Friday, July 19, 2013

Let It Snow -- I'm Swooning like I'm in an 80's movie

I needed this book. I needed it in a 'light some candles and relax in a hot bath' kind of way. As I write this review, I will try my hardest not to shower you with my overwhelming love for John Green. I will try not to explain to you guys in several different ways how he is a fantastic young adult author and that I love him for not having rippling biceps anywhere in his books. I will try to contain myself over the fact that he writes teens, especially teen nerds, in such a way that makes you swoon. Let's face it though. I probably just lied to you.

Let It Snow is a series of three short stories, all taking place over Christmas. It originally appealed to me because John Green writes one of these said stories. Also, I have a soft spot for Christmas. There is something about the mass amounts of twinkle lights, the idea and in my case, hope for snow, and the smell of a ginormous tree that takes up your entire dining room in your tiny one bedroom apartment, that just makes the holiday magical. No? No one else has trees like that?

Let it be known that I have a certain prejudiced against young adult novels. I think a majority of them shouldn't have been published and when I walk into the young adult section at Barnes and Noble, the one I used to spend hours in as a child, I am overwhelmed with pictures of shirtless, hairless, man-boys and girls with doe eyes and glossy lips. Soft. Core. Porn. This is not to say that I think we should shy away from sexuality in teen novels nor do I think it is something we should be making taboo. But, when I see almost every book jacket gooped up with these images, all I can think is that Fabio and Edward Cullen have done the impossible and have somehow made a baby. This said vampire sexed up child is now gracing the covers of poorly written novels. Or at least what I assume to be poorly written novels. I might never know either because I don't tend to crack open those books which is probably a flaw on my part since they could be hiding a literary gem. I highly doubt it but I'm trying to give the benefit of the doubt here.  

But seriously.  What is that?

My point is, I don't like young adult novels. The teens in them annoy the shit out of me and most of the main characters are whining females concerned only with vapid tendencies that are important to them and only them. I know. I know. There really are people like that in the world and we tend to notice it the most in teenage girls. This isn't exactly an inaccurate portrayal. But, are teen girls this way because we are shaping them to be these self centered, dramatic, 'I can't believe she is wearing the same dress as me' type of person? Or are they this way because its what they truly want to be? Better people and much smarter people can probably answer that question. I simply can't believe that a majority of teens are that shallow and one dimensional as a human being. More on that later.

Now I won't go over plot details with you so as not to spoil the stories but I have to say that two out of three of these stories made me feel like I was sixteen again and falling head over heals for the boy in first period. I was smitten while reading these and that has been one of the things that I think sets John Green (and I'm going to include Maureen Johnson in here too) aside from other authors. Both Green and Johnson created characters and a corresponding romance that was genuine, unique, funny, and filled with all the first time cringe worthy moments that make us feel alive.

Maureen Johnson is not an author I have read before but I will be seeking out her other work soon. She had the first story in the Christmas trilogy and had me hooked with her writing style from the first page. The fact that most of the story centers around a Christmas house collection called Flobie Village and the insanity of people who are collecting them, endeared me to her in ways that I don't think is healthy. I will admit I was looking for something wrong with her section of the story, my teen novel prejudice coming out to play. But, the moment that I thought I had found it in her portrayal of cheerleaders, another character came along and called the main character out on this generalization. Not that the generalization didn't have some truth, but the author did acknowledge that this is not the case all the time.

The love story of this tale was by far my favorite and by the end, I was cheering on the nerd boy, wanting him to win over the nerd girl. I want to see future stories of these two characters and see what their nerd babies turn out to be. I want a conclusion to the Flobie Village catastrophe!

Next was John Green. I love John Green. A lot.

Again, the romance and the characterization in this story were believable in the awkward 'hey we're real people' way. What I liked best about this switch of authors and characters was that while it still mentioned the characters introduced to us in the fist story, a whole new set was given to us, each with their own distinguished personality. Green captures different voices in a way that I am continuously envious of. Furthermore, the way he writes females makes me so happy. And that's kind of where my love for the first two stories comes down to. I feel like Johnson and Green give voice to a female character that I embodied growing up, and didn't feel was represented in media.

In an epic battle to get to a Waffle House, in the middle of a snowstorm, Green tells another love story and the quest for hash browns. It is perfect in every way and during those brief moments when the characters stop acting as old friends and have to navigate the new waters of a potential relationship, I was hiding under the covers, my heart beating fast, agonizing over whether they would be together or not in the end.

These first two stories made me nostalgic for high school again. They made me want to be that awkward teen that didn't know what the hell she was doing or where she was going or if she was smart/pretty/funny/etc. Both Green and Johnson portray the jumbled mess that is the teenage years in a stomach twisting, butterflies swarming and heart skipping kind of way. I love them and want to wax poetics about them forever.

