"What Lies Within Us" | Exams Are Over & Oh, I'm Back!

Saturday, 26 November 2016

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“Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be... Our times are in his hand who saith, 'A whole I planned, youth shows but half; Trust God: See all, nor be afraid!”   - Robert Browning

Dear Reader,
It's a sultry, wind-blown sort of November evening, with dappled grey skies and the occasional rumble of thunder in the distance. I woke up this morning with a silent quiver, as I flung aside the blankets and stared at the new day with kaleidoscope feelings of excitement, nervous relief and nostalgia because... well, it's been two weeks since my final study exam on the 11th. 

Last night, I went to a beautiful music concert with my sister Mary at the grand Old Museum Building - it had so many beautiful elements of lyric loveliness and pure art, in the united performances of the instrumentalists on the flute, clarinet, piano, harp and viola - in the music selection and the lovely world premier of wonderful compositions - not to mention the little sparkles of magic in the fairy lights, flower bouquet and the ever-essential deliciousness of tea and biscuits...! As I listened to the floating music of Jolivet's petite suite (look up his post-War music - it's quite lovely!) and in Chan's Nostaligia Collective in the tingling notes of the harp, the dramatic runs on the piano and the sweet song-bird of the flute, my heart soared, and I think it just really hit me, that...  

I'm done.
I've finished with school.

Those words feel so good to write, but also unfamiliar and strangely scary, just thinking how I've finally reached the end of an era, and am done with my school years.

I am so glad to be done though - so relieved, and thankful to all my loved ones, and just grateful for the Lord's enduring faithfulness through it all. My high-school education took some turns I did not anticipate or imagine, especially during this year; but I am thankful for that, despite the stress and struggles I had to overcome, as God was leading me in a wonderful way. 

If any of you have read my previous post a few months ago, I shared an essay I was writing for Macbeth, giving you a peep into what I've been doing in the past weeks of my studies. During the spring (autumn in the Northern Hemisphere :), I spent my time getting ready for 4 major all-day exams in English, Ancient History, Modern History and Visual Art. . . they were intense and more advanced than I had previously studied at school. But it was a challenge that I deeply enjoyed, despite the stress of a limited time-frame (I managed to do some serious cram-studying, guys!) and the Lord sent me just the help I needed. It was a great blessing and I learnt so SO much, I don't know where even to begin! Maybe I will share some of the things I learnt at another time, but right now it just feels so surreal to have completed something that was consuming my thoughts during all my waking-hours for the past few months. . . a hint of what university studying must be like I guess :D. 
Plutarch and Polybius were my constant companions through my Ancient History studies
Discovered Susan Wise Bauer - she's so good!
And Orwell, of course...
During those exams I, 
1. acquired a fear of the ticking clock ("woe is me, I have 5 minutes left to finish this 5-point argument thesis paper and my fingers ache, and I've only covered 3-points and I don't think I can do it!!!")
2. learnt to write dramatic and highly-emotional fictional monologues through the perspective of Daisy Buchanan, involving lots of imaginary champagne and tears...!!
3. developed a deeper understanding and appreciation of poetry (it's so fun!)
4. discovered that actually tyranny in Ancient Greece was not always that scary so long as you consulted the right oracles and had an Olympic record.
5. found that Julius Caesar could actually be deemed a likeable guy when you read him from the "right" sort of history books and that his life may actually have the characteristics of a tragic hero?
6. learnt that Hannibal's Punic Wars had a lot more to do with naval power than with elephants and that Hatshepsut was pretty much the Ancient Egyptian equivalent of a modern feminist. Just possibly?
7. concluded sagely that most likely fierce Marxism rather than Nationalism was the strain of Mao Zedong thought in Communist China. 
8. Finally, realized "Animal Farm" and "Of Mice and Men" are 2 stories that will break your heart in less than 100 pages. . . oh, and William Shakespeare was a blazingly brilliant bard, and his play "Macbeth" is every-bit as rich and exciting to read and study as I could have imagined! 

