100+ Books in Less than a Year

Back in high school, I got an account on Goodreads and started keeping track of the things I was reading.  Curious about how many books I read each year, I began organizing my collection into shelves.

In 2011, I read 75 books.  In 2012, the count went up to 87.  Things shifted when I went to college–only 55 and 57 reads in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

This year, though, is the highest total yet.

Some people set reading goals.  I don’t.  I just read.  I read and read and read and read and… well… can’t really stop.

As of right now, I’ve read 104 books in the past twelve months.  This includes audiobooks, assigned reading, and Kindle e-books.  It does NOT include books I’ve read twice–because, yes, I managed to listen through Harry Potter twice in the past six months.

Originally, I planned on making a big list of all 104 titles.  But then I realized that the amount of YA chick-lit I’ve been consuming lately is borderline embarrassing.  You really don’t need to know how fast I can read Stephanie Perkins and Kierra Cass novels.  (In case you were dying of curiosity, it’s less than 24 hours per book)

Instead, I’m going to list the best books.  The books that reached into my heart and found a home; the ones that made me feel; the stories that, months later, still have me thinking.

Here we go…

  • Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber

  • His Grave Assassins trilogy by Robin LaFevers

  • Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay

  • Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson

  • Persuasion by Jane Austen

  • The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien

  • Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson

  • The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff

  • Paper Towns by John Green

  • The Tempest by William Shakespeare

  • The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson by Jerome Charyn

  • Who is This Man? by John Ortberg

  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

  • Coming Up for Air by George Orwell

  • Bleak House by Charles Dickins

  • The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

  • Symphony of Ages trilogy by Elizabeth Haydon

  • Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

I recommend anything on this list.

However, if I could get you to read any of these books, I’d point you to The Danish Girl.  It’s been getting attention lately due to the recent biopic starring Eddie Redmayne.  I haven’t seen the film yet, but the book is incredible.  I used it to write my senior seminar paper this spring and fell in love with it.  It helped me better understand the transgender experience–a perspective on which I’ve been woefully ignorant my entire life.  The novel is about courage, love, and an exploration of self-creation.

I also highly recommend The Silmarillion by Tolkien, which was insanely hard to get through, but SO worth it.  It gives Middle Earth so much more depth and meaning.

For non-fiction, I LOVED Who is This Man? by John Ortberg.  The book is a collection of essays examining the figure of Jesus from multiple perspectives.  It looks at the impact Jesus had on different areas like science, history, forgiveness, the treatment of women, etc.  I got a lot out of this book and loved thinking about Jesus on an intellectual front, rather than a spiritual one.

My to-read list is endless, but I’m always open for recommendations for things to read in 2016!  What are some of the best books you’ve read in the past year?  Tell me about them in the comments!

On the Shelf: The Silmarillion

I’ve been at it for over a month… and I FINALLY FINISHED!!

Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Summary from Goodreads: Designed to take fans of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings deeper into the myths and legends of Middle-Earth, The Silmarillion is an account of the Elder Days, of the First Age of Tolkien’s world. It is the ancient drama to which the characters in The Lord of the Rings look back, and in whose events some of them such as Elrond and Galadriel took part. The tales ofThe Silmarillion are set in an age when Morgoth, the first Dark Lord, dwelt in Middle-Earth, and the High Elves made war upon him for the recovery of the Silmarils, the jewels containing the pure light of Valinor. Included in the book are several shorter works. The Ainulindale is a myth of the Creation and in the Valaquenta the nature and powers of each of the gods is described. The Akallabeth recounts the downfall of the great island kingdom of Numenor at the end of the Second Age and Of the Rings of Power tells of the great events at the end of the Third Age, as narrated inThe Lord of the Rings. This pivotal work features the revised, corrected text and includes, by way of an introduction, a fascinating letter written by Tolkien in 1951 in which he gives a full explanation of how he conceived the early Ages of Middle-Earth.

My Thoughts:

The only bad thing I can say about this book is that it’s dense.  It took me over a month to get through, simply because the writing takes a long time to plod through.  There were weeks where I could barely get through ten pages.  But not because it’s bad.  On the contrary.