Then we got to the third story. Now, off the bat, I was against Lauren Myracle's section of the story. Her main character was the embodiment of what I hated about young adult novels. The girl was shallow and spent the first five chapters dramatically relaying to her friends in that attention fishing way (Go look on Facebook. You'll find an example of this kind of person, I'm sure) about how her and her boyfriend were no more and it was all her fault and she was so sad and the world was ending and bla bla bla. I hate characters like that. We see them frequently and I often feel like adults view all teens as this mass of superficial, dramatic, things. They don't tend to realize the complexities of the person before them or how the cheerleader might go home at night and be the oldest of several siblings that she is trying to help take care of. They see the artificial part and that's about it. That's what this characterization felt like. Again, I know there are girls like that in the world. I know there are guys in the world that are exactly like the character of Charlie in this book and think they are Gods gift. I'm not saying that this is inaccurate. I just hate that voice to a dramatic extent because there is so much more of a story to tell. I want to know what's behind those personalities. I don’t care about the shade of nail polish they are wearing.

Now, I'm going to be a bit spoilery so if you don't want to have slight plot points given away, scroll down until I yell at you in unnecessary caps lock and bold type face.

I soothed my soul by saying that Myracle was simply giving voice to another aspect of teen life. No, it's not an aspect I like, but it is an aspect I have to accept. Then, a nice thing happened. The author acknowledged the self absorption of the character. Seeing that was like someone turning a sweet smile at me. I was very pleased.

While Lauren Myracle's was my least favorite of the three stories, I was happy to see the turn around that happened there. I still didn't like the character in her story much, but that is a matter of personal preference. The best part of the third and final story in this novel, however, is the fact that at the end, every character you've met along the way, merges together in the middle of a Starbucks coffee shop while oohing and awing over a baby pig. It brought the story full circle and allowed us to see interactions between characters that we wouldn't have otherwise gotten to see. It was the kind of music swelling ending that you want to see at the end of a feel good movie where you may have binged on ice cream.

The baby pigs made you read that paragraph. Admit it.

Let It Snow
is sigh worthy. Is it for everyone? No. Absolutely not. I know a lot of my feminist friends that would turn their nose up at this story with a kind of disdain because it is a teen love story and 'how could that possibly be interesting compared to stories written by Joyce or insert other classic author here'? I know others that are going to go 'that sounds too sickeningly sweet for my taste'. I know I thought that before
reading it. If it wasn't for John Green and the subject of Christmas, I never would have read it. But, it touched every little piece of my hopeless romantic heart that I often lock away in the closet because it leaves me swooning like a Disney Princess.

If you have no problems with swooning like a Disney Princess, though? Get this book. Do it. Also, go buy everything by John Green because he is the voice of nerd teens everywhere and is giving representation to a previously hidden away group of individuals who are exceedingly interesting.

And now I leave you with Sharpie Face.  Bestselling authors need to be more like him.

To see what else I'm reading this month click here:

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Goodbye My Dear Character

This morning I woke with the intention that I have every morning. To write. But, as I poured myself some coffee and tried to wake up a bit, I noticed myself easily getting distracted by things that really weren't that interesting. “Oh, the person outside is sneezing too loud. I should go look out my window and watch them for a bit.” or “Last nights dishes in my sink look rather disgusting. I should definitely clean them” or my favorite “Look at the pink nose on my cat! I'm gonna poke it”. Things like that took precedent over writing all morning long until about eleven o'clock rolled around and I realized that this was ridiculous.

I then proceeded to agonize over whether I should just write the next scene in my book or if maybe I should go back to the start and reread what I've already written to get my head around the story. I've started and stopped this novel so many times (which is unusual for me) that I am worried I'm being a bit schizophrenic in my writing. So, the logical way to fix that is to go back and read the 100 + pages that I have written and see if what I have there is acceptable. I even proceeded to start to do that before the lure of a shower called out to me instead.

Finally, after my shower, and realizing it was close to one in the afternoon now, I told myself that I was being pathetic. This is only day two of my goal to write two to three pages of my story every day and I was already about to give up. I had just wasted a good four hours of my morning, on my day off, doing god only knows what because sitting and writing just didn't seem like a task I was up to.

I forced myself, I am proud to say, to sit and write my two pages today. Actually, I only wrote about a page and a half but I still feel accomplished with it. I also now know why my mind was rebelling over not wanting to write.

It was trying to protect me.

