Father's Day: Memorable Fictional Dads

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Father's day was already this past Sunday, but I thought since I did a post for Mother's day, I should do it this time around as well. On my Instagram, I posted a photo of books that in my opinion has some of the most memorable and great dads as well as father figures in literature.
Atticus Finch : To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Ned Stark : Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin
Oberyn Martell : Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin
Mr. Bennett : Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Arthur Weasley : Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Hans Hubermann : The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
not pictured: the father in The Road by Cormac Mccarthy

Who are some of the memorable fictional fathers to you? 

Bryce National Park

Saturday, June 20, 2015

After our too-short stay at Zion National Park, we left around noon to head to Bryce National Park. The drive itself only took two hours and it felt relatively short, so if you are in Zion, definitely take the time to make your way towards Bryce. When we got there and I first saw this view, the first thing came to mind: Bryce Canyon National Park is every photographer's dream! It is simply gorgeous. Since my boyfriend is a professional photographer, I randomly asked him what he thought of the place and the view, and he could not even look at me or say anything. That's always a good sign.
Personally, I have always said that since I visited Grand Canyon a few years ago, that there weren't any other views that could top it in terms of grandness, but seeing the overall landscape and the unique hoodoos in Bryce Canyon made me think twice. After finding myself just standing there and staring at the beauty in front of me, I can definitely say that this is the only place that can truly compare and that I find is just as otherworldly and breathtaking.

The first thing on our agenda was to hike the famous Navajo trail. The trail starts at one of the main points of the canyons, Sunset Point, and goes down to the main amphitheaters. It's a 1.3 mile loop that is labeled as moderate difficulty. I'd say if you are in a decent cardiovascular shape and/or have no severe joint problems (like the knee), you are good to go here! I have had issues with my right knee due to a past injury, so I took advantage and used trekking poles, which helped a lot as this trail had some very steep spots! 
As for the views, this hike offers spectacular ones. I have never seen anything like it. It's totally beautiful when you see it from the view points above, but it is an entirely different experience when you are down there. The hoodoos, the colors, the rock formations... there are no words to describe them. They also drastically change depending on the light, and  you will see something beautiful anywhere you turn to look.
The next day, we decided to drive around and stop by all the view points that the park has to offer. There were about ten different stops, and each of them offered its own unique views. In the afternoon, we took a quick walk on one of the other trails. One of my biggest advice if you go is to wear hiking shoes or trail shoes with good traction, because the terrain is steep and rocky. Those tiny rocks are basically marbles - you can easily slip because of them!

After we finished that quick walk, around 6pm, we decided to focus on capturing the canyons during the golden hour. One of the best parts about being with a photographer is being able to take these trips, but also learning how to see things a bit differently every time. I've learned that the beauty of the views can change depending on the hour of the day, and I've learned not only to focus on the vast landscape - which is beautiful of course - but to also look at the little things: how the sun light hits perfectly on a tree underneath an arched rock formation, how the shadows can create a life of their own when covered by a heavy cloud, and so much more. 
The next day, June 2nd, we woke up at four in the morning to drive to the main view point again. It was still dark out and the roads were empty. When we got to the parking lot, it was such a crazy thing to see that we were the only ones there, and even though we were still a bit sleepy, we enthusiastically walked on the Navajo trail again. Sunrise was not for another hour, but we wanted to get a good spot right in front of the famous Thor's Hammer. After my boyfriend found a place and set up his gear, we just stood there. The moon was so bright that we didn't need headlamps. It was absolutely quiet that we could have heard a pin drop. It was such a privilege to be there by ourselves in such a majestic place.
A few moments later, a bunch of other photographers started arriving. We waited there for a little while longer, and finally, the sun said hello. As the group of photographers snapped away, I simply stood there, watching the sun rise. It was such an overwhelming moment. While I've seen the sun rising countless times before, I've only ever experienced it in a car, while driving to work. I've never had the opportunity to just stand there, stare at its grandeur, and appreciate it for as long as I wanted. 
When we got back to the car, I thought to myself, "I get now why photographers wake up early for that one or two shots. It is worth everything." But in truth, it is quite priceless. It is a completely magical, rewarding chance to see natural beauty at its finest. 


