"Stars, Hide Your Fire" | a persuasive speech on Macbeth

Sunday, 2 October 2016

(This is one of the many sample essays, I have been working on in preparation for an important English exam that will be coming up soon. In this particular one, I am writing a persuasive speech as an informed reader to other readers defending the actions of one of the characters in a play of my choice. I decided to go with Macbeth by William Shakespeare. As it is for a secular examination, I have avoided drawing overt Christian themes/messages in the debate/discussion, though I imagine there can be so much to analyse and draw from through a Christian worldview perspective. I hope you enjoy, and if you have any thoughts/suggestions/tips/ideas, I would love to hear them in the comments below! Thank you!)
Hello my fellow theatre-lovers! Today, with the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death not too far behind us, I invite you join me in a discussion on the actions of one of Shakespeare’s most famous characters, “Macbeth”. From a cultural standpoint, when we think of Macbeth, we picture an ambitious, weak man who treacherously murders King Duncan and seizes the Crown. In our debate today, I invite you to look at Macbeth from a different perspective, as we ask ourselves whether perhaps Macbeth is actually a good man with great valour and courage, but who eventually succumbs to the temptation laid before him by the evil of the witches and the manipulation of his wife?
            In the opening Acts of the play, Shakespeare invites us, his audience, to view Macbeth as a brave and noble hero, just come back from defeating the foes of the king in battle and loyally defending him against a treacherous rebellion. Macbeth is a man who fought valiantly and wins the praise of his king. King Duncan sets him in contrast to the former Thane of Cawdor when he rewards him, saying, “What he hath lost noble Macbeth hath won.” This presents the honest trust the king has in the loyalty and courage of Macbeth.
            But what leads this loyal soldier to commit regicide against his own king? When the three strange sisters appear to Macbeth and his friend Banquo, and foretell that he will be king, Macbeth is startled by their words. We witness the beginnings of a major conflict within Macbeth himself, when the first part of the prophecy seems to come to pass and the king’s men name Macbeth “Thane of Cawdor”. His soliloquy, “Stars, hide your fire; let not light see my black and deep desires,” reveal the ambition rooted in his subconscious, that perhaps has been hidden before but which the witches now expose. The vision of becoming king is not one he can shake off easily.
But what haunts Macbeth even more is the prophecy itself, with the lure of the supernatural words spoken by the witches. Their words are prophetic, hinting at the conflict of fate and free will, and whether he has it in him to bring about the fulfilment of the witches’ words. He is immediately tempted with a “horrid image”, for the first time glimpsing his opportunity of killing the king to achieve his “vaulting ambition”. But this he resists, knowing he cannot abuse his better nature by nurturing such murderous thoughts. At the end of the first Act, Macbeth concludes “if chance will have me king, why chance may crown me without my stir” and chooses to not to commit such an evil. Shakespeare thus gives us a glimpse into Macbeth’s nature, and lets us see his wish to do what he knows is right, despite the lurking temptation in his heart.
            His fault now lies in telling his wife, whom he clearly is devoted to, about the prophecy of the witches. Unlike him, Lady Macbeth is not bound by scruples of loyalty or integrity, and takes it upon herself to convince her husband to bring about his own predestined glory. Her estimate of her husband’s character being “too full o’ the’ milk of human kindness / To catch the nearest way” demonstrates that she knows he is keenly conscience of his moral obligations. In her ambition, she sets about demolishing his scruples, by appealing to his masculinity, daring him to “screw [his] courage to the sticking place” and be a man. The interplay of the meaning of gender roles plays a significant part in the play. It is clear that such goading of his manhood cannot but have an effect on the insecure, emotional Macbeth. Having never put to rest the gnawing ambition and the seduction of the prophecy of the witches, Macbeth succumbs to the manipulation of his wife and commits the act of regicide against his king.
hehe, silly Shakespearean puns
            What Shakespeare achieves in his portrayal of Macbeth’s fall into evil is phenomenal, however. We cannot but see that despite Macbeth committing such an evil deed, there is something deeply human and universal about his character that we can relate to. As he becomes tormented by a frenzy of ghostly visions and hallucinations, he cannot silence the workings of his conscience. He sees blood on his hands, and with it he realises the enormity of his offence – against God, against humanity and against himself. “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood / Clean from my hand?” A further manifestation of his conscience, and the weight of his guilt, can be witnessed in his immediate knowledge that he has ‘murdered Sleep’. He knows he has sacrificed his soul to the devil, and every treacherous action he consequently commits, demonstrates his knowledge that he is beyond redemption.
            Perhaps that is the greatest tragedy about Macbeth. It is his tacit knowledge of the evil in his heart, his inability to firmly resist temptation when it was thrust on him, and his realisation that there is no undoing his first Crime, that makes him rise above the ordinary villain. He could have been so much more, and he knows it. But it is this very consciousness that there is no going back, which leads him irrevocably down a path of destruction. He distances himself from his beloved wife, seeks the council of the demonic witches and becomes paranoid of those closest to him. He clings to the beguiling promises of the witches, that no man born of woman can kill him, yet in his soliloquy at the death of his wife, he reveals the emptiness of his life, that
“Life but a walking shadow, a poor player / That struts and frets his hour upon the stage / And then is heard no more. It is a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
            In conclusion to our discussion today, I challenge you to see that Macbeth is essentially a good man at heart, courageous and valiant in battle with a keen sense of moral obligation and conscience, but through the weakness of character and the temptation brought on by the witches, he listens to evil council and goes down a way of unescapable evil and damnation.

A Little Chat | Question Time!

Friday, 3 June 2016

"There is always time for tea. No matter how busy you are, everyone is benefited by a dignified moment of quiet or conversation." - Joy Clarkson

Hello friends! It's been a busy few weeks lately, crammed with so many things in my life, from concerts and wonderful books being read and treasured, to studying long hours and driving exams and many a stressful day wondering how I'll cope with things... This is just a little chat I wanted to have with you all to kind of keep you updated :).

Q&A: For one thing, my blog's 5th birthday/blogaversary is coming up really soon! I'm so amazed and excited about that, I'm hoping to make a little bit of a celebration of it, maybe with some tags and a giveaway or something. It's still in the early stages of planning, but I do know I want to make a Q&A post on my blog soon in time for the blog-birthday, so if you all have any questions (blog, writing, literary or life/discussion related) please ask away in the comments below, or on twitter using the hashtag #FullnessofJOY5 