The scene I had planned next was a death scene. I had decided a few days ago that this character was going to die. It needed to be done to show the readers that safety is becoming scarce in this story and the main characters need to act or else its going to be too late for them. I knew when I woke up this morning that this was the scene I would have to write. What I didn't know was that I would have such a visceral reaction over it.

One day, when this is published, I will share this blog post again and tell you what character it is that I am talking about, but for now, the character will remain nameless.

I wasn't even two sentences into the scene when all of the sudden, I was clutching my stomach and crying hard enough to shake. I didn't even see it coming. There was no warning for these tears. My body just reacted. I wrote the scene in question with watery eyes and a strong urge to delete everything I was typing out. I want it on record, I as the writer, was not okay with this death. But, I also understand that it is what was needed for the story. In battle, people don't come out completely unscathed. Tough decisions also are not made if the situation around you isn't dire.

The Moors I imagine I'm looking over 
I barely made it through writing what I did and when I was finished, I sat and sobbed. We're not talking silent and pretty tears. Maybe one day I will make up a tale of my hair blowing in the wind as I looked over the moors of an English countryside, grieving for this lost character, but today I will be truthful. We're talking full out, hold yourself tightly because you're afraid you are going to fly apart, kind of sobbing. It hurt.

Afterward, while still weeping, I fixed myself a cup of coffee and sat there for a minute, forcing myself to ask the question of whether or not this scene is necessary. Did it truly need to happen? Yes.

Why did it need to happen?

I can't really answer that. It's just one of those things that I know is right for the story and while the larger part of me wants to take that scene, tear it apart, and fix the situation, hell, even kill off a character that doesn't mean as much, I can't. It's an interesting line to walk, really. The writer and the reader in me is rebelling violently against this but my characters aren't allowing this to change.

So what does everyone think? Are there deaths in stories or TV shows that you have rebelled against so much that you feel like you are grieving them? Leave your comment below or on my facebook page and let me know what you think.
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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Creative Writing Is Like a Scribble

Some day, I hope to read this post while sitting on the back porch of my house that sits along the Oregon Coast. Or in Ireland. I'm really not picky.

I'm in the midst of one of those writer woes where I question every word I write and bang my head several times against a keyboard. Then, during the moments that I genuinely enjoy what I've written, I proceed to question if this is really what I should be spending my time dong because it doesn't seem like it is a viable option for my future. After all, at twenty four, real jobs and real lives need to assert themselves as opposed to the fantasy of writing a novel about children who are being forced to grow up.

I have jokingly been told that if I was the first child born in my family, there probably would have been no more. That is how I feel about book three. If this was the first book I've tried to write, I wouldn't have written any more of it. It's not that what I'm writing isn't good and its not as if I'm struggling to come up with idea's. It's that this is the book that needs to wrap everything up. The pay off that I've been asking readers to wait for is finally here and I don't want to disappoint. Add that on top of what I know about the publishing world and suddenly I become frustrated. Not only do I need to make a compelling story, but I need to do one in a certain amount of words because the publishing companies know that the general populace has the shortest attention span in decades and can only handle so many pages thrown at them. My word count, almost triples the amount of words usually allotted to a new author.  And that is only the first book. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, especially in the fantasy genera, but I don’t think my ego is big enough to assume that I will fall into that small little category of authors who managed to get around that. So, as I'm writing, I find myself wanting to edit and cut as I go, which then just hinders the creative process, which then makes me decide that I should probably cut out certain storylines, which then makes me upset because I'm the writer, of course I think its important to the story and so on and so on and so on. It's been a frustrating loop of ick that I'm sure plenty of writers have gone through before.  In the words of the great Chukc Shurley "writing is hard".

But that's not all. No. Because that? That I could probably handle. I then start thinking about the fact that it doesn't matter if I somehow drink a magic potion and become the greatest writer to ever live. It doesn't mean a damn thing if you are not in the right place and the right time and even then, that might mean nothing if you don't know how to market yourself.

Head. Meet Wall. Become great friends because you two will collide for the next x amount of years.

The publishing world is a mish mash of frustration and tears and proverbial blood that makes me want to run
screaming through the night while tearing out my hair and crying big sobbing tears that I only like to cry when a favorite character on a television show dies. It also leaves me rambling in run on sentences and for that I am sorry.

Add this overwhelming panic to everyday life like college, work, trying to maintain a social life, a blog, and a genuine desire to consume arts and other literature to keep up with the writing world so I can stay on top of the business, and you have just created a very frazzled me. My usually tidy house is in a disarray that I can't even muster up the energy to clean and every day that I don't manage to get out and do some amount of exercise in order to hopefully counteract the shotty immune system that I was blessed with, I feel guilty. Furthermore, there are about a dozen and a half things that I've committed to over the next six months and I have a dwindling bank account because of situations popping up like sick cats, personal emergencies, or you know, food. I somehow managed to grocery shop today which was a feat all on its own.

