5 Books that changed my life (and you should read them)

We all have those special books that really made an impact on our lives, and we can never forget the stories. They go through our heads again and again. Here are five books that personally affected me:

The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis. This series is what basically what birthed and defined my interest in writing, and what landed C.S. Lewis as my absolute favorite author. I almost feel as if these books were written just for me. Their beautifully pure aura of magic and childlike adventure whisks even the oldest among us away, and makes us all dream of going to Narnia.

The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak. Everything about this book was mind-blowing and stirring-deep-in-the-soul. By page three, I was sold. The kind of depth of emotion this novel stirs up, mostly through Zusak’s exquisite writing, is one that sticks with you forever. It’s one of those novels I tell everyone, everyone, to read. You must!

The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien. This book amazed me more so for it’s author. This man created not only a fictional world but languages, races, a history, and more. The Silmarillion is literally a history book of a nonexistent world. And this was all in this one man’s mind! That right there is an inspiration to writers.

Surprised by Joy, By C.S. Lewis. This story is amazing and so inspiring, and it’s an autobiography! Whether one shares the faith of Lewis or not, it’s such a beautiful story to learn about. His faith transformation and journey of becoming the writer of The Chronicles of Narnia and other beloved novels are just a few factors that make him my absolute favorite author.

The War of Art, By Steven Pressfield. Playing off the infamous title The Art of War, this book addresses our inner enemies of creativity and discipline. It expresses how to overcome our ambition inhibitions and continually, and successfully, produce and create. Already on board with the philosophy, this book helped me apply the principles and actions that made me a better person.

 

Bonus: The Screwtape Letters, By C.S. Lewis. Yes, another Lewis book, but I did already mention he’s my favorite author. This book, comprised of letters written from a senior demon to his nephew, a demon-in-training charged with the task of the damnation of a particular young man on earth, was eerily and bone-tingling mesmerizing. Not because it was spooky, which it really wasn’t, but because it felt markedly real. It made me think that this really can be the way that demons go about trying to sabotage our eternity.

Book Review: Seraphina and Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

As a writer pursuing the dream of becoming published, it’s inspiring for me to read authors’ debut novels. The debut of Rachel Hartman, Seraphina, was a true inspiration, as it was a debut that blew me away. Hartman takes the age-old typical of dragons and puts a new spin on them: they can transform into humans. With this refreshing addition to the arsenal of dragon stories, I thoroughly enjoyed a good ol’ return to my childhood favorites: fantasy. It had been a good while since I last read something genuinely and solely fantastical.

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Seraphina follows the half-human, half-dragon Seraphina, a young musician living in the world of the royal court. Naturally, in such an environment, there is dark and behind-the-corner activity about. Seraphina desperately tries to hide the draconic part of herself as she gets wrapped up in conspiracy and murder mystery that shakes the tense feud between dragons and humans.

What blew me away the most is the amount of detail that Hartman obviously put a lot of attention, research, and passion into. In particular, the detail of politics seems so well thought out that this fictional world really could operate as well as any earthly country. Characters are beautifully fleshed out, especially physically. Hartman leaves no inch of them to wonder; we know what these characters look like and how they act. The dragons are fascinating. With their lack of comprehension of human emotions, it allows for some comical misunderstandings of which Seraphina finds herself a kind of translator between the humans and dragons in her life. There’s no wondering of the settings, either. The world of Goredd, as it is called, is so clear in my mind.

Though there were moments when I got a little lost with plot, I couldn’t tell if it was the book or simply just me not paying attention. A few deeper fantastical concepts, such as Seraphina’s “mind garden” I sometimes struggled to follow, but the confusion would soon pass. I did not fault the book too much for that. The length for Seraphina is just right; not too long, not too short.

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I am currently reading the sequel to Seraphina, titled Shadow Scale, so I cannot give a full proper review on it just yet. I am approximately 3/4 through it, however, and have established a few choice opinions. It is longer than Seraphina, and thus there a moments when I feel a slight lag in the plot and action. However, the prose of both books is enchanting. Hartman knows how to spin words. Details are just as superb, if not sometimes a little unnecessary, but I would rather read too much detail than not enough. The climax is creeping slowing, but perhaps that is just me anticipating the end. For a good reason, I do hope. All in all, so far, I am not disappointed with this highly anticipated sequel. It came out around my birthday, and it was the perfect present for myself.

