawk.

Evie, however, wishes she could have a dragon for a pet. She's interacted with some dragons at the menagerie, but often, dragons are rare to recent hunting expeditions.

Is there something or someone that they resent? Why and what happened?
She doesn't often resent people unless they do something to make her mad. That being said, she currently resents the new boy who moved in down the street. His family is part of the magic community and he attends school with her, but he ignores her every time she tries to approach him. She doesn't know what his deal is, but she's given up trying and decided to hate him instead for being rude.

What’s usually in their fridge or pantry?
All sorts of food, both regular and magical-based. The typical eggs, milk, sugar, flour, and butter, along with shots of charisma, anti-burn powder, salt and peace shakers, truth syrup, and filling bread. She's usually making a variety of baked goods, so she stores them in the fridge and pantry as well. Her house us normally well stocked for cooking or munching on a snack.


Are you participating in Beautiful People? Link-up with us!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Book Review: 'Waste of Space' by Gina Damico

There are never enough outer space adventures to please me. I want characters blasting off across the galaxy in cool spacecraft. I want epic space pirates and interesting aliens. I want to drool over gorgeous planets and starry landscapes. And I want more of those outer space adventures to be funny. There are not enough comical intergalactic journeys. Think Guardians of the Galaxy but in book form. I need it.

I thought Waste of Space by Gina Damico was going to be the hilarious, space adventure I needed in my life. But it isn't. It's more satire than comedy, and no one actually goes into outer space. Was I disappointed, though? No. Because the book was still ridiculous.

Synopsis

"A shady cable network teams up with a group of ambitious scientists to create an ill-conceived reality show, Waste of Space. The premise? Cram ten wildly different teenagers into a spaceship and blast off. However, the production is a sham and the world knows it, but the teens on board don't know that the spaceship is actually in a warehouse in the middle of the Arizona desert. Chaos ensues."
Waste of Space was definitely not what I was expecting. For some reason I read the synopsis wrong and thought this book was documenting a show where teens encounter problems while in outer space. Which is sort of what happens, minus the "in outer space" part. Instead, this is a satirical look at the craziness of Hollywood's reality TV shows and what happens behind the scenes.

The story is told through a compilation of video and phone message transcripts, sort of similar to Illuminae and Gemina (though not as pretty or detailed). I liked the set up because it was different than other books and I wasn't expecting it. Plus, it was fun to read how this show became a complete train wreck through the conversations and video transcripts.

Some parts of it weren't as intriguing to me, mainly at the beginning. I almost stopped reading it because I had a hard time remembering the vast amount of characters and their personalities. Sometimes the transcriptions dragged on as well, but most had a point and kept the story moving. I'm glad I continued through because the ending of the story flipped everything upside down and was so ridiculous and insane it was amazing. Fantastic plot twists, people!

My favorite character was Nico because he was a precious cinnamon roll and became more important than it would seem. Also, I think at this point I have a thing for characters named Nico because I love them all and they're all so precious and should be protected at all costs, but alas.

Overall, Waste of Space wasn't what I was expecting, but it surprised me by being ridiculously fun with crazy cool science fiction plot twists that I was not expecting either. Basically, it was stellar. If you like satire and a good poke at reality TV shows plus a sprinkle of science fiction, give this book a chance.


~I checked out Waste of Space by Gina Damico from my local library and chose to review it of my own free will. All opinions are my own.~

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Top Ten Tuesdays: Book Recommendations for Dragon Lovers

Top Ten Tuesday is back! *screaming crowds* The prompt for this week is to list recommendations for a particular group of people, such as animal lovers, Ravenclaws, fans of Star Wars, etc. So, unsurprisingly, my list is recommendations for dragon lovers! If you love dragons and need to find good books involving dragons, try out a few of these titles!


The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien: A booklist for dragon lovers would be incomplete without the "king" of all dragons, Smaug. So of course, I'm going to recommend The Hobbit. This book has one of the greatest (though not biggest) dragons of literature. There's plenty of dragonish adventure, including lots of "I am fire" and "I am death" and burning cities on lakes and trying to eat dwarves. Plus, gold. Lots and lots of gold. I promise you'll be pleased.

DragonKeeper Chronicles by Donita K. Paul: Every book by Donita K. Paul includes dragons. Even a cute, Christmas-y contemporary romance. She's basically the Queen of Dragons (in my opinion), so any book by her will do. The DragonKeeper Chronicles will introduce you to the world she's created with all sorts of dragons and other fun characters, including goofy wizards and extra cool furry critters.

How To Train Your Dragon Series by Cressida Cowell: Wait, wait, hold on... How to Train Your Dragon is a book? Yes. And while the story is very different than the movies, it's still just as wonderful. Mainly because Toothless is a tiny yet sassy dragon that refuses to do anything unless he gets fish or riddles. I aspire to be just like him when I grow up. These books are just fun and hilarious, full of a lot of misadventures, viking beards, and smelly fish. But hey, who wouldn't want that in their life?

Wings of Fire Series by Tui T. Sutherland: I recently discovered these fantastical books, and upon reading the introduction pages--before I even started the story--I was in love. These books include so many different types of dragons from mud dragons to starry night nebula dragons to river dragons and rainbow dragons to everything kind of dragon. Plus, they are so much! The characters are dragons and they can talk and do amazing feats and learn all about who they are based on what kind of dragon they are. It's just so cute and basically a dream come true.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis: There's a reason The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is my favorite Narnia book, and no, it's not because it's the only book in the series with a dragon . But I will say that the dragon portion of the book is one of my favorite parts of the story. The whole situation of the dragon and how it is resolved always spoke to me, and I'm always grateful for C.S. Lewis' ability to speak truth and wisdom to me despite his books being published several decades before I was even born.