It should be fun :). Also, I'm currently looking into getting some household repairs done on my blog (I'm cringing every time I look at the absence of my header *sobs sadly*); so what do you all think of me doing a blog-design makeover? I love the coral/peach vintage, literary theme of this one, so I'm hoping to stick more or less to the same style & possibly the same colour palettes, but I'm still figuring it all out. Do you have any blog-designer recommendations who do well-crafted designs at a moderately good price (nothing over the $40 range)? I'd be interested in any suggestions you'd have, or changes you think I should make to the look of my beloved little blog-space. 
I do realize I've been woefully slack with updating my blog, on the day-to-day stuff and more mundane happenings in my life; I'm laying it all down to my studies mostly, and just how busy I am these days. However, I've been more active on Instagram, Goodreads and Twitter in this regard, so you can keep up with me in those places! I am really eager, however, to work more on this blog to make it a place of quiet reflections, thoughtful reviews and more in-depth discussion posts on the books I'm reading, issues in literature I'm interested by, and my own personal struggles and triumphs as a young woman writer who loves literature, art, music and stories (in all forms!), her family, but most of all her faith in Christ. That is not to say I don't want to write my share of fun tag posts, and interactive, fun update-y sort of posts. I think they add such a wonderful spice to any blog, so I will definitely keep on doing that, have no fear! I'm just considering my desire of maturing this blog, if you will, and being more open in sharing my in-depth thoughts on topics and themes that really matter to me. Does that make sense? I think most especially I want this blog to be a place of interaction and sharing, showcasing and encouraging other young people with similar interests, perspectives and passions, and highlighting that journey together with them through interviews, guest-posts and so forth. Because there is nothing more amazing to me about having this blog, then the friends and fellow kindred spirits I've met and been blessed by, through it. You, dear readers, make my blogging experience the best thing ever, and I'm just so thankful!
And here is a quick shout-out to some wonderful bloggers/booktubers/bookstagrams and basically wonderful people who I've been loving lately. Please check them out and give them a little bookish love, friends! They're pretty amazing people ^_^.
A quick mention of the books I'm currently reading:
"Mansfield Park" by Jane Austen (loving it so far!)
"The Four Loves" by C.S. Lewis (yay for my first buddy-read!)
"The Imitation of Christ" by Thomas a Kempis (this book has been a great spiritual encouragement so far...)
"Outlaws of Time: The Legend of Sam Miracle" by N.D. Wilson (Another buddy-read, this time with Hanne-Col!)
"A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" by Betty Smith (a library book-read)
"Cress" by Marissa Meyer (we're on a roll with the Lunar Chronicles books)
What are you all reading?

As I've mentioned before, right now, my studies are reaching that fevered peek that makes it doubly hard to focus much on anything beside a quick update, reading some books & sometimes reviewing them, and struggling to stay in contact with my dear online friends! That's why if Fullness of Joy is currently feeling stagnant, it's all because I'm trying to get done with school and be free to write and post and share all the more! However, hopefully we'll have a little bit of a celebration in the coming week or so, and it should be pretty spectacular! 

So please ask all the questions, and stay tuned. :)

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman | a review

Monday, 23 May 2016

After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby. 

I knew next to nothing going into this book, and because of that, and because I loved this book so much with all its pain, I won't give anything away or even attempt to describe the story or plot. But this book. . . this book was heartbreaking and so painful that the ache felt tangible and horrifying at certain moments. It hurt. It dug deep into the emotions, heartbreak and struggles of the human soul, and it resonated deeply with me. 

"The Light Between Oceans" was one of those gut-wrenching reads that made me cry more than heart-tears - this book made me weep! Those last two chapters. . . .*heart breaks quietly*. Yet this book is so beautiful, I don't have quite the words for it. 

This story had a way of wrangling my emotions, but also gripping me with the painful beauty of life and man's conscience, and how we have to face the consequence of our actions in a bitter but honest way. Something that I loved about "The Light Between Oceans" was how brutally upfront and honest it was about facing up to one's wrongs and finding forgiveness; in a way it hurt too much, and I wished for an easier, happier way for the characters, but that gritty truth and love made the story and the struggles of the characters all the more real and genuine. 

The characters were richly developed, and very vivid - I think I see people just a little differently because of this book. Tom is my favourite thing about this book, obviously. He's the kind of character one would read from an A. J. Cronin novel - that quiet, suffering, heartbroken man, mutely enduring his pain and always thinking of others. Isabel - yes, there were moments I had a very hard time with her character; her choices and attitudes were so maddening sometimes, but through it all I understood her character, and her pain and I often wept for her, because of how she started out as a character, how happy and wild and sweet she used to be, and what she lost. 

Hannah's character was probably the most that I felt needed developing, but I think in the end the story was really about Tom and Isabel and their choices and life. Another thing I loved was how the minor characters were beautifully written and felt so real and relatable. I feel like they were the kind of people I'd meet at a church Fete or community outing. Ralph and Saptimus and Gwen were my favourite!
I loved the setting of the story, how it was an island, and we got to experience the life of a lighthouse-man, and a small town on the Western coast of Australia. That was just beautiful and a delight. The era was also well-written, with the pain and turmoil of the post-war years depicted poignantly for all the characters and how it effected them each in different ways. The pain that the war brings, the guilt, the loss, the change. . . the questions about life!

The writing was perhaps the best part - so so good. So lyrical and quietly descriptive yet vivid and alive. I loved the way the author described with little phrases and hints the Australian life in post-war Western Australia, the way of life in the 1920s, the Aussie bush and nature, the quiet-way-of-life. Ah, folks, if nothing else, just read this book for the poetry of words and the beauty that this author makes you feel while reading this story! 

“The oceans never stop ... the wind never finishes. Sometimes it disappears, but only to gather momentum from somewhere else, returning to fling itself at the island ... Existence here is on the scale of giants. Time is in the millions of years; rocks which from a distance look like dice cast against the shore are boulders hundreds of feet wide, licked round by millennia ...” 
― M.L. StedmanThe Light Between Oceans

“It is a luxury to do something that serves no practical purpose: the luxury of civilization.” 

(Just a wee note: sometimes characters do swear a bit; not obsessively - just a lot of the word "bloody" being thrown around, especially if they are really angry. Mostly those who swear are the WW1 soldiers; I personally wasn't overtly upset by it as it felt accurate to the situations, and not tacked on just to be crude or shocking. Just thought I should mention it as something to keep an eye for). 

Another thing that surprised me, with this being a secular novel, was how Christian this story was, and written in a way that fit very accurately to the religious sensibilities of the times, without scorning it. Here are characters who pray, who seek forgiveness from God and have struggles with their moral conscience. They ask questions about God's Providence. What suffering means, and how to endure their guilt. It didn't go the easy path of telling a story, of making it sugar-sweet, or making you approve of what is wrong. There was pain and punishment for wrong-doing, but also forgiveness and moving on in love. I was so pleasantly surprised. 

Something I am super nervous about when reading modern adult novels, is the content on the romance front, but I was pleased that it was clean, without steamy explicit scenes. Saying that though, this novel definitely has some mature and difficult themes, especially about childbirth, miscarriage, marriage-struggles and parenthood that I would not recommend for younger readers. This story can sometimes make you feel gutted and heartbroken. But it ended up leaving me deeply moved and touched in a powerful way.

Minus the little bit of swearing, and feeling so gutted sometimes from how painful the story was, I loved this book to bits. So beautiful and soul-challenging. Basically I'd pitch it as an A. J. Cronin literary vintage novel (i.e. Northern Lights) set in the Australian country sea-scape instead of the highlands of Scotland meets the Jane Eyre of moral-dilemmas and the physiological tug-of-war that you'd find in a novel like Rebecca. 

Basically, my bookish friends, go forth and read it!

M.L. Stedman was born and raised in Western Australia and now lives in London. The Light Between Oceans is her first novel.

P.S. Though I have shared pictures from the new motion picture adaption of "The Light Between Oceans" 2016 starring Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander, I haven't seen the film yet, so I can't recommend it.

The Woman In White | a review

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

'In one moment, every drop of blood in my body was brought to a stop... There, as if it had that moment sprung out of the earth, stood the figure of a solitary Woman, dressed from head to foot in white'
The Woman in White famously opens with Walter Hartright's eerie encounter on a moonlit London road. Engaged as a drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie, Walter becomes embroiled in the sinister intrigues of Sir Percival Glyde and his 'charming' friend Count Fosco, who has a taste for white mice, vanilla bonbons, and poison. Pursuing questions of identity and insanity along the paths and corridors of English country houses and the madhouse, The Woman in White is the first and most influential of the Victorian genre that combined Gothic horror with psychological realism.