The Silmarillion is absolutely incredible.  A friend once described it to me as the Bible of Middle Earth and I can’t help but agree.  Unlike Tolkien’s most popular Middle Earth texts, this is no novel.  It’s a collection of stories that explain the history of Middle Earth.  The first chapters focus on creation mythology, explaining how the world came to be and the deities that dwell within it.  Then, Tolkien brings us through the shaping of the two main races of Middle Earth: Elves and Men.  The majority of the text is dedicated to their histories.  Near the end, we get the history of the men of Numenor, including their downfall and migration to Middle Earth.  This leads swiftly into Middle Earth’s more well-known history spanned in The Lord of the Rings.

At times, it was hard to keep track of all the characters and places.  I constantly had to go back and reread passages and consult maps to make sure I knew what was going on.  But, instead of detracting from my enjoyment, it made the experience that much better.  I was able to deeply appreciate the depth of Tolkien’s world.

There were many stories within these pages that I loved.  Particular favorites include the two great trees in Valinor, forging of the Silmarils, the foundation of Gondolin, Beren and Luthien’s love story, and the tragedy of the Children of Hurin.  I loved hearing about all Morgoth’s treacherous and all the battles fought to bring on his demise.  I liked the story of Eärendil, the fate of his sons, and the history of Numenor.  It was also fun to see names like Galadriel and Elrond cropping up throughout the stories.

The Silmarillion is not for the faint of heart.  It’s a challenging read, but a rewarding one.  It ignited my imagination and curiosity.  I’m now seriously interested in reading further into Tolkien’s world.

You Will Like This Book If: You like Tolkien, fantasy, mythology, folklore, rich world building, and a challenge.

Extra Bonus: “Tuor Reches Gondolin” by Ted Nasmith

On the Shelf: Summer Reading Updates & Mini Reviews

I’ve decided to switch up my On the Shelf this week.  Instead of one big review, I’ve done some mini-reviews, followed by some chit chat about other books I’ve been reading.  (Also, apologies for being a day late on this post…)

The Heir by Kiera Cass

Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars

A few weeks ago, I finally picked up the fourth book in Cass’s The Selection series.  The thing about Cass is that she isn’t a breathtaking writer–her post-apocalyptic America is relatively boring and her characters lack depth–but I somehow still love her books.  They’re like a mashup of The Hunger Games, The Bachelor, and all my favorite fairy tales.

Taking place after the trilogy ends, the book centers around Eadlyn, the first female heir to the throne.  Although the caste system has been dissolved, the country’s problems aren’t over.  Citizens are increasingly unhappy and are beginning to turn on the royal family.  In attempt to lift morale, another Selection begins and male suitors begin pouring into the palace from all over the country, determined to win Eadlyn’s hand.

For the most part, Eadlyn isn’t very likable.  She’s stubborn, proud, and stuck-up.  She’s pretty high and mighty, but her many flaws are partially forgivable because of the amount she gives up for her throne.  The book makes clear that, given the choice, she wouldn’t choose to rule the country.  But she throws herself into it anyways and, throughout the book, sacrifices her personal desires for her position.  That doesn’t wholly redeem her, though.  She still is annoying at points.

What I love about this book is that it takes us on the other side of the Selection.  In the first three books, we see it all from the point of view of one of the participants.  In this story, we get to see the process from the heir’s point of view.  What would it be like to balance dating 30 young men and learning to rule an unstable country?

The other thing I love is that it brings out a lot of double-standards.  Being a feminist, I LOVE seeing double-standards exposed.  Before this, it was always a male heir surrounded by female suitors.  Boys, though, respond differently to the competition.  While girls got into spats, boys brawl.  With a female heir, sexual assault becomes an issue.  While it’s okay for male heirs to get physical with the candidates, a female one is looked down upon as loose.  While the press was all about praising Maxon in the first series, it seems out to get Eadlyn–painting her as a prideful, spoiled, ice queen.

Is The Heir the best piece of literature out there?  Nope.  Is it enjoyable?  Definitely.

