Rose of the Sea [Original Fiction]

Rose of the Sea

There are little girls in the ocean, my grandma said.

They live in castles of twisted seaweed and breathe through their toes, buried deep in wet sand. Their mirrors are made of sea glass, worn smooth in the arms of the waves, their hair curls of muted green and dazzling blue.

When you hear a seal bark, she said, that’s their call to come home.

My grandma was born of the ocean, a rare Rose of the Sea. Every day we visited her mother and she stepped in up to her ankles before melting away.

I sat on the beach and watched for her, trying not to blink. Sometimes I managed to catch a glimpse of her silver hair as she passed back into our world from the sea.

She swam like a fish, like she was one of the those little ocean girls who had grown up and somehow gotten lost on the land. She’d grown up, had a family, stumbled along through life living happily enough. But in the ocean she remembered who she was and transformed into the water she was meant to be.

She sometimes asked me to join her, but I never did. I was scared of those little girls. I didn’t want them to laugh at my awkwardness, because I was a child of land.

So I sat on the beach and played in the sand, a daughter of the earth whose grandma was a fish and a flower of the sea. I collected shells and feathers and bits of broken sea glass. I dug holes so deep I reached other worlds . I met a man who I thought was a tree come to life because his skin was so worn and so brown. Grandma explained he was a man who was in love with the sun and I guess I thought that was okay.

After a while my grandma would find the strength to say goodbye to her mother, to reform her human body and step back on the ground. She was a mermaid who picked legs over fins because she knew she would be back tomorrow. She would come sit with me on the sand, grains sticking to her wet legs, and ask me what I had found. Sometimes I had grand treasures to share, sometimes nothing special. She never seemed to mind.

There are little girls in the ocean, my grandma said.

They live in castles of twisted seaweed and when one of their sisters comes home, they throw a grand party. They gather all the crabs they can find and put them straight to work, separating out only the softest and most beautiful grains of sand to pad their sister’s steps. The seagulls are their helpers, keeping watch over the skies and the clouds at bay while the ocean glimmers in the sun. The seals and sea lions come together to bear their sister, should she have forgotten how to swim.

My grandma was born of the ocean, a rare Rose of the Sea. There she swims with the little girls, their prodigal sister come back home to stay.


Japanese Woodblock Print Workshop | Amy Vollmer

TITLE / Japanese Woodblock Print Workshop

AUTHOR / April Vollmer

PUBLISHER / Watson-Guptill Publications

DATE OF PUBLICATION / August 4, 2015

NO. OF PAGES / 249


When I first went off to college, I didn't intend to study art history. Rather, it was something I stumbled into. Convinced I wanted to minor in Fine Arts, I took the required introductory, overview course in art history and fell in love. Art history was the perfect mix of everything I loved: fine art, history, and cultural studies.

April Vollmer's Japanese Woodblock Print Workshop brings me right back to the initial wonder of my introduction to art history. A brilliantly compiled book on the traditional Japanese art of woodblock printing, mokuhanga, Vollmer mixes everything from the history surrounding woodblock prints to the step by step process of creating one of these prints for yourself. Part cultural history, part print workshop, Vollmer has created the perfect book for art lovers and Japanese culture and history enthusiasts alike.

For readers like me who are most interested in how historical setting and cultural attitudes shape how we create art, Vollmer starts off the book with an in depth look at the history of mokuhanga. She discusses everything from how mokuhanga prints cleverly navigated Japan's strict social class to its gradual development and influence on Western art starting with the French Impressionists. Combine all of this with the beautiful reproductions of actual, historically important prints and you've got a collection that most art history buffs would kill for.

The true genius of Vollmer's work, however, can be seen in the detailed guide to actually practicing mokuhanga that takes up the majority of the book. She provides a very clear, step-by-step explanation for creating mokuhanga prints that includes everything from the tools needed to the history and creation of traditional materials. To complete the workshop, Vollmer shares pieces from her own portfolio and by other contemporary artists who use this traditional printing technique to create new, modern designs.

If you are looking for a masterclass on the art of Japanese woodblock printing, look no further.

Disclaimer: I received this book as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review. I was not paid to review or feature this book and this review is my 100% honest opinion. This is not a sponsored post.



Christmas Book Haul

My Beloved World / Sonia Sotomayor
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up / Marie Kondo
Ranger's Apprentice Book 11: The Lost Stories / John Flanagan
Ranger's Apprentice Book 12: The Royal Ranger / John Flanagan
Out / Natsuo Kirino
The Art of Princess Mononoke: A Film by Hayao Miyazaki
Sputnik Sweetheart / Haruki Murakami
North and South / Elizabeth Gaskell


Back to University TBR

Anna Karenina / Leo Tolstoy
The Old Man and The Sea / Ernest Hemingway
Song of Solomon / Toni Morrison
Power / Linda Hogan
To The Lighthouse / Virginia Woolf
The Great Gatsby / F. Scott Fitzgerald
Pale Fire / Vladimir Nabokov
A Mercy / Toni Morrison
The Tempest / William Shakespeare
Battleborn / Claire Vaye Watkins
The Faerie Queen / Edmund Spenser
Operation Shylock: A Confession / Philip Roth


Bout of Books 15 Wrap Up

The Magician's Nephew / C.S. Lewis - 202 pages
The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe / C.S. Lewis - 189 pages
The Horse and His Boy / C.S. Lewis - 224 pages
Prince Caspian / C.S. Lewis - 223 pages
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader / C.S. Lewis - read to pg. 19 of 248

Total Pages Read - 857 pages!