My Thoughts:
To enter in what all my thoughts were for this novel, would require much time. Which sadly I'm pressed for. But I so very badly want to review this book, because it was a wonderful, intense and rich story - and I loved it to bits! So we'll attempt it anyway. 

Oh my goodness, where do I begin and end with this review? This is a fascinating, thrilling story and one that will engage you thoroughly in its drama. As Collins himself describes it, “This is the story of what a Woman's patience can endure, and what a Man's resolution can achieve.” This perfectly sums up The Woman in White, but without hinting at the depth and complexities that such a tale could delve into.

The Woman in White had so many favourite elements in it for me, though sometimes the story got morbidly dark, chillingly intense and heartbreakingly sad (and it's not like I don't like a bit of the bittersweet in my stories after all ;). For lovers of the Victorian Gothic novel, the story had many of the deliciously eerie elements of ghostliness, spooky encounters at graveyards and haunted mansions, baronets with dark secrets and even a burning fire that reminds you of Bronte's Gothic romance Jane Eyre. It had, in typical Victorian literature style, the romance and heartbreak, complex plots, morbid villains and fascinating rich characters that one would find in a Charles Dickens novel (no surprise there as Collins and Dickens were close friends!). . . 
And it had the thrilling, analytic drive of a mystery and detective-law investigation especially from the drawing-master Walter that brings to one's mind Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's use of the science of deduction in Sherlock Holmes and makes you keep reading in desperation to ascertain the facts and fate of our characters. Fascinating tidbit, Collins was actually one of the first mystery-writers of the Victorian age, and in the character of Mr. Walter Hartwright, one can detect traits of an investigator and detective that reminds of you of the Baker-Steet Sleuth himself! In that way, the story had a thrilling, intense appeal to me and captivated me with almost every page.

My favourite aspects of this story were the Gothic mystery plotting and unravelling of the investigation, the richness of the characters and the interest I had in reading the different narratives of the different texts (I loved the use of unreliable narrators - let's talk about Mr. Fairlie's account, haha!), the strength and virtue of Marian Halcombe and Walter Hartwright's characters who warmed my heart to them, the fragility and exploration of insanity/mental breakdowns of Laura Fairlie and the "woman in white", the subtle hinting of themes in regards to the rights of women without a voice if they were afflicted, the multi-dimensional portrayal of the antagonists Sir Perceval Glyde and Count Fosco, and most of all the way in which the characters fought the evil of wicked men with perseverance, determination but most of all uprightness and integrity. 

It was so good! 

Because lists make our world go round (some say it's chocolate, but I'll dispute that in favour of a good cup of tea!), I'll list aspects (in no particular order) that I loved and surprised me about this story. And when you're done reading, go forth and read this rich novel! Okay?! Okay. 
1. Marian Halcombe was my favourite character, and possibly she's been added to one of my all time favourites in literature, generally. She's a wonderful, strong young lady of courage and wisdom, straightforward bluntness and humour and I just loved her immensely. <3 For all my initial doubts about how he'd portray a female heroine in such a deep drama, I think Collins definitely handled her with a great deal of sympathy and accuracy as a female protagonist in a Victorian era (it made me smile to see such a virtuous, plucky and strong woman in a tale soaked with danger and dark deeds, and to be honest, for all the "strong female" leads of modern YA works, Marian knocks them off with her little finger - she's just so brave and caring!) Way to go, Marian! :)

“No sensible man ever engages, unprepared, in a fencing match of words with a woman.” 

2. Mr. Fairlie - one can't help laughing over that irascible, nervous-wreck of a grump. I mean seriously, his nerves are the most horrifying nuisance for all characters concerned, and it shows just how good an author Collins is to make you enjoy reading that man's nervous protestations. 

“Tears are scientifically described as a Secretion. I can understand that a secretion may be healthy or unhealthy, but I cannot see the interest of a secretion from a sentimental point of view.” 

3. The duo of the two main villains - Sir Percevial Glyde and his friend Count Fosco were dark, treacherous, sadistic, calculating and in a horrible way delectable to read about because they were so well developed and vividly portrayed. There deeds were terrible, and as it unfolded, you felt increasingly repulsed and horrified. Glyde's story was the most morally challenging and heartbreaking, and I have a lot of feels about that ending *sighs*. Also I really appreciated the truth represented that a sin finds a person out. But Fosco was my favourite, just because his character made me laugh one moment and shudder the next. As a general word of caution, avoid making the bosom friend of any Italian Count with a strange affinity for white mice, dramatic operas and submissive wives who wrap their husbands' cigars. ;)

“I am thinking,’ he remarked quietly, ’whether I shall add to the disorder in this room, by scattering your brains about the fireplace.”
4. The unreliable narrators fascinated me immensely. We get to read from several different voices throughout the text, and its quite unpredictable and shocking from which courters we sometimes hear the narratives told. The more untrustworthy the character was, the more intense and gripping the reading becomes. Mrs. Anne Catherick was one of the most intriguing, and of course Mr. Fairlie the most ridiculous fun, but I think it is fair-game to say the most horrifying and gripping was Count Fosco's brief accounts. *shudders* The main narrations fluctuate between Mr. Walter Hartwright and Marian Halcombe, and my favourite was naturally Marian's. I was quite crestfallen when Marian's part of the narration ended, (may I say rather briskly?) and much as I loved Hartwright's character, Marian had a certain amount of spunk and vividness which was an absolute thrill to read (think of Jane Eyre's narrative-strength).

5. The writing. This is solid, rich writing and I loved every bit of it! This novel has its weakness, I'll admit, mostly in its strength of plotting and pacing - sometimes building up to a certain vivid heat of intensity, and then resolving the conflict almost prematurely in a rushed sequence of mad coincidences, etc. However, apart from a particular point midway where I felt disappointed with where the story seemed to turn (I presumed it was turning into a dark Gothic romance, abet like Jane Eyre, but it took a rather sudden turn and became very much a detective/mystery), and being a little bemused at a rather rushed ending, those very coincidences and revelations give you the drive to read on and discover the different layers and complexities of the thick mystery. To be honest, it was wonderful to see it unfold, like onion peals! 
6. Mr. Walter Hartwright, though by no means a perfect character, was a very honourable young man and I really loved his devotion to Laura Fairlie and her half-sister Marian, and his purposed determination to bring to right their wrongs, without gain for himself. His gentlemanly love for Laura, his painful maturity in regards to the unhappy circumstances around Laura's engagement, and his deep regard and friendship for Marian were truly endearing. 
7. The bond of close sisterhood and love between Marian and Laura was the most beautiful and heartbreaking thing <3 *hugs those two girls close to my heart*. I LOVED LOVED how devoted Marian was to Laura #ohmygoodness It was one of the most precious and devoted sibling relationships I've witnessed in literature. Just, gah! So special.

8. This is probably the first time I've "shipped" two characters in a story or hoped for them to get together romantically that way before. It didn't work out the way I'd hoped, and I was a bit miffed about it because it seemed so heartbreakingly perfect and beautiful to me *sighs*, but at the end I appreciated that the story was NOT a romantic-tale but a story of loyalty and friendship and at its heart an unravelling of a terrible mystery. Also the romantic resolution seemed very realistic in a bittersweet sort of way. I still think it would have been a good idea if those Two Certain Characters had come together, but oh well! 