Last night, this all came to a head. The storm has been brewing for a while and last night it hit in that jittery too much caffeine and not enough hours in the day kind of way. So, I made myself a deal.

There's not much I can do about all this. Work and college and social lives are always going to happen because they have to and most of the time that I'm doing all these things, I'll be thinking about my story. And its because I'll be thinking about my story, that I'm not going to give up on writing because obviously its important enough for me to spend hours every day obsessing over. But there are things I can do to become more proactive.

  1. Write three pages everyday because eventually, those three pages will turn into a book.
  2. Work on my blog or Whimsy Travels (because yes, while I'm freaking out about all this, I of course started a new project to add to my time spent on the computer) at least an hour a day.
  3. Do your damn schoolwork! Thank God I'm good in class.
  4. See the sunshine because they tell me its good for you.
  5. Do not worry if your house is in a disarray or if you have to turn off your phone and neglect your life for a bit. It's not always going to be this way.

The time has come that I have resolve face. My characters don't deserve to be wandering around the dusty mazes of my mind. They deserve to be out there and heard and read about. In order to do that, I have to go a bit crazy and I have to accept that that's okay. I also have to write blogs like this to vent my frustrations and move on from the fact that I'm falling into a stereotypical emo writing mode that I so very loathe. To anyone that knows me, I have my 'shit needs to get done' face on. Which means I'm probably going to become a hermit. At times like this I'm always reminded of that triangle thing they tell you about when you enter college. At each corner of a triangle is a different aspect of your life; sleep, social life, school. The sides of the triangle only make up two of these aspects or some weird thing like that but basically, what it comes down to, is you sacrifice something. You can't have all three. The PTB dictates that you only can have two. Well, writer me doesn't really have a triangle (so I'm not sure why I'm rambling on about this analogy) but I do have a scribble and somewhere in that scribble, something in my life is gong to get lost or drawn over or violently negated.

I'm not sure where I was going with any of that.

In other news, in order to calm the chaos of my brain a bit, I've decided to re-read Harry Potter. I sometimes forget why I love writing and stories and then I remember nights spent reading by flashlight or days spent eating pumpkin seeds while reading these stories on my bed. It's time to remember why I love creating and who better a reminder that J.K Rowling and the completely memorizing world she created.

Like I said. Hopefully, one day, I will be sitting on a beautiful back porch, cup of perfect coffee in my hands, reading this old entry of mine and laughing at the inner turmoils that were completely unnecessary.

Or I will be in a straight jacket, in a comfortable mental institution, being fed pudding.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Whimsy Travel's

Monument in Lucerne Switzerland

For this Travel Tuesday, we're going to do something a bit different. In the past four years, I've been lucky enough to get on planes (of which I'm deathly afraid of) empty out my bank account (which I kind of hate) and see some pretty amazing things (which I love). Normally, I am a homebody. I like my apartment and I like my computer. I read my books and write my stories and Friday nights normally don't have me leaving my apartment because the lure of a good cup of coffee is more important. But then there’s travel. When the bug hits, it bites with a vengeance and has a tendency of ripping my insides apart until I am buying a ticket to someplace new.

Abandoned castle outside London
This first happened close to four years ago. I had been saving up for years to go to Europe, but it wasn't ever a reality for me. Then, after some personal tragedy, I did what only crazy people do. I booked my trip and three months later, I took off to Europe for close to two months. Since then, I have gotten to go and see different cities here in the States and have even made my way up through Canada. There are weeks that I live on Top Ramen because of it but traveling has never been something I regret. The stories that I hear during my travels are often times humbling, and the things I have seen and experienced have made me into the kind of person that I am proud to be.

Now, switching gears.

I've known Caitlyn since I was about four. This girl has been a part of my life for over twenty years at this point and I can still remember my first meeting with her. Little did either of us know that the day her mom and her came over to introduce themselves to my family, that the two little girls that were sizing each other up in ways that only four year olds can do, would still be friends years later. We grew up next door to each other in a small little country town and have been pushing each other to be the kind of person we each want to be since our playground days. I can't speak for her, but for me, this girl has never allowed me to give up on my writing and she has been instrumental in pushing me to continue to improve. She's the girl that I ran around Chicago with. She's the girl who is responsible for some of the gorgeous coast pictures you've seen in previous Travel Tuesday's and she is at fault for me watching so much Doctor Who and Torchwood. But hey! I got her hooked on the Whedonverse so its a fair trade.

And now we're teaming up. But don't worry, my wonderful blog readers (of which there's probably about a dozen of you), we will not use our powers for evil.