The Lord of the Rings / Middle Earth, Female Representation, and Samwise Gamgee

I have long considered myself a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien's work mainly due to my long relationship with The Hobbit. However, after finally finishing his epic Lord of the Rings trilogy this past December, I have a new and intensified appreciation for Tolkien's imaginative genius.

I don't even know if I can begin to explain my love for the world that Tolkien created. Middle Earth is a magical place that reminds me very much of actual medieval texts, like the Lais of Marie de France or the epic Beowulf. You can see that in every word Tolkien is crafting a new mythology even more epic than the tales of King Arthur himself.

And Tolkien's descriptions are so detailed that I think, even if I wasn't already very familiar with Peter Jackson's movie adaptations, I would be able to picture Middle Earth perfectly. From the landscapes to the different cultures to the winds and songs, I honestly cannot name another fantasy series that brings these to life as well. I might actually enjoy Tolkien's world building more than the actual plot!
Of course, Tolkien's novels are as much about his characters as they are about the mystical universe he created. He crafts the twisted characters like Saruman and Denethor beautifully, while Sauron and his Eye loom so ominously in the background of the entire series that you can't help but feel oppressed and terrified even from the safety beyond the pages of the physical book.

I almost don't feel the need to talk about all of the strong male heroes. We have Boromir and Faramir, the brothers of Gondor who are so different in manner and yet so similar in strength. We have Elrond, Legolas, and Gimli, mythical figures of a fading past. Gandalf, the riddler and light-bringer who sets everything into motion. And of course there is Aragorn, wild Ranger turned king and savior of mankind. 

One complaint I have often heard from even avid fans of The Lord of the Rings is that Tolkien seems to have completely failed when it comes to representation of female characters. I would completely disagree. Yes, there are very few female characters in the trilogy and even fewer in The Hobbit. But I think this is a really clear case of quality over quantity. 

We have the river-child Goldberry, Tom Bombadil's beautiful wife who seems to have the power to heal all of the hobbits' ills. We have Galadriel, the beautiful and powerful Lady of Lothlorien, who can see all and whose gifts effectively allow the Fellowship to succeed. We have Arwen, the maiden who goes against her father's wishes to choose her own path, discarding immortality in favor of the man she loves. Arwen, who becomes a Queen of Men.

But most importantly, we have Eowyn. I probably should just write a whole separate post on this brilliant character but, quite frankly, I can't be bothered. In Eowyn's character Tolkien demonstrates a surprisingly keen understanding of how restricted a woman must have been in medieval society. Eowyn is so aware of the limitations she exists within that she would rather die painfully on the battlefield than return to her golden cage. Tolkien uses Eowyn's depression almost to say: look, this is what happens when you cage a free spirit. Man or woman, it doesn't matter.

And last but certainly not least, we have our little hobbits. I love them all individually and as a whole race, for their innocence and resilience. But I will always find myself somewhat partial to our wonderful, loyal gardener, Samwise Gamgee.

Sam is every bit as good and pure as Gollum is dark and twisted. They are, after all, mirror images of one another. Gollum has been turned and twisted before we meet him in either The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit. He is a dark and violent character whose pre-ring goodness starts to leak through while he is in Frodo's service. Sam is the opposite, a pure and innocent young Hobbit who starts to display violent thoughts as he journeys further into Mordor. He grows suspicious of Gollum, talks about the creeping creature behind his back and fantasizes about killing him. Sam does actually kill Shelob, going berserk after the apparent loss Frodo. So what is it that I love about Sam and that distinguishes him from Gollum?

Sam remains pure and good because, unlike Gollum, he does not act for himself. Everything he does is to further the life and purpose of his beloved master Frodo.

But most of all, I love Sam because he reminds me that with enough determination, even the smallest of us can change the world.


Bout of Books 15 Progress Check

It is Day 4 of the Bout of Books 15 Readathon, which means it's time to check my progress! So far I have been thoroughly enjoying myself and am very happy with the TBR I picked before hand.

The Magician's Nephew / C.S. Lewis - 202 pages
The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe / C.S. Lewis - 189 pages
The Horse and His Boy / C.S. Lewis - on page 109 of 222
Total Page Count So Far - 500 pages

The Chronicles of Narnia have turned out to be the perfect readathon books. Not only are they relatively short and written for children, but they are all such different and free-standing adventures that I have yet to get tired of only reading books from the same series.

Although I fell a bit behind yesterday due to the sheer craziness of my to-do list for the day, I have been reading at a rate of about one 200ish page book a day. Needless to say, I am quite happy with this pace and hope to get back on track tonight. My only concern is that I still have not started Anna Karenina yet and as I mentioned in my TBR.... well, it seems like an understatement to call it a chunky book!