9. The moral resolution or climax to the story. I can't explain it for fear of spoilers, but suffice to say that I was very much impressed by the way the author portrayed a Scriptural truth through the choices and consequences of certain characters that I felt was quite poignant. 
10. The humour. I was actually surprised by that, but my greatest amusement sprang from Marian herself, just in her spunky, clever forthright way of saying and doing things. But I mean, Count Fosco and Mr. Farlie were equally amusing and at times strangely comical. I was surprised by how many times I was on the verge of smiling in "The Woman in White"

“My hour for tea is half-past five, and my buttered toast waits for nobody.” 

That is not to say, that this is rather a heartbreaking and tragic tale. But beautiful nonetheless, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. So, please, give it a go!
P.S. do not, do not watch the film adaption for The Woman in White, friends! It was a terrible, TERRIBLE adaption *growls angrily at film*.

Genrethon TBR

Monday, 11 April 2016

Hello, friends! A while back I ordered a whole bunch of books from my local library, but I kind of forgot about them in the excitement of reading some of the exciting books on my own shelves. Over the weekend, I realized I have to return those library books soon, and I had barely read any of them. So when I saw a reading marathon (readathon) running through the 10th-17th of April called Genrethon and is hosted by a bunch of Booktube ladies, I got sort of excited because it was just the motivation I needed to pick up my library books and blitz through them. If you're interested, you can look up the information on Tea and Titles blog. 

Below are a list of books (mostly from the library) that I am super eager to crack open and blitz through the next few days. While this marathon of reading is mostly focused on reading from genres out of your comfort zone, it is also very flexible, so it actually feels right with the list of books I have selected. The books that are not library-copies I've marked with an asterisk, and I probably most definitely can't read more than 1/2 of all these books - but I'm putting up the list so I can also get recommendations of which books I should be picking up first. Please consider joining in, as it looks like a lot of fun ^_^.

A famous dystopian YA, I've actually just finished reading this. Check my review on Goodreads.
This is my classic literature pick for this TBR, and one I'm currently reading and enjoying immensely (I'd have liked to have added more classics to this list, but as this is a genre-out-of-comfort-zone readathon and I read a lot of classics anyway, I guess I'll just content myself with this one gem.)
This is my non-fiction devotional pick for this list, and as it has been long on my wish-list to read and I've heard such wonderful things from this spiritual classic, I'm thrilled to start it this week.
This is a children's comic-style graphic novel, interlaced with words and pictures and super quirky and fun. I've actually started reading this, so I hope to finish it over the next day or two.
Another children's graphic-style novel by the same author as Flora & Ulysses, this should be another short, beautiful read.
One of my priority reads for this week, this is a fairy-tale science-fiction story based on the fairy-tale of Red Riding Hood. I started the Luner Chronicle series last year, with Cinder, and since then have read so many reviews and recommendations of this series, I'd love to complete it. (Note: I've heard some mixed reviews from this particular installment of the series, so I'll be reading with care.)
Continuing with the Lunar Chronicle fairy-tale science-fiction series, I've also got Cress in my pile, and I'm especially eager about this one as it is a retelling of the Rupenzul fairy-tale.  
I'm not 100% sure under which genre this book falls, but as far as I can guess it is a literary novel with a historical bent, about the theme of "coming of age" (I tend to think its of a similar vein to To Kill a Mockingbird) and is deemed a bit of a modern classic.
Lizzy & Jane is a bit of an inspirational romance with a literary twist. I had mixed feelings about Dear Mr. Knightley, Reay's debut novel, however I do want to give this author another go, as I know she has a deep love of classic literature, and her stories sound wimsical and heart-wrenching (also, I will go ahead and say the covers for all her books are GORGEOUS!). . . fingers crossed!
After recently reading The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (another Poirot mystery) and loving it fiercely, I'm in rather an Agatha-Christie mood these days. I'd love to try out her Miss Maple series, so this could be fun ^_^.
I know 2 Agatha Christie mysteries in a week may be a bit of a stretch, but the title of this one makes me want to pick it up and read it at once. And this one is a Hercule Poirot :P
This is the third book in the Wings of the Nightingale series, a historical Christian romance. I loved With Every Letter, the first book immensley, but its sequel On Distant Shores, was a huge disappointment to me and I DNF it half-way through. I can't decide yet whether I want to give In Perfect Time a go, but Sundin's attention to historical detail and weaving a WW2 novel is amazing, and I think on that clause alone, she deserves another go.
Like with the Wings of the Nightgale series, Blue Skies Tomorrow is the last book in a trilogy of historical Christian romance novels, A Distant Melody, and A Memory Between Us. The first one in the series was beautiful, and a real favourite, but A Memory Between Us was a little bit of a let-down. However, I do want to see how the story pans out for all 3 of the Novak brothers, and I think this series has some really redeeming qualities in it as well.
I know very little about this novel, except that it is set during the 1600s, is a historical novel about the Puritans and Cavilers and it's written by Elizabeth Goudge (who is a new all-time favourite author!). I'm okay with going into this novel with nothing more to go on ;).
This is an Australian historical fiction novel about a couple living just after WW1 on a deserted island who very strongly desire to have children. I'm entering on this read tentatively, and very cautiously as it is an adult novel, and I'm not 100% sure about its content, but its premise intrigues me deeply.
Similarly to The Light Between Oceans, this is a historical, literary novel set in Europe but its focus is more on a mystery and even some magical realism/fantasy elements. What perked my interest in picking this one up are the small nods in its premise from Victorian novels, like Jane Eyre, and The Woman in White. (Again, I'll be reading this cautiously on account of unknown content). 
It is very doubtful I'll be able to get to this read, but if by some strange wonder I can, I'm interested in reading this collection of short stories by Daphne du Maurier. I think these stories fall under the suspence/thriller Gothic mystery genre; it's is also a modern classics.

With it being almost impossible to be able to get through half these books, are there any particular titles among them that you think I should get to first or you'd in any way recommend (or caution me about)? Please do share! Also, why don't you join me in the Genrethon? You can keep up-to-date with my reading progress on my twitter or Goodreads accounts.  So, dear readers, what are YOUR reading plans for this week? Any special books lined up you're excited to read? Let's chat it up in the comments below ^_^.

Halfway Between Life and Dreaming | A Little Update-y Sort of Post

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Hello, friends! This is just a little update-y sort of post, and also a bit of an explanation for why I've been (and sadly will continue for a while) to be rather absent and sporadic with my posts here on Fullness of Joy.

First of all, down here in Australia, it has just turned Autumn, and it's lovely and fresh and cooler, and I'm just loving it! We've had such a dry summer that it's been simply wonderful to enjoy more rain as well as bright clear-blue skies not marred by too much heat or humidity (though admittedly the humidity is still there a bit). 

With my own life, it's been a bit overwhelming just the stuff going on, studies, music, driving, church-stuff and such. This year I'm doing year 12 with the hopes of graduation in sight, so it's quite intense! Lots of Pacework still to be done (yes, I'm using the ACE curriculum), and with the deadline I've put for myself, it's getting a bit tight; so I'm going to really try in the next few months to be scarce around in the internet, and really focus on getting all my schoolwork done. (Prayers would be highly appreciated, friends :).
A few of you have inquired into what I plan to do after, and if I have any wish to do further studies, so I thought I probably should address this briefly :). While I haven't done any final decision yet, I'm strongly leaning towards, if it is the Lord's will, studying a degree majoring in English Literature, with possibly a minor in either Creative Writing or History. I'm still seeking the Lord about it, and praying for Him to guide me and to be totally in His will for my life, but I know I've had this strong inclination for a few years now to pursue this study of literature, and I'm eager to see what the Lord's plans for me are!