Welcome to the face of Whimsy Travels!

Caitlyn and Moi

And while we are not as cool as this face

A pretty awesome face that we are not

We are still pretty awesome.

Our goal is to travel the world, taking pictures and writing about what we see. We've both met some incredible people when we've left our small town here in Oregon and we want to meet more of them. So, doing this as cost effective as possible (because lets face it, during the day her and I are simply a hairdresser and a florist), we plan to go and seek these people out. Ask them their story. See the passions that they have in life and maybe, through these small actions, remind the world that living your life exactly the way you want it, is possible.

Photo courtesy of Caitlyn Tendic
Our first trip is planned for the end of November. Stepping foot across the sea's, we plan to visit Cardiff, Wales, Edinburgh, Scotland, and London, England. It'll be ten days of seeing and meeting all that we can while living on little to no sleep and indulging in the coffee that, from experience, isn't very good over there. Except at the Unicorn Cafe. I cannot express how much I love that place.

Here's the catch, though. We need your help. Following this crazy dream of ours is being done on a minimum wage budget while both of us are trying to balance the life that we're sure all of you are trying to do as well. This is not something that we want to stop us, however because both of us have learned from experience that you don't get what you want if you aren't willing to think outside of the box. After all, the only time its appropriate to think inside the box, is if its bigger on the inside.

We aren't asking for much. Our hopes is to just raise enough money for our plane tickets over there. If you would like to donate, please visit our fundrazer page at

Anything you can give would be of great help. Of course, you will get something in return for this. If you donate, please send your contact information to While we are in Europe, we will be picking up postcards of the places we visit and sending them off to everyone that helped us get across the sea.

Is this crazy? Of course it is. But no one ever got anywhere without being just a bit crazy. We want to write. We want to document the world through pictures and words and share it with everyone else. Our goal is to travel this world and discover all the little things that make it tick. We don't want to play the tourist. We want to be the people to live their lives. “We live as though the world is as it should be, to show it what it can be.” Caitlyn and I want to help show the world that.

If you would like to donate, please visit our page here:

Don't forget to email us at and let us know your contact information so we can send you some postcards.

Also, check out Caitlyn's flicker page, which I tend to steal pictures off of relentlessly:

And, as always with the closing spiel, like this blog on Facebook, follow it on Twitter, or check out my Pinterest page. The links for all are on the side bar of your screen.

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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Redwall and a Tangent

Cover of "Redwall (Redwall, Book 1)"
Cover of Redwall (Redwall, Book 1)
Die hard Redwall fans.... don't hate me.
3/5 stars 

Before I start this review, I would like to go over something that I think plagues stories in the worst possible way. The exclamation point.

This elusive little creature denotes excitement or a tone of voice that differs from the usual pitch. It is meant to let people know that 'hey, this thing that's happening right now is being delivered to you with lots of feels and urgency'. This little guy is the 'strong emotion' symbol in the punctuation family and if left to its own devices, it will murder its siblings.

Less is more. Strong, declarative sentences from a character shouldn't have to have an exclamation point at the end of the sentence in order to indicate to the reader that someone is upset or excited. That should come from word choice or from the narration surrounding the sentence. Furthermore, exclamation points shouldn't be in the narration. The narrator is often times a third party that is omniscient. They don't need to become excited like the characters. It's weird. Don't do it. Exclamation points have their time and their place. They should not be used because the writer can't seem to convey in any other way, the characters feelings at any given moment.

Redwall suffers from the plague of exclamation. Every character seems to be yelling at each other in impassioned tones. Maybe that was a choice on the authors part. Maybe the idea of a small little mouse talking, deserved exclamation points because they had to talk louder when speaking to badgers or foxes. I don't know but I desperately am hoping that Brian Jacques didn't just throw a handful of exclamation confetti at his story because he thought it was a great way to make his dialogue more exciting or intense. Although, the idea of small creatures yelling at each other in constant excitement or anger is funny. Though, when I imagine a world where everyone always talked to each other in exclamation point sentences, it is not pretty. I think it would probably look something like this... except for the scary center part.