But enough about my reading, let's check in with the challenges I've participated in!

Day 1 - #insixwords
Introduce and describe yourself, in six words.

Day 3 - Rainbow Challenge
Red / Bird by Bird / Anne Lamott
Orange / Not for Sale / David Batstone
Yellow / The Secret Life of Bees / Sue Monk Kidd
Green / Little House in the Big Woods / Laura Ingalls Wilder
Blue / Tom Cringle's Log / Michael Scott
Indigo / The Silmarillion / J.R.R. Tolkien
Purple / Peter Pan / J.M. Barrie

Day 4 - Villain Mash Up
Long John Silver from Treasure Island / Robert Louis Stevenson
Captain Hook from Peter Pan / J.M. Barrie

That's all the progress I have to share with you for now, but if my momentum and motivation carries through the end of the readathon, my wrap up should be quite a good one. Best of luck to those of you who are also participating!


2016 Bookish Goals & Resolutions

Read 50 Books
Read 25 of my owned, unread books
Complete my Back to University TBR (coming soon!)

More reviews
Resume my #YearofMiyazaki project
One vlog-related project a month


Bout of Books 15 TBR

Anna Karenina / Leo Tolstoy

What better way to ring in the new year than with a readathon? Today marks the start of the Bout of Books 15 Readathon and I could not be more excited. This is a readathon I really look forward to mainly because it is fairly relaxed (all of the challenges are optional), you can set your own goals, and there is a great community aspect to the whole event.

Just like last time, I will be attempting as many of the challenges as I can and will compile them here on the blog on Thursday for a midweek check in. Sign ups run through Tuesday, January 5th, so head on over to the Bout of Books blog to do so!

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 4th and runs through Sunday, January 10th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 15 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog.
--From the Bout of Books team

Bout of Books


2016 Resolutions

Happy New everyone! Am I the only one who finds it seriously hard to believe that it's already 2016?Now for my favorite part of the new year: setting goals for the year. I was fairly successful with my 2015 resolutions and thought that maybe I should be a little bit more ambitious this year.

1. Do yoga every day.
I came really close to achieving this in 2015 and it was a no-brainer to add it to this year's list of resolutions. Yoga makes me feel better in my body, stronger, and more mentally ready to face whatever life has to throw at me that day. And if how crappy I feel when not regularly practicing yoga isn't a good enough motivator, I don't know what will be.

2. Read 50 books.
I only read 28 books in 2015, but I hope this year will be the year I conquer the 50 book Goodreads challenge. This is my first year out of school, which should mean that I have far more time for reading.

3. Write something new every week.
Over the last couple of years, I have fallen into the bad habit of writing in spurts and have been unable to sustain any good writing schedule or habit. As I learned during this past NaNoWriMo, waiting to write until you're in the perfect head space isn't effective in the slightest and I hope that by trying to write more consistently, I can break myself of this habit.

4. Practice Japanese for half an hour every day.
By now it should be pretty obvious that I am very interested in all things Japan, from their culture and history to modern Japanese fiction. I studied Japanese from elementary school through high school and was almost fluent conversationally when I completed my last class. In the years since, I have forgotten much of my Japanese and although I did start working on relearning the language last year, in 2016 I want to take these studies more seriously. In a perfect world, I would re-achieve conversational Japanese by the end of the year.

5. Blog and Vlog regularly.
With the exception of some planned absences, I actually did quiet well with this one in 2015. I won't set a specific posting goal (i.e. one video a week and three blog posts), but I do hope to remain organized, plan ahead, and find a schedule that is flexible enough to actually work.

6. Finish Outcasts.
This is the manuscript I started writing during NaNoWriMo this November. While I've made some progress on it since then, I would like to have a completed and edited manuscript sent out to agents this year. A better working title might also be necessary!

7. Be brave. Push yourself out of your comfort zone.
And now we've come to the more abstract resolutions. This is something that I definitely did not do enough of in 2015 and really need to work on in the coming year. Especially now that I am no longer in a university setting where I am forced to be bolder and more social, I really need to actively seek ways to put myself out there more.

8. Communicate better and more frequently.
For someone who has four different email accounts and is active on several different social media platforms, I am really bad about keeping in contact with people outside my immediate vicinity. I have known this for years and have decided that 2016 is officially the year where I'm going to change that.

9. Be more kind.
This one is pretty self explanatory. While I am by no means a vicious person, I do think trying to go into each day with a more empathetic mindset will never be a bad thing. Like they say, be the change (or, in this case, kindness) you want to see in the world.

10. Breathe.
This one might seem really airy-fairy, but I think it really relates to all of the above. I tend to get anxious really quickly when I have a lot to accomplish or when things don't seem to be going my way. So by remembering to take a minute and breathe, I think I can remind myself to be more mindful, more kind, and more open to whatever life has to offer.

There you have it, my resolutions for 2016. Let me know some of your resolutions and keep an eye out for my bookish resolutions!