On the writing front, it's pretty much next to nothing at the moment, but I've been writing a few scenes here and there for a few stories over the past months (nothing to really show for, sadly), but you can be sure I'm eagerly anticipating giving time to get back into disciplined writing and progressing with my novels once I finish school, Lord willing. It's something I'm truly eager for! :) 

When it comes to reading, I was delighted to get out of a bit of a reading-slump I fell into over the Christmas season (that sort of thing often happens frequently when I get carried away with the excitement of the Festive Season and the delights of the summer-break ;)). But March has been really wonderful in catching up and really just enjoying the books I've been reading. Some of my reading exploits have included Leave it to Psmith by P.G. Wodehouse, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie, Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte, and Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke - all of them 4 to 5 star reads! :). 

As for what I'm currently reading, right now, I'm slowly been making my way through The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, Flora & Ulysses by DeCameron (a cute comic novel for children), Return to the Hundred Acre Wood (a sequel to Winnie the Pooh that is so charming!), Mockingjay (the last book in the Hunger Games trilogy - admittedly, I've got mixed feelings about this series), and a few devotionals/non-fiction books I hope to read in the next few weeks: The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis, The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis and The Roots of the Righteous by A. W. Tozer. . . I know, it's quite a pile I've got going at the moment! (I'm in one of those moods where I'm struggling with a desire to read multiple books at the same time). I'll keep you updated on how they go.

Lately, with little energy to do anything aside from my schooling and chores, in the evenings I feel much more tempted to watch a TV episode than often blog or write or do anything greatly productive. I'm trying to be disciplined with it, though, so it's mostly a way to relax a little before bedtime. Right now I'm doing a bit of re-watching favourite episodes from the Doctor Who show. I really surprised myself by getting into the show and loving it (mostly) over the Christmas/summer break (not without a little persuasion from my Samwise friend, Annie!). It's a strange, curious show and it took me a few episodes to really enjoy it, but it's been really interesting how much I've actually come to love it and find so many beautiful and inspiring things from watching this story of this mad, crazy and wonderful time-traveling alien (the Doctor) who travels through Time and Space in his little Blue Box (spaceship/time-machine) with his human companions and rescues peoples and creatures of all sorts, battles monsters and evil, and explores the vast wonders of the universe in his funny, quirky and heroic way.

I think my two favourite elements in the story are the characters - the different incarnations of the Doctor (I love them all by the way, each in their own way), and his companions: Rose, Micky, Martha, Jack, Sarah Jane Smith, Donna, Wilfred, Amy, Rory, Brian, Clara, Danny and River Song <3 They're so real and loveable with all their flaws! The other thing I love about the show is the concept of time-travel (it's always fascinated me - just the idea of travelling back in time), and the exploration of the universe and just how amazing and wonderful God's created world is and the amazingness of exploring it and realizing that there is more to life than what we see on the surface. Brimming with life and pain, and hope and dreams. I hope to share my thoughts more on it later, but yes, just thought to mention that I'm really loving it! (Just a bit of a cautionary disclaimer: I dislike the evolutionary/secular world-views in some of the episodes, and disagree with some of the lifestyles of a few of the characters. The scary monsters/aliens can be a bit scary or dark at times, so just a general word of warning.) 

Though I plan on being more off-line in the next few months, I will be dipping in and out of the internet, and hopefully posting now and again, because I actually have heaps of blogpost ideas, reviews and discussion-posts in the works, though it's no promise as I can't predict how things will go and I do need to be as focused as I can be. We'll see how things go!

Oh, by the way, over the summer, I finally caved in and signed up for my own twitter! "What?" you may ask. Haha, I have actually been loving the writing and book-loving community on there, and it's actually been really encouraging and fun! So on that note, I thought I should leave below the links to all the social-media outlets I'm on, if you'd be interested in staying up-to-date with the stuff I'm reading, and my life in general :).

Instragram (Private)
Instagram (Public)

Thank you so much, dear friends, for all the sweet comments and notes you so frequently leave here on this little blog and elsewhere, even though I am so sporadic and rambly with my sharing on Fullness of Joy. I value this little community of friends and writers, readers and young people who love Christ so much and feel infinitely blessed!

You are a precious blessing <3

"Janet! Donkeys!" | a Review of the Books I Read in 2015

Friday, 26 February 2016

Hello, lovely readers! I haven't blogged in ever so long - potentially the longest blogging break I've ever had. Don't worry now. I haven't been to swept into Narnia or gone gallivanting through time and space in a Tardis! However, I may have slipped on Bilbo's ring and disappeared from bloggerland for a while. And oh, I have missed sharing with you all so much. *sniffs sadly* 

So, here I am, and I am excited to share with you the delicious and exciting array of books I devoured read in 2015, and what were some of the bookish highlights of that year for me in this fantastic bookish survey I found on Annie Hawthorne's bookish blog. (Basically, lots of bookishness abounds!) You can also click the hyperlinks to the books to see my big/small reviews on Goodreads, where I'm pretty active.

General warning to the inhabitants of this universe, and to the travellers in far off galaxies, that this post is going to be LOOOONGGG! Your decision of pursuing to read this post is entirely on your head, and I'm not responsible for any time wasted from your precious lives. So, if you're still super keen on this procrastination (which, to be totally honest, in this instance, I don't really object to), then please, pull yourself up on a comfy couch with a hot cocoa and some yummy short-bread biscuits and enjoy! :)

2015 Reading Stats

A Short Meditation on the Moral Glory of the Lord Jesus Christ by J.G. Bellett (5 stars)
A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis (4 stars)
Joan of Arc by L. Du Garde Peach (3 stars)
The Art of Storytelling by John D. Walsh (4 stars)
Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon (5 stars)
God's Tribesman: The Rochunga Pudaite Story by James C. Hefley (3.5 stars)
The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron (4.5 stars)
The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck by Beatrix Potter (5 stars)
The Tale of Benjamin Rabbit by Beatrix Potter (4 stars)
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (5 stars)
The Tale of Tom Kitten by Beatrix Potter (4 stars)
The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien (a reread) (5 stars!!)
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (4 stars)
The King Arthur Trilogy #2: The Light Beyond the Forest by Rosemary Sutcliff (4.5 stars)
A Memory Between Us by Sarah Sundin (2.5 stars)
Pendragon's Heir by Suzannah Rowntree (5 stars, review coming soonish!)
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (5 stars)
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Coldridge (4 stars)
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (5 stars) (review absolutely coming soon!)
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (3.5 stars)

Number of books you read in 2015: All in all, I read 50 books (varying in length from a Dickens' doorstopper to Beatrix Potter's picture books) and, while I know it may seem like a smallish amount to some, I feel immensely happy with that. I read or reread at least one book for almost all of my favourite authors like Rosemary Sutcliff, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien and Elizabeth Goudge (saving dear Gaskell who I will read more of this year, Lord willing!), besides discovering some wonderful new ones, like Kristy Cambron, Marilynne Robinson, and Suzannah Rowntree. I even ventured out of my comfort zone and read a famous dystopian novel, a popular science-fiction fairy-tale retelling, and some 20th century classic poetry. All in all a very diverse and rich reading year!