The Kingkiller Chronicles: The Name of the Wind & The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

Rating: 2 / 5 stars

Summary: Told in Kvothe’s own voice, this is the tale of the magically gifted young man who grows to be the most notorious wizard his world has ever seen. The intimate narrative of his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, his years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-ridden city, his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, and his life as a fugitive after the murder of a king form a gripping coming-of-age story unrivaled in recent literature.

I picked up this unfinished series at the high recommendation of a book lover friend.  It’s been a while since I picked up a massive fantasy novel and thought I’d give the highly-acclaimed series a try.  What I can say is that Rothfuss is a very gifted writer.  His prose is truly excellent.

What I can’t say is that I enjoyed these books.  Although they’re entertaining/easy reads, I didn’t feel myself loving these books.  The way they’re set up bothers me.  The premise is that there’s one story taking place present-time regarding a civil war with mysterious monsters on the loose.  The main character, Kvote, is the stuff of legend, but has taken cover as an innkeeper and thought dead.  When discovered by a recorder of stories, Kvote decides to tell his.  The majority of the books follow the course of his life–tracing his childhood in a troupe of traveling musicians to years living as a street urchin to living as a student at the university.  In the second book, Kvote continues his studies, helps a king woo a wife, tracks down bandits in the woods, winds up in the fairy world and shacks up with a fae temptress, and spends time with an off-the-map society where he learns to fight.  All the while, Kvote looks for information on the Chandrian–a group of killers out of legends who killed his parents.

The story, ‘though intriguing, feels like it’s going nowhere.  Kvote isn’t very likable.  He goes from adventure to adventure and is amazing at everything he does.  He’s an amazing musician, student, lover, fighter, and magician.  There’s nothing he can’t do…  And he’s a smart-ass.

Then there’s his love interest, Denna.  Ugh.  She’s one of the worst female characters I’ve ever encountered.  I’d go into how awful she is, but a Goodreads reviewer has said it better than I ever could.

If you’re into fantasy, you might like these books.  If not, skip them.

Other Books I’m Reading…

I’m still plugging through The Silmarillion by Tolkien.  It’s breathtaking, but extremely thick.  I can only manage thirty pages a week.  This afternoon, I finally breached the 200 page mark.  It’s slow going, but I’ll have it finished by the time summer ends!

At work, I’m listening through Harry Potter again.  This week, I reached Order of the Phoenix… so my hours are filled with lots of angst.  I plowed through Goblet of Fire last week and, in the wake of Voldemort’s return, I’m once again annoyed by how unpleasant Harry is in this book.  But it’s okay.  It just makes me thankful I’m out of the teen years.

Recently, I picked up Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier.  Yes, more fantasy.  It’s the first of Marillier’s Sevenwaters series.  I’ve read the whole series already, but it’s been a few years.  The first is a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s story “The Wild Swans”.  I love a good fairytale retelling and am looking forward to this read.

That’s it for this week’s On the Shelf.  What books have you been reading lately?

Removing the Pedestal: Why Paper Towns is Culturally Important

This weekend, the film adaptation of my favorite John Green novel is being released.  In light of this, I’d like to pause my usual On the Shelf book reviews in order to talk about why this story is important–not just to me, but to culture in general.

As far as plots go, Paper Towns isn’t anything special.

Q, the hero of the book, fits the average, nice guy mold to a tee.  He drives his mom’s minivan, hangs out with the band kids, and hates the whole idea of prom.  He actually tries (to an extent) in school, never breaks rules, and is secretly in love with the girl next door.

Then, one night, Margo Roth Spiegelman (the beautiful, mysterious girl Q loves) shows up at his window and takes him on the all-night, prank filled adventure of his dreams.

We live in a culture that idealizes women.  We place them up on pedestals and only see the pieces of them that we choose.  Women are viewed as perfect, pristine creatures that must be served, protected, and loved.  In the process, their humanity slips away.  Idealized women are scattered throughout literature, starting with the Troubadours in medieval France.  It was true in the Victorian Age when Coventry Patmore wrote his famous poem about “Angels in the House“.  It happens in Tennyson’s Guinevere in Idyls of the King–a poem in which the failure of Camelot’s queen to live on a pedestal brings about the destruction of a nation.  The idealized women shows up in the form of Daisy Buchanan (a personification of the American Dream) in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.  There are hundreds of examples out there.  Literature and film are great shapers of how people think and the presence of supposedly perfect women only leads to the expectation that such women actually exist. (Newsflash: They don’t.)