Here is my boyfriend's official shot of Thor's Hammer during that amazing sunrise.

Zion National Park.

Friday, June 12, 2015

My boyfriend and I have a bit of a tradition - we love going on trips in general, but we have a special place in our hearts for National Parks. I've personally gone on two without him - Grand Canyon and Yosemite. He's gone on more, but hardly recalls them as his parents took him when he was younger.. As an adult, he's gone to Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks by himself. Together, we've visited Yosemite, Mt. Rainier, and Olympic National Park. On May 28-June 2, we were in Utah, spending three and a half days in Zion and spending two and a half days in Bryce. Both were amazingly wonderful destinations.

From where I live in Northern California, the drive itself took ten and a half hours. It was an enjoyable ride through Southern California, Nevada, a bit of Arizona, and then into the unique canyons of Utah.

Two hours from Las Vegas, you arrive in Zion. Zion National Park kind of comes out of nowhere. We were driving and following the map when all of a sudden, we see everything towering over us. Mountain peaks with colorful rock formations say hello, and we couldn't help but stare in awe; we were in total disbelief that such a thing can exist in our world.
We hurried to our reserved 'home away from home' in the fully booked Watchmen campground. I adored this place! Despite the fact that it was full of people, the sites were far apart enough that it still made you feel as if you were there alone in the wild. It was also immaculately clean despite having no showers. It also was very peaceful and quiet enough. The best part was that we were surrounded by the majestic mountains called the Watchmen, making the experience even more remote and serene. Since this was our first day and we were a little tired, we did most of the scenic routes by car. We drove through Zion-Mount Carmel Highway, which is not to be missed, as it offers views like no other.
On our second day, after having breakfast while looking at maps and learning a bit more of what Zion has to offer, we quickly realized that four days in the park weren't going to be enough to fully explore. There were countless hiking trails that we wanted to do, but we had to pick and choose. Of course, The Narrows was number one on my list as that has been something I've always wanted to do. And let me tell you, it was more than what I expected to be. It was more beautiful, more peaceful, more awe-inspiring, but also more challenging than I anticipated. In all honesty, it kicked my butt, but oh it was so worth it. 
The Narrows overall is a 16-mile hike, one-way, but hikers need a permit to go all the way as it requires camping in the area. It was never our plan to do the whole thing, so we only tried to go as long as we physically wanted to. Since there weren't any signs on how many miles we've done, we could only assume. We did decide to head back about two hours before sunset, and overall, we were down there for 8 hours. It's very easy to lose track of time, so if you go, be very alert and cautious!
Exploring The Narrows was the most adventurous thing I've done, but it was also the toughest and most grueling. You really have to take your time as you are fighting against the river's current while also watching carefully for your next step as underneath are rocks of all sizes. We rented special water hiking shoes and socks from the store near the Visitor Center, and I highly recommend this as it helped keep my feet warm and also saved my ankle so many times! In terms of depth, the water mostly went up to my knees, but there were times when it went up my belly button! It was a lot of fun walking through that water. 
By the 6th hour of us hiking, I admittedly wanted to give up, but I knew I needed to strengthen myself mentally more than anything. I kept going and I was extremely proud of myself when we were finally done with it. There is nothing like being able to come back from where you started and saying, "We did it!" 
We trudged on and when we got back to the campground, it was the best feeling ever. We were both extremely exhausted and sore from the hike that we ate dinner quietly and went to bed early. We slept for a full eight hours, and when we woke up, we surprisingly felt a lot better! Feeling strong, encouraged, and inspired by the 8 hour hike we just did the day before, we wanted to keep going! Thankfully, we were smart and chose a much easier trail: The Emerald Pools Trail. It was a 3-mile roundtrip hike with moderate difficulty,and it was also a much more straight-forward trail. You go up, you go down. While hiking, we saw waterfalls, emerald pools, and monoliths... it had it all. It was gorgeous to say the least. After that, we rewarded ourselves with burgers, a lot of water, and soft-serve ice cream cones.
That late afternoon, just minutes before sunset, we decided that instead of taking the shuttle back to the campground that we would walk instead. The well-paved trail was only a mile and a half long after all. While walking, we took in the fantastic views of the mountains again. Nearby, we could hear the water rushing from the river, which made our walk even more serene than it already was. Since we pretty much had the trail to ourselves, it was completely peaceful that we almost didn't notice a deer. It probably noticed us first. It was just eating, and as we walked almost next to it, I remember just watching her (yes, her, because she was pregnant!) stare at us nonchalantly. It hit me again, as nature always tends to do to me; we were nobody. Just humans. Living in a big world. We do not own it, we are not the masters of it. We are just part of it, and that's what makes it so captivating. 
On our last day in Zion, we woke up early to enjoy the campground. We had breakfast and packed up as we were heading to Bryce Canyon National Park. It was very bittersweet to leave. There simply wasn't enough time to fully explore the area, but we were excited for Bryce at the same time. I guess it just means we have to go back again... 