Some of my forays into the world of classics last year included reading authors I had been eager to read for a long time, like P.G. Wodehouse (he's my firm favourite comedy writer now!), confirming my love of Elisabeth Elliot through her books Let Me Be a Woman, and Through the Gates of Splendour, reading my first book for Anne Bronte (her novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall left me with a lot of thoughts!), finally enjoying Harper Lee's renowned To Kill a Mockingbird, and then totally falling in love with Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (folks, just go read it, okay? Okay!)

Best in Books
1. Best Book You Read in 2015?
Awe, that's so hard! Why do such questions even exist? *sits in a corner and pouts* Okay, okay! I'm going give you 16 (because obviously I don't know how to stick to given rules ;). . .

Firstly, I don't know how to describe how wonderful Pendragon's Heir by Suzannah Rowntree is except to say it was one of the best books of 2015, and Blanche and Perceval have now wormed their way into my elite group of favourite literary characters *hugs them tightly*! The King Arthur Trilogy by Rosemary Sutcliff equally wrung my heart and warmed it in the way only Sutcliff knows how to do - it was also my first introduction to the Arthurian legend, which I totally loved!
Isn't he cute?
The Butterfly and the Violin, and A Sparrow in Terezin (both by Kristy Cambron) are beautiful pieces of art - lyrical and heartbreaking in so many ways, and I'm just so excited to have discovered such a talented modern Christian author like Kristy. Go check her out, please! :) 

Secure in the Everlasting Arms inspired and challenged my faith and Let Me Be A Woman by Elisabeth Elliot helped me put in perspective things facing the overwhelming feminist worldviews I've been bumping into in novels and my literary studies; Death by Living by N.D. Wilson - this was one of those books that left a truly lasting effect on me, and was simply so powerful and convicting.

I'm falling more and more in love with Dickens' stories (I had a huge binge of watching the BBC dramas for Bleak House, Our Mutual Friend, and Nichloas Nickleby throughout 2015), and finally reading David Copperfield by Charles Dickens helped strengthen that love - it was rich like eating a Christmas pudding and I loved every moment of it!

P.G. Wodehouse was such a beautiful surprise of 2015, and SO REFRESHING! My favourite was Right Ho Jeeves, but The Code of the Woosters was equally a delight. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott was my favourite re-read of 2015 - I love those 4 little women so much :). The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte left me with a rage of emotions but I actually really loved it. 

I had heard a lot about Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, but reading it was something quietly beautiful and bittersweet - I loved it! The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge was another favourite just because Goudge writes so beautifully and refreshingly and with the simplicity of faith that I treasured a lot. 

. . and I finally read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and jolly! What a powerful and special book - I loved the writing, Atticus and Scout and Jem and the story so much. . . no wonder it's such a favourite modern classic. 

But I think if you'd put me to the spot and ask me which book was my absolute favourite of 2015, what book left the greatest impression on me and was the greatest thrill to read? It would have to be Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. That book! It's just so brilliant, haunting and beautiful. 
Narrowing it down to four, I'd say that Pendragon's Heir by Suzannah Rowntree, The King Arthur Trilogy by Rosemary Sutcliff, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and "A Sparrow in Terezin" by Kristy Cambron get the cake f the best of the BEST of 2015.

2. Book You Were Excited about & thought you were going to love more but didn't?
Sadly, Plenilune by Jennifer Freitag disappointed me in a big way - basically I loved the writing style, the beauty and vivid fire of description that the author wielded, her epic writing scenes and enriched characters. However as a plot - as a story with Christian characters who do morally ambiguous and dark, twisted things - it was quite disturbing.

3. Most surprising (in a good or bad way) book you read?
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier  - Oh, but in such a good way!

4. Book You "pushed" the most people to read (and They Did)?
Hmm, I guess I've been pushing people to read Anne Elisabeth Stengl's novels for ages now, and it has been exciting to see more of my friends read her books (head nod to Annie *grins*). Also I may have been influential in getting some of my friends to read more Rosemary Sutcliff and Elizabeth Goudge books, plus Gilead by Marilynne Robinson :).
The happiness I feel when a friend picks up a book
 that I love and enjoys it as thoroughly as I did!

5. Best series you started in 2015? Best Sequel of 2015? Best Series Ender of 2015?
The Masterpiece series by Kristy Cambron was my favourite series I started last year - so good. I only wish she had written more books in the series! Best sequel I read was the 2nd book in the King Arthur Trilogy: The Light Beyond the Forest. And I suppose it goes for saying best ending would have been The Road to Camlann by Rosemary Sutcliff too!
Oh my squishy darling baby! I devoured books like that in 2015.

6. Favourite new author you discovered in 2015?
Kristy Cambron was my favourite discovery for a new author in 2015 - she writes so artistically and beautifully, and her stories are quite a delight amidst so much mediocre Christian fiction these days; Daphne du Maurier was my favourite "classic" author I discovered last year - I still have to read most of her bibliography, but Rebecca was enough to make her a favourite for me.

7. Best book from a genre you don't typically read/was out of your comfort zone?
*nods* I read 3 books out of my comfort zone in 2015. I read Cinder by Marissa Meyer, a science-fiction fairy-tale retelling, which I rather liked but found a few things in it that weren't my cup-a-tea. I then read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, which is historical fiction and I'm totally used to that - but the writing style and it being a secular YA was quite different. I found it deeply fascinating though! And lastly I read the first Hunger Games book and you can read my review of it, here. I think my favourite of them was The Book Thief, which is not a big surprise since it is historical fiction after all :).

I also read T.S. Eliot's Selected Poems, and loved it!

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (again ;).

9. Book You Read in 2015 That You are Most Likely to re-read?
I'd love to re-read Pendragon's Heir (because I loved it so much, and I also need to review it), The King Arthur Trilogy (Gareth and Gawain and Perceval and Arthur - I just miss those dear brave boys!), Plenilune (I want to reread this book to gain a better understanding of the story and help me in reviewing it as well), The Butterfly and the Violin (because it is beautiful), A Sparrow in Terezin (because I can't stop loving a story like that), Rebecca (such a book compels a reread - I love it too much not to!), Selected Poems (T.S. Eliot needs more study and his poetry is wonderful), Death by Living (it's the type of book that ought to be reread often I think), To Kill a Mockingbird (besides loving it so much, I want to give it a reread before diving into Go Set a Watchman).

10. Favourite cover of a book you read in 2015?
The Butterfly and the Violin - I can't get enough of how beautiful Cambron's bookcovers are - I just love the way the title is written, and the sort of canvas that the girl is drawn on with the flowers and butterfly, and the prison below. It's art!
A Sparrow in Terezin - I actually think that I love the cover of A Sparrow in Terezin even a bit more - the way the images blend together so beautifully - - the image of the sparrow and the ancient city of (Prague?). . . ah, it's lovely!
A Cast of Stones - I love this cover so much; it just draws me into that world and makes me eager to go into that city and discover all the adventures of Errol and his quest!
Cinder - it has such a weird, sci-fi fairy-tale-ish cover, but quite eye-catching and unique. I quite love it, actually.

11. Most memorable character of 2015?
Well, as you probably all know by now, I can't just pick one. So here goes - Mrs. de Winter from Rebecca - I love that girl so much! The title character of Dickens' David Copperfield was another favourite - especially when Davie was a little boy :'). Helen from The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte was such a strong and courageous woman with a faith that I truly loved. Sir Perceval - blame it all on Sutcliff and Rowntree, okay? And I certainly could not go without mentioning Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. The character of Jon Ames from Gilead was pretty fantastic as well.