That is not to say the exclamation point didn't work in moments. One thing that I learned about Redwall is that it is over the top. Very over the top. So, when the main bad guy Cluny had to repeatedly announce his title to people as “I am Cluny the Scourge!”, I felt like the exclamation point was deserved. Cluny was kind of one of those bad guys that thought he was a lot more awesome than he actually was. The frequent reminders of his title to everyone he met, even people that are in his presence constantly, is a pretty good indication that the guys a dick who probably thinks he's a hit with the ladies and is what all little rats want to grow up to be. When the reality is, all the other rats are talking behind his back and making fun of him. No, this wasn't actually in the story but its the story I've decided to make up about him. Because really, I felt like most scenes with Cluny went like this:

Cluny: “I'm Cluny the Scourge!”
Any other character in the book: “What would you like for breakfast, Cluny?”
Cluny: “Cluny the Scourge does not order breakfast! People bring Cluny the Scourge breakfast without asking! I am Cluny the Scourge! You should know what I want! Cluny the Scourge does not ask! He simply receives!”
Other Character: “So cheese is fine, then?”
Cluny stabs other character: “That will teach you to ask questions of Cluny the Scourge! All others must see and fear me and my actions! Know that I will kill you because I enjoy it! Cluny the Scourge takes no prisoners!”

That's how I felt most of the story with the bad guy went. No motive other than he was a dick that obviously didn't get enough love from his mother as a baby rat. And yes, he often did seem to be a toddler throwing a tantrum.

Now, I want to make it clear, I didn't dislike this book. I just had some major issues with it. Yes, I'm aware its a children/young adult novel and there are a lot of people who are going to bring that to light as a counter argument. But you know what my counter argument to them is? Harry Potter is also a children's/young adult novel. So is the Hobbit, any of the Everworld series, The Outsiders and The Giver. You don't have to dumb down your book for children. They are much smarter than we want to give them credit for.

Now for the good things. I love the fact that there are no humans in this. I adore that the cast of characters are small little mice and squirrels and badgers, running around, trying to save what they love. Redwall has all the makings of a classic fantasy novel where the young and naïve main character has to rise to greatness in order to save the people and the land that he loves. It is a great introduction into a fantasy series (story wise) for people first starting to read. It holds unbelievable imagination and charm with its cast of talking little rodents and is very reminiscent of Wind in the Willows in that respect. There were parts that made me giggle simply because I got to imagine a tiny little field mice making declarative statements and holding a sword high in the air. It was fantastic. Plus, there was Silent Sam the squirrel who is quite possibly the most adorable thing in all of fiction.

I didn't particularly enjoy the story that was told but that was more to do with the fact that it is a very typical ABC story. In my mid twenties, I want something more out of my literature and the writing wasn't done well enough for me to enjoy reading a story that I've read a thousand times before. Redwall unfortunately suffers from having a storyline that is repeated throughout cinema and literature. But, I would again like to point out that this is a great introduction novel into the fantasy world in the respect that the story was good if you've not had much experience with this type of fantasy novel. The writing definitely left a lot to be desired, but if a child is struggling to get into reading, the story is probably more important than a good writing style. I don't feel like this tale holds up once you become an experienced reader, however, or if you are a beginning reader who enjoys a bit more than the surface value retelling of the hero's tale.

I'm afraid in the case of Redwall, nostalgia is what keeps it lasting. I wasn't a Redwall kid so much but I did read a few of them. I do plan on continuing on, at least through Mossflower because I do remember that when I read Redwall the first time around, I was pretty luke warm towards the story and characters.Mossflower was the one that gutted me.

Overall, I think Redwall is great for inexperience readers who are looking for an interesting fantasy to indulge in. For experienced readers, however (young children included), this might be a bit of a let down. Also, if you are an adult that loved this series as a kid, continue to love it. Don't go back and read it because like most things we re read when we're older, cringing may ensue.

To see what else I'm reading this month go to:

Like me on Facebook, follow me on Pinterest or Twitter, or send me a comment or message to let me know what you think!!!! (see what I did there?)
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Friday, July 12, 2013

Screwtape Letters by C.S Lewis

3 out of 5 stars

C.S Lewis's Screwtape Letters is a series of responses written by Screwtape (a demon who seems to work in an office in hell) to Wormwood (a demon field agent out to corrupt the souls of the innocent). That alone was what intrigued me. Not only have I not heard a concept like that before, but using the mundane vehicle of an office letter seemed almost ingenious. It left out the dramatics that we usually find in stories about demons and instead told a more subdued tale. The demons truly did feel that they were right. The “Enemy” of the book was God and the angels who were tried to save souls and take them to heaven. Although, now that I think about it, the book seemed to go more with the concept of man is inherently good and is only corrupted due to a demons interference. The interference of angels was either severely downplayed, or they simply did not interfere. That being said, there was so much in this story, in the characterizations, in the concept, that could have been played with further. The lines between heaven and hell could have been blurred and the opportunity to show how morality is a big mass of blurry gray matter could have been highlighted beautifully with this story. Instead, I found Screwtape Letters to be very black and white.