Latest Haul (Birthday Gifts)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

My birthday is not until Sunday and yet I've already gotten gifts from people. First, a good friend of mine got me a gift card to Half Price Books. I was so excited. I went and got six books that's been in my tbr list for a while now. 
  • An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison - a mental health memoir about manic depression
  • Wasted by Marya Hornbacher - a mental memoir about anorexia and bulimia
  • The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  • Where'd You go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
  • Siddheartha by Herman Hesse
  • Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
Aside from the books, I also received this awesome mug from my boyfriend. It says, "I like to party and by party I mean read books." No truer words have been said.

It's Mother's day on Sunday.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Since it's Mother's day on Sunday, I thought I'd get a head start in celebrating it by honoring the mothers in books we've read. Here are the mothers that I think deserve the recognition! Of course, if you are reading this, I challenge you to write down your own list of fictional moms that are memorable to you.

  • Mrs. Weasley from the Harry Potter series
    Molly Weasley was the first one that came to mind when I thought of this. She is kind, brave, and loyal. She also is generous with her motherly love as she has proven time and time as she pretty much took Harry (and Hermione - as well as others) as her own. 
  • Lily Potter from the Harry Potter series
    Even though we didn't get to see Lily as much, I have always been fond of her. First of all, she sacrificed herself for Harry, and through the stories told throughout the series, it was evident that she was a kind and gentle soul. 
  • Rosa Hubermann from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
    She's sassy and a bit tough on Liesl, but there is no denying that her intentions and efforts were pure and simply out of love. She worked hard and she loved her family more than anything.
  • Claire Abshire from The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
    Her undying devotion to her family is like nothing else. Despite the special circumstances she's in, she never fails to remember why she does the things she does. 
  • Margaret March from The Little Women
    She plays both the mom and dad in the March family, and through it all, she remained her wise and gentle self. She is a great listener and she always encourages her children to go for whatever they may want.
  • Vianne from The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
    If  you haven't read The Nightingale yet, despite the fact that I've mentioned it again and again, you really must! It's a heart wrenching and beautiful book, and Vianne is an unforgettable character. She is a mother that would do anything and everything for her family and those she loves no matter what.
Also, I figured it wouldn't be fair to mention the good moms without mentioning the antagonistic ones. They're moms too after all ;)
  • Mrs. Lisbon from The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Euginedes
  • Margaret White from Carrie by Stephen King
  • the bad mother from Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Now it's your turn. If you are reading this, I tag you to make your own list before or on Mother's day! It's actually surprisingly more challenging than I thought, coming up with this list, so good luck. 