12. Most beautifully written book of 2015?

“Grace has a grand laughter in it.” ― Marilynne RobinsonGilead
The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge, Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee were all written so beautifully, they left me broken with the bittersweet beauty and ache of it, but also touched and refreshed in such a healing way. If I can write anything like those books one day, get a grasp of the power and beauty of words, and how to break and heal and enrich with that sort of strength and tenderness of writing, it would I think see my writing aspirations fulfilled.

13. Most thought-provoking / life-changing book of 2015?
For fiction, it would be: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier for the emotions it left in me with the beauty and power of words and with how closely I related to the heroine of the story - that story gripped me so much and made me think a lot! The King Arthur Trilogy by Rosemary Sutcliff had such a strong positive and encouraging influence on me as well - I can't quite describe it, but it was truly wonderful.
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte was the most thought-provoking read though, because it really had a haunting and terrifying way of presenting certain truths in a grim and vivid picture - it reminded me very strongly of the danger and heartache of being unequally yoked with unbelievers.
For non-fiction, it would have to be Let me Be a Woman by Elisabeth Elliot. I started reading it at the right time really, almost providentially I think, especially because in my tentative study of literature and the arts, I find so much feminism and crude defiance of the traditional, God-ordained callings of men and woman in life, marriage and the home; this book was truly a refreshing draft of water, an uplifting and challenging reminder of the goodness and glorious  beauty of God's perfect Design.

I was also greatly challenged and inspired by Death by Living by N.D. Wilson.

14. Favourite passages/quotes from any books you read in 2015?

“If only there could be an invention that bottled up a memory, like scent. And it never faded, and it never got stale. And then, when one wanted it, the bottle could be uncorked, and it would be like living the moment all over again.” ― Daphne du MaurierRebecca
“The road to Manderley lay ahead. There was no moon. The sky above our heads was inky black. But the sky on the horizon was not dark at all. It was shot with crimson, like a splash of blood. And the ashes blew towards us with the salt wind from the sea.” ― Daphne du MaurierRebecca
“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” ― Harper LeeTo Kill a Mockingbird
Before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience.” ― Harper LeeTo Kill a Mockingbird
“Neighbors bring food with death and flowers with sickness and little things in between. Boo was our neighbor. He gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch and chain, a pair of good-luck pennies, and our lives. But neighbors give in return. We never put back into the tree what we took out of it: we had given him nothing, and it made me sad.” ― Harper LeeTo Kill a Mockingbird
“What is the scent of water?"
"Renewal. The goodness of God coming down like dew.” ― Elizabeth GoudgeThe Scent of Water
“Because I believe that this too shall be used by God. Somehow, this story He is writing will live on.” ― Kristy CambronThe Butterfly and the Violin
“There was carpet under Blanchefleur’s feet and the scent of clean and delicate things in her nostrils—perfume, babies, soap, and tea. Homesickness hit her like a clenched fist; this was worse than memory.”― Suzannah RowntreePendragon's Heir
“Sometimes I have loved the peacefulness of an ordinary Sunday. It is like standing in a newly planted garden after a warm rain. You can feel the silent and invisible life.” ― Marilynne RobinsonGilead
“I’m writing this in part to tell you that if you ever wonder what you’ve done in your life, and everyone does wonder sooner or later, you have been God’s grace to me, a miracle, something more than a miracle. You may not remember me very well at all, and it may seem to you to be no great thing to have been the good child of an old man in a shabby little town you will no doubt leave behind. If only I had the words to tell you.” ― Marilynne RobinsonGilead
"We shall have made such a blaze that men will remember us on the other side of the dark." --Rosemary Sutcliff, Road to Camlann
“But smiles and tears are so alike with me, they are neither of them confined to any particular feelings: I often cry when I am happy, and smile when I am sad.” ― Anne BrontëThe Tenant of Wildfell Hall

“Janet! Donkeys!” ― Charles DickensDavid Copperfield

15. Book You can't believe you waited UNTIL 2015 to read?
Haha, my answers are getting a bit old, but I have to say that I really can't believe I waited that long to read Rebecca. It sat unread on my shelf for over a year, and my mum had so frequently mentioned how she loved it growing up, and I loved it so much myself when I finally did read it, that it was just absurd that I waited that long. *shakes head at self* :)

16. OTP of the year (you will go down with this ship!)
Jo March and Professor Bhaer from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott - I love those two together SO much! <3 They're just perfect for each other, and so sweet; they share so many common interests and values, and they each do something good to the other. Laurie and Jo were far too much like brother and sister to work out, I think, and besides, I think Jo was of more help to Laurie than he was to Jo, and in a romantic relationship I always believe that each should help the other grow and mature in their lives, character and faith. Besides, Professor Bhaer is such a dear darling to Jo!

Another relationship that I was really rooting for was with Max de Winter and his second wife from Rebecca. Their relationship is at times quite complicated and heartbreaking, but I think there was something about the young wife's loyalty and love for her husband that was so sweet and special, and seeing how much Max loved her in his rugged, harsh way was very precious to see. They're a complicated couple for sure, and at times it's a rather painful relationship with all the struggles those 2 characters have to go through before really growing close - but I have to say, I was all the time hoping and wishing for them to work out, because I loved them so much! 

"Do you mean you want a secretary or something?""No, I'm asking you to marry me, you little fool.” ― Daphne du MaurierRebecca

I also love Kaja and Liam from A Sparrow in Terezin so much!

17. Favourite Non-Romantic Relationship of the Year
Atticus Finch and his relationship with his two children, especially Jean Scout was the best. Aw, I just loved that father-daughter relationship fiercely <3

“It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.” ― Harper LeeTo Kill a Mockingbird

18. Favourite Book you read in 2015 from an author you've read previously?
David Copperfield was really good - and hello, it's Dickens! "I'm such a fan!" Also, anything by Rosemary Sutcliff was sure to be loved, and The King Arthur Trilogy was no exception.

19. Best book you read in 2015 that you read based SOLELY on a recommendation from somebody else/peer pressure:
My dear friend Schuyler first recommended Patrick W. Carr's fantasy trilogy to me through her review, and I actually really enjoyed A Cast of Stones, the first book in the series. With P.G. Wodehouse I had heard many positive things, but it was only when the lovely Annie started reading his books and writing the most jolly reviews on Goodreads that I finally picked up Right Ho, Jeeves. Best literary decision ever!

20. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2015?
I have to admit that I do just love Sir Perceval from Pendragon's Heir as well as Sir Gawain from The King Arthur Trilogy. I'll always have a deep love for the character of Atticus Finch <3. And I like Max de Winter quite a bit. #ohdear

21. Best 2015 Debut you read?
Pendragon's Heir by the wonderful Suzannah Rowntree. Her novel. . . ah, I just can't praise it enough. It was so good, guys, so good. What?! Why haven't you gone and picked it up already? Go forth and do so!

“It was like listening to the universe in motion. Planets spinning on their appointed courses, the lives of men intersecting and parting, the unimaginable harmony of the human body itself in hierarchy and order, were all implied in the song, but something greater as well: the genius of the composer, which must surely approach the miraculous. Perceval closed his eyes and was lost in the weaving music.” ― Suzannah RowntreePendragon's Heir

22. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting you Read This Year?
Max de Winter's estate - Manderly - was one of the most vivid and rich settings I've read in literature, right alongside Thornfield Hall, Marboulgh Mills, and Pemberly! It had such depth to it, such mystery - it was almost a character in of itself. Daphne du Maurier haunts you with that house from the very start, and definitely leaves you with the lingering feeling that you've actually gone and visited it physically.