Hell is waiting in line at the DMV
Sin is called into question in this novel easily. The demons of course are trying to encourage certain sins in order to corrupt the human soul. In this war between heaven and hell, the battle comes off as more of an office tiff while the humans are tossed back and forth between good and bad like some sort of tennis ball.  There doesn't really seem to be an in between area or an area where both the demons and angels are right at the same time. It is one way or the other which unfortunately, made the novel very bland. It is in my opinion, that there could have been a lot more to this book. And while I am very pleased that the letters didn't come off as preachy like I was afraid they would, the doctrine being taught here seems to be a very strict and rigid version of Christianity that leaves little to no room for any of the nuances or contradictions in the religion itself. I was very pleased to see the demon calling out the double standards that do exist, and honestly, that was my favorite part, but there was not enough of that.

Furthermore, it is not a book that can stand the test of time. It was well shaped to what Christianity meant during the time of publication, but in a world where the doctrine itself is starting to take new shape, and Christianity is acknowledging these moral gray area's in life, it does not hold up.

Now this is not to say that the book didn't do exactly what it was set out to do. Lewis was a known Christian author, writing in a time where religion was beginning to die and church attendance was declining. He lived on the precipice of change and challenge and I think that he wrote this book in response to that. So, the black and white nature and the demons immorality coming off as “sin” and the human triumphing over this corruption, was all very well tailored to this agenda. I'm not saying there was anything wrong with that and maybe if I was someone that was more of a theology person as opposed to a story oriented reader, I would have enjoyed this more. However, I found the words to be bland, the sentence structure to be a bit disjointed, and the sarcastic moments that were truly the gem of the story, to get lost in the rest of the droning monologues that were taking place. I wanted to see Lewis stretch his storytelling capabilities. I wanted him to make me understand why this demon thought the way he did. I didn't want the explanation of this is what “Our Father” wants and therefore we will follow through. I wanted more depth and shape out of these characters. There were moments that I felt Lewis almost went there, too. In one memorable letter, Screwtape discusses the emotion of love and calls into question whether or not God can love. His written conclusion comes off as panicked and portrays someone who is questioning his very beliefs system. In the letter following this one, we find Screwtape has been punished for his thoughts on the matter, hinting at the fact that this demon might have been an independent thinker going through a very typical human moment, where his faith was challenged. I wanted more of those moments. Diving into that kind of psyche would have packed a much more powerful punch and, at least for me, spoke more about morality than what was written. But, again, those moments that I saw Lewis start to play with were few and far between and they were over much to quickly.

Simply put, this was just not the book for me. I couldn't help wanting a different novel than the one I was reading.  Plus, this portrayal of a demon may have ruined me forever.

Screwtape Letter's is an interesting read and if theology interests you, I would recommend it. But, if you are more of a story oriented person, I would give this one a pass. It was interesting to read Lewis write an epistolary novel, though, compared to Narnia.

If you want to see what else I've been reading, here is my June bookreads (I know, I finished this a bit late):

Anyone else read this book or heard anything about it? It wasn't known to me until quite recently but apparently it is a popular piece of literature that has been adapted into several plays and a radio drama.
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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Travel Tuesday - Heceta Lighthouse, Ghosties and A Squirrel

The Oregon Coast

There is a place, covered by the mists of fog, where mermaids sing and dragons roam. In this place, the air is filled with salt that pixies feed off of as they dip down towards the oceans depths, gathering star fish to place in the night sky. Bent and beautiful looking creatures tear apart crumbling castles made of sand and sailors hear the sirens song as they try to navigate through the night.

Growing up in Oregon, I have always been surrounded by images that feed my hungry imagination. However, when I was younger, I tended to dream about adulthood whereas now, I dream of Neverland. One thing has not changed through the years, though. I have always had a fascination with the Oregon coast line. I remember when I was a little girl, I was always made to sit in the back seat during car journeys. In true Oregon fashion, the clouds would be thick and grey the moment we arrived at the beach and would threaten to release salty drops of rain without any warning. I loved this though. I loved looking out a rain spattered car window and watching the waves crash against the shore as we drove by. I loved the rocks that jutted from the water or the way that the air smelt crisp and fishy. During those moments, when no one talked and old
rock tunes wound their way through the car speakers, I used to look out over those rocks and think that if I could only see to the other side, I would catch a glimpse of a mermaid or some other little creature that we had yet to discover. These images came directly from watching way too much Hook as a kid and thinking that the scene with the mermaids swimming through those green waters was probably the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

Of course, since those days, I have become a bit more dark with my fairy tales. The once simplistic beauty of a mermaid has become a bit more sinister as I imagine it luring wanderers to certain death. The pixies of my dreams have a bit more of a tricksters side than they once did and this magical land where you are said to be happy is only joyous as long as you don't ever want to return home.