It’s not surprising, then, that our fictional friend Margo finds herself on a pedestal.  In fact, this is one of the first things we ever learn about her.  In the novel’s prologue, Q informs us that:

The way I figure it, everyone gets a miracle. Like, I will probably never be struck by lightning, or win a Nobel Prize, or become the dictator of a small nation in the Pacific Islands, or contract terminal ear cancer, or spontaneously combust. But if you consider all the unlikely things together, at least one of them will probably happen to each of us. I could have seen it rain frogs. I could have stepped foot on Mars. I could have been eaten by a whale. I could have married the Queen of England or survived months at sea. But my miracle was different. My miracle was this: out of all the houses in all the subdivisions in all of Florida, I ended up living next door to Margo Roth Spiegelman.

When the wonderful miracle that is Margo disappears, of course Q feels compelled to rescue her.

In addition to idealizing women, culture has messages for men as well.  You see, we live in a culture that is obsessed with guys “getting the girl”.  Don’t believe me?  Go pick up any chick flick released in the past thirty years.  You’ll see what I’m talking about.  So many movies and books teach men that they can get the girl if they just try hard enough.  Although this story line leads to some adorable, enjoyable, films, it also introduces rhetoric that is alarming.  It implies that nice guys get girls.  Which isn’t always the case.

Messages like these are powerful.  They have consequences.  In 2014, Elliot Rodger went on a killing spree on his college campus to enact revenge against all women.  His logic?  Watch the video he made before committing his murders.  It’s bone-chillingly familiar.

Back to Paper Towns.

The story has been told before.  Average boy (Q) loves unattainable, idealized girl next door (Margo).  Idealized girl disappears and average boy feels the need to rescue her.  They fall in love, ride into the sunset, and live happily ever after.

Or do they?

This is where Green turns the tables.  This is where things get good.

What if Margo is aware that everyone around her idealizes her?  What if she would rather disappear completely than continue living on her pedestal?  What if Q goes on a quest to save her but, instead of saving her, discovers that he never actually knew her in the first place?

The story’s main message is pounded into Q’s head through retracing Margo’s steps and closely analyzing Walt Whitman’s poem “Song of Myself”.  In order to find Margo, Q must put himself in her shoes, to see the world as she does.  In the process, he learns that he knows nothing.

Q’s quest, ultimately, isn’t about Margo at all.  It’s about stripping away preconceived notions and learning to see people as they really are.  At one point, one of his friends even points this out, saying “You know your problem, Quentin? You keep expecting people not to be themselves.

Ultimately, this leads to Q’s major revelation:

Yes. The fundamental mistake I had always made—and that she had, in fairness, always led me to make—was this: Margo was not a miracle. She was not an adventure. She was not a fine and precious thing. She was a girl.

This is why I love Paper Towns.  Green spoon feeds us the expected “boy gets girl” story only to turn the tables.  The story isn’t about finding Margo.  It’s about taking Margo off the pedestal and restoring her humanity.  It’s about stripping away the ideal and acknowledging that people, even beautiful ones, are cracked, flawed, and messed up.  In the end, the story presents us with the challenge of seeing people as they really are.

My favorite line from the book states it perfectly:

To finish it all off, I’m really looking forward to seeing the movie adaptation.  I know it won’t be exactly like the book, but I’m okay with that.  I’ve been assured by John Green (via Vlogbrothers videos) that it stays true to the message of the book–a message that I believe is powerful and relevant.

P.S. Much of this post was influenced by the Courtly Love literature class I took this past Spring.  A huge thank you to my professor for giving me insight into the importance of these messages and the way they affect society.

On the Shelf: Rick Riordan, Classics on Audiobook, and a Bit of Dickens

I’ve been shirking my summer reading lately… which explains why I didn’t make a book-related post last week.  But, I assure you, I have a good reason!  (More on that later.) Even though I haven’t completed anything worth reviewing lately, I’ve still been literary.  Instead of following my usual format, I thought I’d take an opportunity to discuss all the stories I’ve consumed.