I highly suggest these novels to you, especially if you have as much a love for the world of fantasy and lore as I do. In the midst of this heavily populated genre, it’s easy for new members to become lost in the fray, but Seraphina and its sequel have stood strong and stood out, and I personally hope it stays that way for a good while. Well done, Ms. Hartman.

A Poem A Week #3

Sweet Tasting Words

Ever so often
There is a lilt in my head.
It bakes and it burns;
A cacophony of lies.
Disabling words
And treacherous sentiment.
I have been in that place
Too many terrible times.
I’d tried to escape it;
Sometimes I did.
The words and the pictures
Would play out in my mind,
Bristling and bombing.
It is quite a fight.
But I’ve heard other words before.
They would come to me
In soft-spoken memories,
In the pages of a book.
A gentle, epitomizing whisper.
For the voice was never in the storm;
It was never in the wind.
It was never in the rain.
Never in the hard taps on the floor.
I would walk,
And they would find me.
They would follow me.
Sweet tasting words
That were never more true.
I’ve waited for these words.

By Catherine Joy

You Should Read This: The Book Thief

I know the movie just came out, but now I’m ready to see it, because I just finished reading this one-of-a-kind showstopper of a novel, called The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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So, the story is based in World War II, but the perspective of this dark time in history is different from anything you’ve ever experienced it through. It follows the life of a young German girl who steals books. It is 1939, Molching, Nazi Germany, and Liesel Meminger’s story doesn’t start out so brightly. It involves the death of a brother, the loss of a mother, and the absence of a father. But then she enters the lives of Hans and Rosa Hubermann, or rather, they enter hers, and her life changes. With a growing obsession of reading, Liesel takes to stealing her most favorite prized possession, books, from the unlikeliest of places; the snow in a graveyard, a book-burning fire, the mayor’s house. Her childhood adventures unfold by the side of her best friend Rudy Steiner, but so do the realities and nightmares of a brutal war, literally coming to her doorstep as the Jew Max Vandenburg, or her foster father’s enlistment, or the Ally bombs.

When a book makes my mouth drop open by the third page, I know it’s a clear sign that I hold a masterpiece. Zusak’s writing is so new, so compelling; I am gripped by his craftsmanship of words. The dark yet mesmerizing way that the story is narrated by Death as a character transforms it from the simple telling of a tale to the living of a life. A little girl’s hard life, to be exact.

In the end, I was left with my emotions exhausted and my heart in pieces, and that is the best sign in the world. When a book, or really, any form of storytelling, leaves you like that, it’s definitely succeeded in its purpose. The Book Thief is a read for many ages, many kinds of people, many different souls. Honestly, if you’re human, you will enjoy this.

Irony of Survival, by Zharmae Publishing

Good morning/afternoon/evening friends!

I have here my first post for Zharmae Publishing, and I think its rather intriguing. Introducing Irony of Survival, a short story anthology compiled by Zharmae.

Irony of Survival-Cover

Title: Irony of Survival (The Zharmae Anthology)
Edited by: Anna Mcdermott
Publisher: The Zharmae Publishing Press, L.L.C.
Publisher Website: zharmae.com
Date: 2013

Description:
Irony of Survival being the second in the Zharmae Anthology series takes a deeper look at
survival and how irony’s effect on it can grow into something we may, or may not have
anticipated. While we wonder to ourselves, how it managed to happen, it does. That is the law of
irony, if the possibility exists, then the instant will occur.
. . .Featuring the top rated short stories of the 2012 Annual Spring Writing Competition, the
Irony of Survival takes a keen look at the future, while strolling along a summer park full of
adventure, love, and fright. The stories within these covers are spectacular and compelling even
for those who scoff Irony in the face. – “Foreword” by Anna Mcdermott (Irony of Survival
Editor)