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Genre: Literary Fiction - Modern Classic? 
Rating: 5 stars
I've always wanted to read this book, but it has always intimidated me. I'm glad I finally picked it up. Even before reading it, people had already warned me that this novel was one of those that you either love or hate, depending heavily on what you think of Jack Kerouac's views and his writing style. I am ecstatic to say that I loved it. 

There was just something about this novel that captured my interest while reading it. It felt like I was getting the chance to have an intimate look into one's scattered brain. Jack Kerouac's prose is also just lovely to read. It reads like a heavy stream of consciousness. It's a little messy and sometimes random, but the most important part is it's honest and real. 

I do see the flaws that the people in the book have (especially Dean), but I appreciate how realistic they were. Despite some negative attributes and actions, there were clearly good things that anyone can appreciate and learn from them. I love their free spirit and enthusiasm, and how they never seemed to lose their sense of wonder. They actively searched for the meaning of their lives in all the places they went and the people they met along the way. Through everything, they never lost their adventurous souls. 

I could easily go on and analyze its themes and messages. I could also just say that it's a book that can be appreciated academically due to its brilliant literary merit. However, for me, the book meant more than that. I loved it for its realistic take on humanity and one's struggles, fears, hopes, and dreams. It also proved to me that the only thing that can make you richer in life is experience. It pushed in my mind that there is nothing worse than not doing things you want to do, out of fear of the possible consequences. It reminded me that I should take risks even if it's the scariest thing to do. It made me think about these well-known lines from Erin Hanson's poem: 
There is freedom waiting for you, on the breezes of the sky, and you ask, "What if I fall?" 
Oh but my darling, what if you fly? 

I do agree that this book is not for everyone. I understand why some give it a one-star rating, so my my advice is for you to just see if it's something you might like. I would generally recommend this to you if it's been on your TBR for a while. Consider this a little nudge for you to pick it up already. I would also recommend this if you like literary fiction or want to wander around the genre. For me, I'm glad I finally read it and I can't wait to read his other books as well. 

Review: The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

Monday, May 4, 2015

my instagram
Genre: Thriller
Rating: 5 stars
The Good Girl is about Mia Dennett, a teacher, who on one night, leaves with a seemingly nice man from the bar. What she didn't expect was that the decision to go home with him was going to be the biggest mistake in her life. 

That's all I can say about the book. If you want to read it, do not look up else much about it or believe anyone when they say it's the next so and so book. I think that setting up those expectations can automatically kill any book. I believe every book deserves to be read with an open-mind, and in my opinion, be read without knowing much about what it's about except for its basic premise. That is exactly what I did with this novel, and I think because of that, I ended up loving it and enjoying it so much.

I won't say a lot, but this book was mysterious, thrilling, and riveting. The author, Mary Kubica, definitely knows what she's doing because she tells this story in such an engaging way. Every chapter will pull you in, giving you more, but also leaving you more curious and more intrigued than when you started. This of course results in some serious late night reading, encouraging sleep deprivation. Basically, what I'm trying to suggest is you should proceed with caution when you pick up this book because once you start, you won't want to stop until you're done with it. It is pretty easy to read too as it is incredibly fast-paced. I finished it in two days! That being said, I highly recommend this if you love page turners. It's quick, easy, and definitely entertaining. The characters are realistic and believable, and the writing is effortless.

I have read mixed reviews for this though, saying it was predictable. Don't let that discourage you because personally, even when I was getting all sorts of clues throughout for what was to happen, I still liked the execution, and I think that's the most important thing - how the author does it. It worked for me, so pick it up and give it a try. 

Books I Plan To Read in May

Friday, May 1, 2015

I read 7.5 books in April, which makes me happy. I love when I am on a reading high. I am determined to make May just as good, if not even better. Here are the five books I'm planning to read this month. 

  • On my Kindle - borrowed from the library - A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
  • Tess of the d' Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  • The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac
  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • The Good Girl by Mary Kubica
Have you read any of these books and what did you think? Also, let me know what's on your TBR list for this month! Happy reading!