On the Shelf: Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

I’ve noticed this book every time I’ve browsed through the Young Adult Fiction section at Target and finally decided to give it a shot.  Being a bit of a world explorer, I’ve always been drawn to coming-of-age-in-Europe tales and was excited to get a taste of Italy.

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

25756328“I made the wrong choice.”

Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.

But then she is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.

People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.

Continue reading

Poetry Friday: When You are Old by W.B. Yeats

When You are Old by W.B. Yeats
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
——————–

What is Poetry Friday?  Years ago, when I was in high school, we did poetry lessons every Friday.  I’ve always loved this idea and will continue the tradition by sharing poems on my blog.

On the Shelf: Fantasy Trilogies Galore

I’ve been reading a lot lately, but have totally shirked my book reviews.  Oops.  The stresses of my new job have me spending evenings rolling around on the couch in a sweater and leggings, avoiding anything that requires thinking.

So, until I’m able to write any focused reviews, here’s a bit of what I’ve been digging into over the past few weeks!

His Fair Assassin trilogy by Robin LaFevers:

I’ve been seeing things about this trilogy for quite a while, but never engaged until now.  I downloaded an ebook version of the first novel, Grave Mercy, from my local library and was off to the races.  I completed the trilogy in five days and loved them so much I ran online to order physical copies.

These books aren’t the most well-written in the world, but they’re incredibly fresh and original.  The premise is a convent in medieval France where they are dedicated to serving Mortain, the patron saint of Death.  Novices are trained as assassins and sent into the world to do Death’s bidding.  Each book is very different in flavor, although all have their share of romance.  Grave Mercy is, in many ways, a political thriller.  Dark Triumph is very dark and personal.  Mortal Heart is a coming-of-age tale.

If you like historical fiction, fantasy, and romance, these books are a must-read.

The Symphony of Ages trilogy by Elizabeth Haydon

I read the first three books of this now-longer series in high school and have been hankering to revisit them ever since.  That being said, I picked up Rhapsody on a Friday and had all 2,000+ pages of the series read ten days later.  You’d think that a series this long would have dull points, but I couldn’t put these down.  (And this is my second time through!)  Haydon has created a story that suck you in and doesn’t let go until the ride is done.

The books tell the story of Rhapsody, a young singer who finds herself swept into an adventure across Time to learn of a prophecy that foretells her destiny to be a key force in destroying evil.  Through her journey, she encounters a vast array of characters that are diverse, complex, and wonderful.  Haydon’s universe is vast, with deeply structured, believable cultures and religions.  Her world-building is top-notch.  The scope of the story is epic, leading up to a satisfying, memorable conclusion.

If you’re a fantasy fan, add these to your list.

Right now, I’m also re-reading Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.  I’m loving it even more this time around.  Maybe I’ll make a focused On the Shelf discussing it in a couple of weeks.

In the meantime, when I finish that, I’m going to dig into Winter by Marissa Meyer.

Here’s to more books!  Keep an eye out for more On the Shelf posts in the coming weeks.

Love is All You Need… Or is It? (Writing 101, Day 3)

I have never been in love.

Some days, this fact about myself makes me feel incredibly vulnerable. In a consumer society where the movies we watch and books we read tell us the most desirable thing a woman can strive for is romance, not having it sometimes makes me feel weak. Open. Insecure.

Singleness is often portrayed as a dreadful thing that women need to get rid of. I love romantic comedies, but how many center on women who are dissatisfied with their relationship status? To be single is to be a failure. If you’re not in a relationship, you’re not desirable enough. You’re not beautiful enough. You’re not smart enough. You are not enough.

What a bunch of crap.

Most days, romantic inexperience doesn’t bother me much. I’ve never felt the desire to date for the sake of dating. When I enter a relationship someday, I want it to be something that lasts. I don’t want to be with someone for the sake of not being alone. I want to be with someone because they fascinate and inspire me.  I want to be with someone who loves me for who I am. In reality, I’ve never actually met anyone I seriously wanted to date. Oh I’ve had crushes.  Lots of them.  But only one person has ever seriously caught my eye and that didn’t even start to go anywhere. That, however, is a story for another day.