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende: To be honest, when I started reading The Neverending Story, I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into. But basically, I loved it. And Falkor the Luckdragon is pretty much the best. If you like awesome stories where characters jump into the books and become heroes and dragons fly around and rescue people, read this book.

The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini: Despite having a grudge against these books for a long time, I finally admit they are decent and I did enjoy them, especially later on in the series when 1. more dragons show up 2. Eragon isn't worthless anymore and 3. draaaagon baaatttles! If you like dragons, want a piece of something popular, and really like dragon battles, feel free to suffer through the first two books of this series (like I did) to get to the good parts.

Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin: This is probably my favorite picture book in existence, though there are others I enjoy. I mean, that title alone intrigues me, but the story inside and the art work is just as fun and hilarious. It's worth reading, especially to find out WHY dragons love tacos and what happens when they eat them.

Fairy Tail by Hiro Mashima: Okay, so this manga is completely crazy and bizarre, but it's also super fun. Mainly because of Natsu, who is a wizard with dragon-like abilities. No, really. And it's ridiculous. When he uses his dragon abilities, the fight sequences are so hilarious and over-the-top that I can't help but love it. There's more to the story than Natsu fighting, though, so if you think you can take on this bizarre adventure, I say go for it.

Beowulf: Now I know some translations of Beowulf are awful, so I'm suggesting you all read the translation by Seamus Heaney because it's beautiful. If you love dragons, you might be a little sad at the end of this book, but I still think it's freaking cool adventure story with tons of dragon and monster references and big battles and feasting. I mean, who wouldn't want to read about that in beautiful, poetic verse?

There are probably a ton of dragon-related books I could recommend to dragon lovers, but I'll limit this list to the top ten. Let me know in the comments if you have any other dragon book suggestions for me to read. I'm always looking for another dragon book to ride read.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Book Review: New World: Rising by Jennifer Wilson

The June Owlcrate box came with not one book, but two: The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson and New World: Rising by Jennifer Wilson. Both are YA dystopian stories that happen to have green and white covers, which makes for a great color scheme. The problem with reading multiple YA dystopians in a row is that when one is fantastic and the other isn't, it's hard not to compare them. Such is the case with The Sandcastle Empire and New World: Rising. The Sandcastle Empire is gripping and powerful. Meanwhile, New World: Rising has a few interesting points to it, but unfortunately I felt a lot of it has already been done previously.


Synopsis

Since she was eleven, Phoenix has been on her own, trying to survive in the violence-filled city of Tartarus. The city is made up of different tribes, each with their own agendas and thirst for blood. But when Phoenix saves a little girl from one of the tribes, she's suddenly thrust into a new place, a new world, and she doesn't know who to trust or if she can survive. 

New World: Rising includes a lot of elements that came be found in other dystopian novels. The tribes of Tartarus reminded me of the factions in Divergent. Phoenix trying to survive on her own reminded me of Day in Legend. The Sanctuary and the Walls reminded me of Attack on Titan and The Hunger Games. While there isn't anything wrong with a book being similar to other stories, it's hard for me personally to enjoy a story if it feels too similar to everything else.

In addition, I didn't like Phoenix. Since she's the narrator of the story, it was hard to enjoy because she told us everything--she was good at this, she could memorize that, etc.--but I didn't see it. I wanted to know how she learned to survive at age eleven to become this super awesome assassin-scavenger-spy person. It would have been nice for more backstory and more depth to Phoenix.

The same goes for the world-building. It had interesting twists. The utopia is really a dystopia, different tribes of Tartarus were detailed and unique, and there are other forces at work than just the perfect city and the tribes. But I wanted more. I often was confused about the different tribes and didn't feel like I truly grasped which was which. I also wanted to know more about how this world came to be. Why did the tribes form? Why doesn't The Sanctuary let people in or out? I just wanted more. Perhaps this more is explored in the other books in the series, though.

Third, the romance was cliche and insta-love, so I was kind of "meh" about it. It happened quickly and would disappear for a while, then come back full force. I felt there should be more important things going on then finding someone to kiss. That being said, I was also intrigued that the guy noticed Phoenix because she was stealing books from an old library. I mean, I guess if you're going to fall in love in a dystopian world you should definitely pick someone who can read, right?

Despite shortcomings, there are things about New World: Rising I did like. The cover is pretty cool. I like the colors and the artwork. I like that there is a focus on a younger girl, Mouse, and that Phoenix chooses her actions in order to protect and care for her. That was a nice change than other dystopians where the main character seems to only care about themselves or their immediate love interest. Though, I wish there had been a bigger reason why Phoenix saves her in the first place. Continually, Phoenix claims she doesn't know why she did it, and I find it hard to believe that someone who has been trying to survive on her own for six years wouldn't have a reason for helping someone else. Even something simple like Mouse reminded her of herself when she was left to fend for herself or that she wouldn't be able to live with herself for letting a child die at the hands of murderers.

 I also liked that Mouse was mute and the other characters learned sign language in order to communicate with her. That was a nice representation that isn't often portrayed in dystopian books. The book was also fast paced and easy to read. There was a lot of action and exciting scenes. Phoenix also learns truths about life and humanity and that no one, even those we love, is perfect, which did make for an interesting twist.

New World: Rising is a simple and short dystopian novel. It's not a bad book, and it was entertaining. I might look into the other books in the series since it was a fast read. If you're a fan of dystopians and want something else to add to your pile, pick this one up.


~I received New World: Rising by Jennifer Wilson in the June Owlcrate subscription box and chose to review it of my own free will. All opinions are my own.~