"Fight! Fight for my master, defender of  the house-elves!"
The little hunched over goblin like creatures with hooked noses that I used to imagine climbed the rocks, are nice though. Goblins like that are always nice. Think, House elves. :) But of the none Kreacher variety.


I am not necessarily a fan of Oregon. I can acknowledge its beauty and think that the lush green trees and the rolling hills are sights to see, but I think there are much prettier things in this world than what I have around me. That being said, I have yet to see a coastline that tops that of Oregon's. So, yay on you Oregon. You've managed to convince a girl who doesn't really understand the hype that people give you, to love your coastline enough to make it the setting of the novel she's writing.

I visited the red rooftops of Heceta Lighthouse in Florence Oregon, over this past week. I am always struck by the color that those roofs produce in the gloom of the fog and the way that the light still shines brightly, cutting through the grey surroundings. Its something out of a painting. Now, Heceta is one of the only lighthouses I've visited but I keep coming back to it. It's said to have a haunted little history and one in which I love.

Legend has it that the caretakers of the lighthouse had a small girl. One day, while the girl was out playing, she passed away. As all good ghost stories go, we don't really question the details of how this girl died but at least this story does have a grave to back it up. After the child’s death, the mother became so distraught, that she threw herself over the cliffs edge, falling to her death. It is said that she still haunts the groundskeepers house though, looking for her child and waiting for her to come home. Locals have dubbed her the Grey Lady; a name that is all too fitting given the state of the weather most of the time.

Photo by Caitlyn Tendick
The Grey Lady has a certain penchant for construction workers it seems. In one of the more infamous stories, a man working on the groundskeepers cottage, came face to face with the Grey Lady inside the attic. Startled, he fled from the attic, breaking the attic window in the process. His fear became so much in fact, that he left the attic as is, leaving the shattered glass scattered across the attic floor as he fixed the broken window from the outside. That night, some of the guards heard scraping coming from the attic above. When they went to investigate the next morning, all the glass had been swept into a neat pile at some point during the night.

Needless to say, these workers didn't wish to return to work afterwards.

Items are said to be moved within this house, images of the Grey Lady herself are said to have been captured through the attic window as she stares mournfully out at sea, and sometimes, late at night, you can see her wandering around the bay, looking for her little girl.

Ghost stories aside, Heceta Lighthouse truly is a pretty lighthouse. It's one of the originals left in Oregon. Every time I see it up close, I tend to dance around the land, looking out over the sea, pretending to see ships coming over the horizon. These ships are of course pirate ships.

There is a lookout point not too far down the road from this lighthouse though where you can stare back at the structure and suddenly, the thoughts of ships and the excitement of being on the coast, disappear a bit. Here, standing off in the distance, is this beautiful column of white and red, looking out over the ocean, all alone. There's something so pretty about it. It's like when you look up at the stars for the first time when you're a little kid. Suddenly, you feel very very small.

Photo by Caitlyn Tendick

Heceta is of course one of the many things that the Oregon Coast has but in my opinion, it is one of the best. After hiking up to the lighthouse you only need to drive a bit further, crossing over a terrifying bridge (which my friend drove over about three or four times this trip because she kept getting terribly confused) to get to Mo's.

Photo by Caitlyn Tendick
Yes. Mo's.

It is the fish restaurant on the coast where you can sit and gorge yourself on actual fish as opposed to the cardboard imitations that you can find in your frozen food isle at the grocery store. It is also the place where every table has trivia cards with questions on it that barely anyone knows the answer to and your eyes are always bigger than your stomach. A garage door is opened during the nicer days of the summer in order to open up the restaurant even further. The story goes that after Mo's first opened, a woman had parked her car outside of the restaurant and instead of putting it in reverse when she meant to leave, she drove straight through the establishment. They decided to put a garage door in place of the wall after that, proving that the owner had a sense of humor that most in this world do not. To this day, that same garage door, remains.

You can eat at the original Mo's in Newport and across the street is a small little dock where the seals hang out. Unfortunately, you are reading this blog and cannot hear my marvelous seal impression but I'll have you know, it's kind of amazing.

Also, this is Otter Rock. 

Photo by Caitlyn Tendick

Not to be confused with the actual area of the Oregon Coast called Otter Rock. No, this is my friend, who is very well fed, and who has no fear what so ever.

If you have not had the chance to visit the Oregon Coast, take it if the opportunity arises. If anything, look up some of the pictures that have been taken there over the years in order to get a sense of what I mean. 

Also, does anyone else have the horrid habit of having this scene pop in their mind when they're around a beach?


If you would like to read more about Heceta or Mo's, click on the links below.

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