When it comes down to it, I love being single. I love making life decisions without needing someone else’s input, worrying about distance, or providing for children. For me, there is a whole world of possibilities. I could move anywhere, do any job, and pursue whatever adventures come my way. Singleness is a unique time in life and I don’t want to spend it moping around.

I do hope to find love eventually, but why detract from the joys of life by buying into lies that I need a man to make me happy? Everyone says it comes when you least expect it. I figure that if I live without expectations of romance, I can enjoy all the wonderful things in my life now. When love comes, it will take me by surprise and will be so much more exciting.

My philosophy on love and dating may not resonate with everyone. Most of my views stream from my deeply rooted faith and security in God. But to go into all the spiritual aspects of my reasoning would be crossing into waters I tend to avoid in the blogosphere. (Maybe I’ll write about why I don’t talk about my faith much someday. I’ll add that to the list of post ideas.) Anyway, if my words don’t fit your perspective or worldview, that is okay. We’re all different. As the phrase goes, “You do you.”

The truth is, though, culture is wrong. You don’t need romance, dates, or sex to live a fulfilling life.

Falling in love? Maybe someday. Until then, I am enough.

This post is inspired by an assignment for the Blogging University class Writing 101: Finding Everyday Inspiration.

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.”

~*~

Friday Favorites 8

It’s the final day of my school week and after a two and a half hour lecture on media literacy, you could say I’m trying to cling to whatever bits of joy I can.  So, what better way to cheer me up than with another Friday Favorites?

This book:

https://birkhola.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/4cafe-outlander.jpg

Originally recommended to my mother by extended family, I recently picked up the novel Outlander by Diana Galbadon.  It tells the story of Claire Beauchamp, a nurse recently reunited with her husband in the aftermath of World War II.  While vacationing in Scotland, Claire touches a mysterious stone and finds herself transported back in time to the year 1743.  Alone amid the tribal clans of the Scottish Highlands, she finds herself torn between returning to her own time and the love she finds in her new life.

I’m not very far into the book yet, but so far I’m enjoying it!  After studying abroad in the UK, I tend to latch on to anything that brings me back.  The characters are interesting and engaging, and the story definitely appealing. I love the historical elements, especially Claire’s perspective and experience from WW II in contrast with the warlike Highlands and (impending) Jacobite rebellions.

My main issue with the book is the amount of steamy romance.  I enjoy a love story as much as any other girl, but the constant sex is more than mildly irritating.  I find myself skipping pages at a time to avoid all the passionate bits.

This kitten:

IMG_2478

My older brother keeps sending me pictures of the kittens at home, resulting in me squirming around on the floor because they’re too adorable for me to handle.  (Much to the confusion and amusement of my roommates.)

This show:

http://img1.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20130828000142/greenarrow/images/thumb/d/dd/Arrow_TV_Series_Season_2_Promo_Poster.jpg/500px-Arrow_TV_Series_Season_2_Promo_Poster.jpg

I started watching Arrow last Spring, having heard good things and seen bits and pieces about it on Tumblr.  However, with the semester ending, I only made it a couple episodes in until giving up.  Sometime this summer, though, I over heard some of my fellow camp staff gushing about how great it was.  My older brother, a comic book enthusiast, told me that it starts out slow and gets better as it goes along.  All parties insisted that season two was mind-blowingly-amazing.

I just finished the second, and most recent, season yesterday.  They were right.  Oh my goodness.  All my fandom “I CAN’T EVEN HANDLE THESE FEELS” urges are hard-core triggering.  It’s SUCH a fantastic show.

This song:

I first started listening to Bastille this summer, and this song has been in my head all week!

Have a great weekend!