First up: Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan I’ve been inching my way through Riordan’s vastly entertaining stories about modern-day demigods for several years.  Whenever the next one comes my way, I pick it up.  I started the Heroes of Olympus series three years ago and, although the final novel has been out for a year or two, I finally got around to reading it on my Kindle.

Yes, I know these books are written for twelve year-olds.  But what’s the fun of reading if you don’t appreciate stories for all ages?  Although the writing isn’t spectacular, I ADORE these books.  The characters are just plain FUN.  The plot moves quickly, pulling me in and keeping me up late into the night. I won’t spoil the final novel for any of you who haven’t read them, but it did not disappoint!  I read for hours straight, unable to put the book down.  A satisfying conclusion to a highly enjoyable series!

Check out this FABULOUS fan art by Viria, one of my favorite artists:

Photo taken from Google Search

Audiobook Talk: Since I do field work for my summer job, life gets boring quickly.  So, I listen to audiobooks!  What I love about listening to novels is that it gives me a sense of purpose–the plot progresses to an end, giving me a goal to work towards.  It breaks up the day and gives me something to look forward to amid weeding, hoeing, and other menial tasks.

Every summer, I listen to J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece on audiobook.  I’ve been through them at least four or five times now.  I started this year’s listen during my first few days back at work.  Fellowship of the Ring took a mere four days–a new record!  The Two Towers took longer–about a week.  The Return of the King went quickly as well.  I don’t really know what else to say about the series outside the fact that it’s an old favorite and no summer would be complete without it.  I’m hoping to get through the copy of The Silmarillion I received for Christmas sometime this summer–a project that has now been set up quite nicely!

Last week, I returned to another old favorite: Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen.  Like many, many, many others, I’ve been reading and re-reading Austen’s classic for years.  It’s been quite a while since I last touched the novel itself.  What I love about P&P is that it’s the kind of story that you never tire of reading.  Every time through, something different strikes you.  Listening made certain aspects of the story stand out in ways that I had never before considered.

Now, I’m revisiting another old favorite: Jane Eyre.  I’m currently almost nine hours in–Rochester just dressed up as a gypsy in order to mess with his house guests (and find out if Jane has feelings for him).  I’ll probably finish this one by the end of the week.

Finally, the book that has been holding me up… Two years ago, I started reading Bleak House by Charles Dickens.  I got 350 through before sending it to the back-burner due to assigned reading.  This summer, I’ve vowed to finish the massive 800 page chunker.  The problem is… it’s an enormous story with at least thirty characters that are difficult to keep track of.  I had to re-read the Sparknotes summary for all the chapters leading up to where I left off, as well as character descriptions.  This helped a bit, but I really didn’t get my bearings until I had plowed through fifty pages or so.  I’m now on page 473 with half the book to go.

It’s a wonderful book (minus the boring parts) and I WISH that my Victorian Lit professor had assigned it.  I feel like there’s so much that I’m missing.  But the central characters are enjoyable–I especially love Mr. Guppy.  The portions Esther narrates are my favorite.  I also laughed out loud at the part where Mr. Krook spontaneously combusted.  Dickens has lots of balls in the air at the point I’m at and I’m excited to see how he connects everything.

So… that concludes another On the Shelf!  Maybe this weekend, I’ll take a break from Dickens and read something review-able.  In the meantime, are there any books that I talk about here that you’ve read?  What are your thoughts on them?  Based on these texts, are there any you recommend me adding to my massive “To-Read” list?

Four Years of English Classes: Best and Worst Reads

Being an English Major, I’ve done a LOT of reading over the past four years.  From novels to plays to poetry, it’s been wonderful experiencing all the different texts.  There have been many works I’ve absolutely loved, and several that I couldn’t stand.

Although I’m looking forward to pleasure-reading for the rest of my life, I thought I’d take a moment to look back at the best and worst reads of my undergraduate career.  Below are my lists and in parenthesis are the classes I read them for.