Included Short Stories:
1. OF DOGS AND VOMIT by Kevin Bennett
2. CATALOGUE PHANTASMA by Frances Pauli
3. SHALL KNOW ME WHEN YOU SEE ME? by Johanna Lipford
4. KNACKERMAN by Malachi King
5. STATION 17-B by Brandon Steenbock
6. THE GREEN SHADOW by Nyla Nox
7. TOWER OF STRENGTH by Colleen Anderson
8. RESTITUTION by James Wymore
9. THE SENTINEL by Jak Kavan
10. THE ROMANCE CHIP by Jon Del Arroz
11. REPLACEMENT HEARTS by Edward McKeown
12. THE ICE DRAGON by J.B. Rockwell
13. THE HOLLOW TEMPLE by M.A. Ligocki2
14. HALL OF THE SLAIN by Maria Herring
15. MACHINES by Michael Simon
16. NOWHERE TO GO BUT MARS by Barry Nove
17. ARK-11 by Jak Kavan
18. THE SUN OF A DISTANT HORIZON by Corbin Maxwell

I personally love short story books, and this particular piece takes two very distinct and abstracts subjects, survival and irony, and play them together in intriguing stories that will get you thinking. If you like adventure, excitement, and something to get your brain cells moving, you should read this book.

Have a fine day, friends!

You Should Read This #2

As a writer, of course I’m going to take advantage of all those great books out there meant to help you out, whether it be how-to books, writing tips and tools, or, like this book, how to really define and refine your life as a writer. The Productive Writer by Sage Cohen has changed how I view my writing.

Some of the chapters’ topics don’t even have to pertain directly to writing. Thinking Productive Thoughts, Reinventing your Relationship with Time, and Embracing Fear are some chapters that can be applied to any area of life. Not only does Cohen do the familiar move of “how-to”, but she involves important factors like productivity, time, and fear and teaches you how to make the changes needed with practical, easy to understand steps. There’s also a plethora of tables and graphs to follow that I particularly like; my life thrives on tables and graphs.

If you’re a writer of any kind, no matter what it is, this book will help you immensely. And if you’re not a writer, this book has great life tips that you can apply to your creative profession.

The Dangers of a Bookstore

Are you like me who, every time you go to the bookstore, you ALWAYS leave with an item you never originally intended to buy? In Barnes and Noble, i’m like a typical girl in a clothing shop. I honestly have less compulsion there than in a bookstore. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of my love for books and am never ashamed to admit it, but my card sure feels the shock. Today I had the same scenario. The whole way going, I was telling myself I was not going to buy a book. Miraculously, I didn’t, but that didn’t keep me from hanging on to a clearance deluxe edition of four Jane Austen novels for $7.98 (four books for 8 bucks? that’s a steal!) for a few minutes. That’s usually how I end up buying, a really good price that makes me convince myself. I was proud of myself.

I figured there’s plenty of ways to keep from buying books every time I go.

  1. Leave card at home. In fact, leave your whole wallet! Keep your driver’s license and other important stuff you carry in there (besides your money, obviously) in pockets or purse. 
  2. Keep away from the clearance section. If you stay away, all the prices you’ll be encountering everywhere else will help counter you.
  3. Find a nice book and sit in the cafe and read it! That’s what you’re going there for anyway, for something to read. I once picked up a book from my favorite author and just started reading it in the store, and just kept getting it from the shelf the following times I went and ended up finishing it. Never bothered buying it. Unless it’s something worth owning, or it’s an author you’d like to support by buying their book, this could totally work.
  4. Browse, maybe a little aimlessly. If you check out other sections you don’t normally go to, you won’t be so ogled by the temptation created when you constantly see the books you really want.
  5. If you go there to just be in a bookstore (like I do basically all the time; it’s the environment) bring something to do, liking writing, knitting, doing a crossword, or even your own book to read, sit down, and focus on it. It keeps you from the inventory.
  6. Libraries do still exist, and though they may not always have the latest like bookstores are suppose to, you can still find a book there. And it’s free.
  7. Constantly remind yourself of all the books you already have on your shelf awaiting to be read. I have to do this all the time, as there are books on my shelf that have been there 2 years and I haven’t read yet because I keep getting more. This will make you feel ashamed and guilty, which are strong enough feelings to keep you at bay. Then go home and read those books.

Some of these you could apply to other stores, just replace a few words. Keep buying books by all means (don’t let what happened to Borders happen to Barnes and Noble!!), but restrict yourself. And make smart book choices ^_^