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” ― Daphne du MaurierRebecca
For world-building, I would definitely give the thumps up to Plenilune by Jennifer Freitag. Wow. Her world was so beautifully and intricately built; I'm still in awe, actually.
"Under her feet Margaret felt Plenilune tremble-with fury and with colossal ecstasy..." - Plenilune

23. Book That Put a Smile on Your Face/Was the most FUN to read?
All three books I read in 2015 for P.G. Wodehouse were a joy, to be honest. They were so funny and witty, and made me laugh-so-hard-till-my-sides-hurt - they were like a doze of cheerful medicine, and so enjoyable! My favourite was Right Ho, Jeeves - I can't remember laughing so hard over a book in years. But I also loved reading some Beatrix Potter - her stories definitely put a warm smile on my face and gave me the warm fuzzies; my favourite was The Tale of the Pie and the Patty-Pan. . . oh my word, what a funny tale!

24. Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2015?
I got emotional over quite a few reads actually. Pendragon's Heir and The King Arthur Trilogy had such tear-jerking endings *sobs*, The Butterfly and the Violin, A Sparrow in Terezin both made me cry more than once. I even cried a little in To Kill a Mockingbird, Gilead, The Book Thief and The Scent of Water :'). And with my re-reads of The Magician's Nephew, The Fellowship of the Ring, and Little Women there were times when my eyes got just a little bit wet.
and my heart felt like this. . .

25. Hidden Gem of the Year?
The Hawk and the Dove by Penelope Wilcock was actually a really beautiful and encouraging read.

26. Book that Crushed Your Soul?
Pendragon's Heir left me in tears when I finished it - so beautiful and heartbreaking and glorious!

27. Most Unique Book You Read in 2015?
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - it was bizarre and quirky, a bit depressing, and beautiful and really sad.

"A snowball in the face is surely the perfect beginning to a lasting friendship."- The Book Thief

28. Book that Made You the most mad (doesn't necessarily mean you didn't like it)?
A Memory Between Us made me so mad, because though the writing was great and the attention to historical details and characters was wonderful, the romance bugged me to no-end.

My Blogging/Bookish Life
1. New Favourite Blog You Discovered in 2015?
Curious Wren - my dear and wonderful friend Annie Hawthorne (I call her my Samwise <3), started a blog last year and it's an absolutely wonderful blog - full of delightful literary goodies and heartfelt posts, brimming with Annie's joyful, bubbly personality, her earnestness and passion for the written word and her faith in God, and filled with the joy of living. Annie is a darling! <3

2. Favourite Review that you Wrote in 2015?
I'm pretty fond of my review for "A Sparrow in Terezin" on Goodreads, as well as "Draven's Light" by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. I enjoyed writing a review for "The Hunger Games" mostly because it made me use my analysing skills, and allowed me to be critical and thoughtful in my writing.  Reviewing a poetry collection - T.S. Eliot's Selected Poems - was pretty delightful as well.

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?
Alas, I didn't write many discussion posts in 2015, but I did a lot of tags - and one of my favourite in-depth tag posts was "The Literary Tag" for my blog's 4th birthday. 

4. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2015?
I can't pin-point any one time, because there have been many special moments; but just before I went on that enormously long blog-break, I remember having a huge boost in blogging and it was just delight to experience the enjoyment of posting about literature and discussing with you all - it was fantastic! Every time I receive a comment from one of you, lovely readers, or receive any encouragement/emails//tips/notes I feel so blessed and overwhelmed with gratitude - you all mean so much to me, friends!
That's right - we all huddle together, fangirl over classic tomes and snack on fish-fingers and custard like nobody's business - we're the hermits united ;)
I think, upon reflection, the best moment of my blogging life in 2015 was in December, when I got to actually skype with some dear and very precious friends of mine who I first got to know through my blog Fullness of Joy many years ago. Annie Hawthorne, Schuyler McConkey, Anna Findlay, and Emily Dempster, you girls mean the world to me and I love you so much! <3
5. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?
With blogging, it has mostly been to find the time to write all the posts I wanted to write, and largely failing to do so :(, but also juggling to maintain my own blog with staying up-to-date with my friends' blogs as well. . . it can be a challenge if your life is already busy, so I struggled with that a bit, but it was also a wonderful means of refreshing, so I want to work on that more in 2016.

In regards to reading, I think I struggled a bit finding the time and motivation to read the books on my official "to-be-read pile" that included the more in-depth and intense reads, or the larger novels; but instead I read an eclectic collection of books that I really loved! 

6. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?
Oh my goodness, I have been so blessed with all the many sweet notes and encouragements you all have so graciously poured throughout the year, oft' even in the most irregular and crazy posts I've written - I think some of the most popular posts this year were with my 4th Birthday Blog Celebrations when I did a week-long party sharing different literary tags and things, and so many joined in - that was such a huge highlight of my blog, I think. Also I'm pretty fond of my "Deserted Islands Tag", and I think many of you folks enjoyed it as well!

7. Post You Wished Got a Little More Love?
There was a lot of love for all the stuff I posted, but I suppose the least comments I got were for my book-review posts - tags are always popular! 

8. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?
The biannual Lifeline Bookfest in the city has been one of the absolute best bookish discoveries I've ever done in my life; I've collected so many wonderful second hand books and classics through stalking those aisles over the past year - oh my sweet gingersnaps, it is the BEST THING EVER! 

9. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?
Yes, I challenged myself to reading 50 books on Goodreads, and won it! Originally I'd challenged myself to read 40 books at the beginning of the year, but with the inclusion of a few smaller books, I made it to the 50 books *fist pumps* :D

Looking ahead.
1. One Book you didn't get to in 2015 but will be your number 1 Priority in 2016?
Ha, there were many, but I think my big one was Les Miserables by Victor Hugo - a definite big one on my list, especially now as I've both watched the 2012 film, and seen a live performance of the musical in the theatre - such a beautiful and heartbreakingly redemptive story!

2. Book you are most anticipating for 2016 (non-debut)?
Oh my, I am very eager to read a LOT of books this year!! I'll try to write up a 2016 TBR list sometime, but I think I am especially looking forward to the read The Ringmaster's Wife by Kristy Cambron (to be released in 2016).
I am also really eager to find out what Anne Elisabeth Stengl's next novel will be!

3. Series Ending/A Sequel You are Most anticipating in 2016?
I am really anticipating reading the last book in the Wars of the Realms series - The Light of the Last by Chuck Black - hoping it will be a good end to a fascinating trilogy!

4. One Thing You Hope to accomplish or do in your reading/blogging life in 2016?
Lord willing, I hope to read a wider range of books from different genres and eras/authors, more intense and challenging  classics; I'd love to delve more into poetry, read more non-fiction - especially devotional and theology/philosophy books. Also I'd like to try and read a bit more out of my comfort zone reads - potentially more science-fiction, dystopian and thriller. We shall have to see!

Plans for my blog? Well, in between lots of studying, I hope to be more committed in posting once a week or a fortnight at least, write more in-depth literary, life and faith discussions, create some fun literary tags, and work on analysing/writing more analytical reviews and topics on my blog and Goodreads for the books I read. What would you all like me to share more on my blog? Please share!

How was YOUR year in books during 2015? Did you read any special books or stories that left a deep impression on you? What are you reading plans for 2016? Please do share in the comments below - let's have a bookish chat! :)