Worst Reads:

  • Wieland by Charles Brockden Brown (Survey of American Lit I)
  • The Rules: Time-Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right (Courtly Love)
  • The Waves by Virginia Woolf (Woolf Lit)
  • The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope (Victorian Lit)
  • The Art of Courtly Love by Andreas Cappellanus (Courtly Love)
  • The Romance of the Rose (Courtly Love)
  • Antony & Cleopatra by William Shakespeare (Shakespeare)
  • Moses, Man of the Mountain by Zora Neale Hurston (Senior Seminar)

Fun Fact: I hated Wieland so much that I literally threw it at a wall.  That book brought forth so much rage in my sophomore heart.

Best:

  • Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (Survey of Brit Lit II, Woolf Lit)
  • Dracula by Brahm Stoker (Victorian Lit)
  • Coming Up for Air by George Orwell (Unhomely Homes)
  • The Faerie Queene (Book I) by Sir Edmund Spenser (Survey of Brit Lit I)
  • The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff (Senior Seminar)
  • Idyls of the King by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (Courtly Love)

These are texts I would recommend in a heartbeat–they left a deep impact in my heart and I know I will revisit them in the future.

Now that I’m done with literature classes, I’m really excited to start tackling classics for fun again.  Bleak House has been on the back-burner for FAR too long.

There Will Come Soft Rains

I heard the weather before I saw it.  The wind blasted against my windowpane, causing it to shake and shudder.  The thing about living on the fourth floor of a building, though, is that weather look worse than it actually is.  When I stepped outside in my blue dress, headed for church, I was pleasantly surprised.  The wind was strong, but not overpowering.  A slight drizzle fell, forming small puddles on the path.

I could smell Spring coming.  And I thought of this poem by Sara Teasdale.

~~~

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white,

Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

~~~

Photo from Google: http://www.paintingsgallery.pro/upload/artists/lipko_andrew_218564/artworks/www.PaintingsGallery.pro_Lipko_Andrew_Spring_Rain_On_The_River_medium_219217.jpg

The Court of Love: An Allegory

I have written an allegory.  No, I’m not yet to the level of Sir Edmund Spencer, John Bunyan, and George Orwell.  Maybe someday.

Anyways, we’ve been reading lots of allegories lately in my Courtly Love class.  So, my professor decided to make us write our own.  In addition, we had to write a formal analysis of one of the texts and discuss our creative choices in our own writing.

Disturbed by the passivity of the Beloved in the medieval text The Romance of the Rose, I chose to explore a more modern take on love in which the beloved possesses voice and agency in abundance.  My story takes place, as all Courtly Love tales do, in the Court of Love.  My court, however, is not royal, but judicial.  Love is not a king, but a judge who decides the fate of lovers.  Partially out of laziness and partially out of the desire to have fun with allegorical figures, I center the story on the jury. By giving the decision of the case to a room of allegorical figures, I explore the way internal emotions and thought processes interact when it comes to the deciding the future of a romantic relationship.

Is my allegory well-written?  I don’t think so.  But I’m definitely proud of it.

(Keep in mind that I know little to nothing about the judicial system and made all of this up.  I’m less interested in getting court procedures right and more focused on the conversations that take place.)

~*~

The jurors file into the room and take their seats around a long table. Commitment takes a seat at the head of the table, taking leadership. On his right and left are sisters Devotion and Patience. At the foot of the table sits a Lust, a dark, menacing figure. Jurors First Impression and Good Looks, who immediately hit it off, chat happily next to the small, quiet figure of Politeness. Next to her sits Modesty, who does not speak, but observes the room with a careful eye. Ambition and Biological Clock glare at each other across the table. The last figures to take their seats are the brother and sister, Fair Welcome and Consent. It’s been a long afternoon in court and it’s time to come to a decision.