Now, I'm in a summer/Christmas break and I am both so, so excited and equally incredibly nervous about the adventurous journey ahead, and what might be in store as I take the next step in my education and love of the arts. It all really rests in God's hands, and I am learning that in a very literal way sometimes these days... it can be quite confronting but encouraging when I feel like all I have are 5 loaves and 2 fish, and there are thousands of mouths to feed and yet know that He will always provide and lift me up when I feel overwhelmed and over-taxed with worries and fears. "He who counts the stars and calls them by name is in no danger of forgetting His children." (Spurgeon). 

I must admit I feel a little scared sometimes of how the next step will be like. But as one person once said, "I do not know what my future may hold, but I do know WHO holds it." This makes me so happy. I want to abide in the arms of Jesus, and rejoice in Him always even when I cannot see the path before me. It's not blind faith, but a firm reliance in the absolute reliability and sovereignty of God in His Word. He will see me through the stormy night!

"There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God shall help her, just at the break of dawn." - Psalm 46

I guess those have been some of the thoughts running through my head, these last few days. Soon, I hope to write more detailed posts and discussions, which I am really excited about. But in trying to get back into blogging, and reconnecting with all my dear friends online and local, I've struggled to know what to say. There are so many things that have changed for me during this past year, that have influenced, inspired and challenged me. I've thought about things - like my writing and reading and future and what my faith truly means to me. But more than anything this year, I think I've experienced. From going travelling on a trip to the USA, studying intensely for major exams and doing some important life- decisions, I've felt broken and scared some days, happy and enriched in others - I've expanded and grown, cried and stumbled and learnt a lot. Yet, always my Saviour has been there, and strengthened my soul and helped me through it all. He's been so faithful. I'm just so thankful for His love, and the love of my dear family and friends - their prayers and sacrifices and continual encouragement. Even though in Commonwealth countries like Australia, we do not celebrate Thanksgiving like in America, I feel a silent prayer of thanks and worship to my God for all that He has done. And as I think about Christmas, and the months ahead and what they might contain, I find myself reflecting on the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, "What lies behind us, and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us." This is particularly so, when we think of the Gift of Christmas, and the awe that comes with knowing that Jesus came into this world for you and me and just how special and glorious that is!

During this summer, I'd love to get back into rich reading for my soul, and start writing creatively again. For one thing, I'm hoping to start rewriting my ancient Roman novel, The Crown of Life during Christmas - it will demand more research and possibly some story-outlining, but I'll have to tell you more about that in another post! And also I have a huge TBR that is awaiting me - I have started several books in the past months, and in a similar manner to what Schuyler shared on her blog in her last post, have finished a very few outside of my studies. Now that I'm on holidays, I'm trying to get back into swing of reading for pleasure with the right sort of book, after having had a rather taxing study year - it can be a bit slow going, but it's wonderful to be back! The books on my pile right now are all pretty exciting and rich and I can't wait to finish them. I've collected 2 new Rosemary Sutcliff books from Abebooks that I'm excited to dig my teeth into, borrowed a pile of ya science-fiction books from the library, and a Robin Hobb book, which I'll report back on. But right now I am reading a few chapters every other day from The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis which I am finding to be a beautiful look into the life of faith and very accessible! For fiction, I've been reading Red Rising by Pierce Brown and it is just SO good! Totally loving it. . .  but maybe I'll review it on Fullness of Joy when I've completed it with some other Christmas-y posts, Lord willing.

And on this note, hello, my dear blogging friends! I AM BACK! :D Please message me in the comments below and tell me how you've all been doing the last few months? What have you been reading, writing, or studying? Do any of you have a special prayer request? I'd love to hear and share together. I've missed you all so much!

P.S. Lord willing, I shall be back soon with some other exciting posts, so stay tuned!

"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