Commitment clears his throat and the room silences. Eleven pairs of eyes shift his way as he summarizes the day’s proceedings. “So… we are here to decide Case 276 in the Court of Love. We have Guy Williams suing Rose Bell. He was stuck in a bad relationship when the met, but when that ended, he began pursuing Rose. She refused his first few advances, not sure if a relationship was something she wanted at this point in her life. He persisted and, eventually, she gave in. They began dating and, at first, things went really well. But, one night a month into their relationship, things went a bit too far. Guy made some moves that Rose was uncomfortable with. After telling him off, she fled from his apartment. We’ve heard, at this point, from both parties. Guy, represented by the powerful lawyer Common Sense, claims that Rose is being unreasonable for not letting him go all the way. Rose, represented by the sharp-tongued Independence, insists that she’s not ready. We must now decide the future of their relationship. Is Rose justified in refusing Guy? Should she have given in? Is he at fault for expecting too much of her? Where should they go from here? Let’s hear what you have to say.”

Immediately, the hulking figure of Lust stands. “I think the whole case is ridiculous. The vote is obvious: she should let the guy bang her.”

Politeness lets out a gasp at this base comment.

Commitment gives her a pointed look. “Yes?”

She shifted in her seat, uncertain of what to say. “I don’t think that kind of language is appropriate. I think that Rose has made her side clear and that Guy should show her respect.” Modesty nodded in agreement, but Lust glared at the small woman. Politeness shrunk in her seat, face heated in embarrassment, at all the attention.

Commitment gave her an encouraging smile, “I think Politeness raises a fair point. Personally, I think that Guy demands too much too soon. They’ve only had a few dates.”

Lust rolled his eyes. “I suppose you think they should wait until marriage? What a prude.”

“Actually, yes. I do think that.” Commitment’s words were firm, resolute. “But I’m not here to force my views on everyone. I’m here for the same reason as you, to decide the future of Guy and Rose’s relationship. Now, let’s here some more thoughts. First Impression, what do you think?”

First Impression smiled brightly. “I think Guy is great. I’m a bit surprised that he’s asking for sex this soon, but honestly, I think it’s worth the risk.”

“Oh, it’s definitely worth the risk,” Good Looks chimed in. “Have you seen those perfectly sculpted biceps? Good grief, the girl must be mad to turn down such a hunk.”

“Actually,” Ambition interrupted loudly. “I think Rose is perfectly justified. When Guy first asked her out, she turned him down. She clearly has other priorities. There is more to life than romance. What if she wants to focus on her career? She doesn’t need a man to hold her back.”

“Having other priorities is all and well,” chimed Biological Clock. “But Rose isn’t a little girl. She’s fully grown. Yes, having a career is important, but what if she wants to settle down and have a family? She’s only got so much time to do that. Guy can give her children. She shouldn’t pass this opportunity by because she may not have another chance.”

“Did you not see her on the witness stand today?” asked Good Looks. “The girl’s a bombshell. She’ll have no problem finding someone else.”

The room was silent for a minute. Then Devotion spoke, “She has to pick someone sometime. I agree with Commitment in that Guy is too forward. He shouldn’t be making these requests this early into the relationship. But I think he actually cares about her. I mean, he didn’t let her initial refusal hold him back. He continued his pursuit, which I think is extremely admirable.”

Fair Welcome nodded. “His pursuit is definitely impressive. It shows that he genuinely cares about her. I think it’s great that they started dating, but I’m not really sure what to think about the rest…” He glanced at his sister. “Consent, what do you think?”

Consent’s gaze was steely. “I fully support Rose’s actions. If she’s not sure, he needs to respect that. He shouldn’t demand more than she is ready to give.”

“Thank you, Consent,” Commitment noted. “Now that everyone has given their opinions, let’s find a plan of action. We’re pretty divided. First, let’s tackle the issue of sex. Who favors Guy in this regard?” Lust and Good Looks raised their hands. “Those in favor of Rose? All right, sex is off the table (hopefully until marriage). Now to deciding the future of their relationship. Is there anyone who thinks they should break up?”

“Absolutely,” Ambition answered. “She has so much potential. It kills me to think of it being wasted on a man.”

“Thank you, Ambition, for your thoughts. Any others?” Commitment paused. No one moved. “All right, it sounds like we want Guy and Rose to stay together. Lets hear suggestions for what they need to do from here.”

“Well,” Devotion began. “Guy was pretty forward, but I think the relationship is totally salvageable. They will just have to take it slow. It will take a while for Rose to trust him again.”

“I agree,” piped Fair Welcome. “She definitely likes him.”

“This is one of the few instances that I say it’s okay to take time,” added Biological Clock. “That is, as long as it leads to marriage and children.”

Lust looked indignant. “Time? Taking it slow? That’s the biggest piece of—“

“—Above all else,” Consent cut him off, “in the statement describing our decision, we need to stress that he is to never, and I mean NEVER pull a move like that again. Whether in marriage or not, he should not push her to have sex. He needs to wait until she has made it clear that she is ready.”

Lust tried to respond, but Commitment spoke first. “Absolutely. That will help prevent further mishaps like this one. Does anyone else have anything to add? No? Okay, so our final statement… We do not permit Guy Williams and Rose Bell to end their relationship. However, from this point forward, they must take things slow. Guy needs, to put it crudely, keep it in his pants. They have to continue seeing each other for… let’s say… a month. If things are not going well after that point, they can return here and terminate the relationship. Does this sound fair?”

Everyone in the room except Lust nodded.

“All right then, lets return to the courtroom and give Judge Love our verdict.”

~*~

Geeking out over the Bard

This semester, I have found myself reading Shakespeare.  (This is partially because I’m in a class devoted to the subject.)  But it’s become more than simple homework.

After my library shift on Fridays, I’ve found myself retreating to my room, dimming the lights, and lugging out my massive anthology.  I peer over the tiny print and let the words flow.  I read aloud and my voice changes in tone and pitch from character to character.  In my dark little room, the plays come to life.

We just finished reading Titus Andronicus.  Even though the subject material is some of the most depressing I’ve ever encountered, I still leave class feeling giddy and slightly breathless.

Why?  Because I just love Shakespeare.  I can’t get enough of him.  The careful structure of his plots, the complexities of his characters, the eloquence of his language… it just gets me.

And while we’re on the subject of Titus… it’s so gruesome that it’s funny.

(I had the chance to see the Reduced Shakespeare Company perform this live while in London!  It was splendid enough to deserve its own post, so check that out if you so choose.)

Looking to the future and finally having some answers

About a month ago, I wrote a post where I posed the question: What brings you life?

I’ve been thinking about the future a lot lately.  I mean, with only a few months left of college, it’s to be expected.  People keep asking me what’s next.  I keep telling them I don’t know.  Just now, though, I realized that I DO know.

I want to do something that brings me life.  I don’t want a job to pay the bills.   I want my work to be my passion.  I want to feel a sense of fulfillment at the end of a week.  I want to do something I love so much that I can’t imagine doing anything else.

I got lucky with college.  During my final years of high school, I knew exactly what I wanted to major in.  People ask me why I chose to be an English major and I answer them, “I’ve been an English major my entire life.  I just didn’t know that is what it’s called until I got to college.”  I didn’t chose English for the career track.  I became an English major because it’s the only major I imagined myself pursuing.  And, although there have been rough patches (I’m looking at you, Virginia Woolf class), my studies have spurred my passions and brought incredible life.  But it’s not what I want to do forever.

I now stand at the brink of another crossroads.  Where do I go after graduation?  What should I do?  The answer is clear: I need to find what brings me the most life and I need to do that every day until I die.

At this point, I have a good sense of what that is.

Above all else, my time here in Morris has taught me that, although English is something I love, it’s not something I want to do with my life.  When I look back what stands out the most is spiritual growth and involvement in ministry.  Over the past four years, God turned a quiet girl with her identity in a box into a confident, passionate leader.  Being involved in IVCF, prayer ministry, Bible studies, and (of course) working at camp has done more for my career than any professor in any classroom.  He’s given me a taste for service that leaves me longing for more.  All I want to do is serve God with my life.  I can’t imagine doing anything else.

I’ve realized lately that I feel the most fulfillment when I’m pouring into people.  It’s my favorite thing.  There’s nothing that brings me more joy than praying for others or meeting one-on-one and giving encouragement.  I love taking the lessons I’ve learned and the things God has spoken to me and passing them on.  It’s such an amazing experience, helping others draw closer to Him.

That, friends, is what I want to do every day for the rest of my life.

Now I just have to find someone willing to pay me to do it.