Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Literary Baby Names: The Sequel

After posting the list of best names for each letter of the alphabet the other day a few of my friends told me how much they loved it. For me that's sort of the equivalent of laughing at lame jokes - you encourage me to continue. And so here we are with another baby name post. What a world.

I wrote a list of literary baby names months ago. I enjoyed it and I love a lot of those names, but it was quickly done and I don't think it's thorough enough. And also I just want to come up with more. :)

1. Jane appeared on that list, but I want to use it again. Of course Jane Austen is a great literary namesake. But now that I've read Jane Eyre, I am positively smitten with using Jane as a nod to the book and the character. What a good source for inspiration, that book.

2. Forest. I guess I'm starting this post with names I've already suggested. :) I've mentioned that Forest is probably my favorite Harry Potter name. The Forest Again is my absolute favorite chapter in the entire HP series (and I've heard that it's J.K. Rowling's favorite chapter, as well). It's the chapter in which Harry is willing to sacrifice himself so that Voldemort will be mortal again. I don't know that we could ask anything more from a character than to bravely face death in order to save others. If naming your baby Harry seems too obvious a nod to the books, Forest seems like a good option to me.

3. Hugo is one of my favorite names. I recommended it last time, but I want to offer it up again, this time for Victor Hugo. Not only a terrific writer, but a man who stood for freedom. Win-win.

4. I've long loved the name Eleanor (a love that began after learning about the wonderful first lady), but the alternative spelling, Elanor, is a sweet nod to Lord of the Rings. The companions first saw elanor, a star shaped flower, when they stayed with the elves of Lorien. Sam then named his daughter Elanor. It's a pretty, feminine name that honors epic fantasy. Can't do much better than that.

5. Cora names seem to be picking up steam. A nice literary option is Coraline, after the book of the same name by Neil Gaiman. This was a suggestion from Liz. I love the name but haven't read the book, but she says the story and character are worthwhile.

6. Lewis. Louis is a great name for a boy, but the different spelling makes for a brilliant, doubly important literary name. First, it's a nod to C.S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia among a million other things. And then there's Lewis Carroll. It's his pen name, yes, but it's the name he's known by, and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is favored my so many people (including Liz!). Lewis is such a great option to honor two amazing writers.

7. And while we're on Lewis Carroll, there's always Charles, another two-fer name! It was Carroll's given name and it's the appellation given to Dickens, author of the best books ever. Charlie is a cute nickname, too.

8. But maybe you want to name your daughter after either of those authors. There's Carol or Caroline or Charlotte. They're all related names, and any would work as an honor name for a Charles.

9. Bronty. Hear me out. I'd probably never use this as a first name, because I'm a wimp. But there are people who name their sons Rider and Axel and Dash - you get the point. I think this makes for a super cool name to honor any of the Bronte sisters, or any of the books they've written. (I would use Bronte as a middle name for a girl or a boy.) I've heard Bronte pronounced Bront-ay rhymes with hay and I've heard it Bront-ee rhymes with me. Either works, but I think if you're going for that cool, edgy vibe for a son, the ee sound is the way to go, which is why I'd use the y spelling - avoids some pronunciation issues.

10. On a similar note, I think it'd be fantastic to name a son Austen for Jane Austen. I've noticed that parents are willing to give their daughters traditionally masculine names, but they seem unwilling to give their sons names that are used largely by girls (even if the name started off as a boy name). It seems like the same thing happens with name inspiration. Girls are given names for male figures or for stories that feature a lot of men (like LOTR), but fewer boys are named after, say, Pride and Prejudice. I'm assuming this is another symptom of our culture's devaluation of femininity, thanks patriarchy. Go on with your bad self and name your boy Austen. Jane's books are beloved by too many to ignore.

11. Elwyn. This isn't my style so I'd probably never use it, but there are plenty of people who are bolder than I am, and they can use it. It is the first name of E.B. White, author of Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little, and he edited The Elements of Style, which is pretty cool if you're into writing. It's a male name, but I think it'd be nicer on a girl. And bonus points: it has a definite LOTR feel to it. (White's middle name was Brooks, which seems like a gender-neutral [though much more boyish?] name that would work well today.)

12. Ah, I've mentioned this before, but I really love Conrad (/Konrad). The name means "brave counsel" and as such I think it makes an excellent moniker, one that could call to mind some of the greatest characters, like Dumbledore or Gandalf.

13. Okay, so I may be on the Jane Eyre Train right now (Must I ever get off?), but I'm going to go ahead and suggest Rochester. He is a problematic character at first, yes. But I think his story is one of redemption and his growth warrants applause. In my book that's enough. Surname-names seem popular which makes Rochester wearable, plus there's the adorable nickname: Rocky. (Edward works too, and it can sort of be a Narnia name, for Edmund.)

14. Louise or Louisa for Louisa May Alcott. Alcott could work if you're into surname names, too. Little Women is consistently cited as a favorite, so this seems like a no-brainer.

15. A Christmas Carol is beloved by pretty much everyone, right? Even those who don't celebrate Christmas love the story. I don't think Ebenezer is going to be wearable any time soon, but that's okay because I think the real winner of a name here is Timothy. Tiny Tim, aside from being adorable in the movie, embodies the spirit of the play and of the season, and his line, "God Bless us, everyone!" is known round the world. Timothy wouldn't just make a good literary name, it'd also make a good seasonally appropriate name for any boy born around Christmastime. (For that matter, this can be another case for Carol/Caroline!!)

16. Fitz or Fritz. I heard the name Fritzraldo once and I was blown away. I don't think I've ever heard a cooler name in my entire life. But if you're not too eager on Fritzraldo, Fritz is a nice alternative, and I think Fritz or Fitz both make good names to honor F. Scott Fitzgerald. I know The Great Gatsby remains a favorite for a ton of people, and either of these names are super wearable for a boy born in 2016.

17. Lux or Luxa. This is another name that I wouldn't be brave enough to use, but I think it's pretty cool. Luxa is a major character in The Underland Chronicles. It's a children series by Suzanne Collins. I wouldn't say it's as good as Harry Potter (nothing is!), but I actually think it's better than The Hunger Games. It questions war and preemptive tactics and discrimination, etc. and has lessons that are so good for kids to learn. If I met someone who named their daughter Lux or Luxa after this series, I'd be seriously impressed.

18. My last suggestion is absolutely my corniest suggestion: Penny. There are a lot of people who use word names for their babies now, but if you don't love the idea of naming your baby Writer or Poem (though Poet and Soliloquy are on my guilty pleasure middle name list), Penny is a good compromise. It's a "real" name... but it can also be a play on the word "pen," as in "putting pen to paper" or "penning a great story." I know, corny. BUT ALSO SWEET. If I met someone who was named Penny for this reason I'd immediately assume her parents were awesome.    

THIS WAS FUN. Any names to add? I'm sure I'll be back obnoxiously soon with Literary Baby Names: Part Three. Just to warn you all. This gets more and more fun with each book I read.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Book Review | The Underland Chronicles (Book 4)

Whoa. It has been nine months since I posted the review of the third book in this series. Nine months! I could have gestated a child in the time it took me to get my act together enough to post this review. A HUMAN CHILD. That's how long I've procrastinated. 

And unlike a child, which would have grown stronger and more defined over time, the nine month break means my memory of the book is fainter, the impression it left lighter. Which makes for a lackluster review. Lackluster, my middle name.

Despite all that, my overwhelming feeling toward this book is that it was fantastic. I don't remember as many details as I did two minutes after reading it, obviously (and my computer did me a solid and deleted my general review of the whole series). But I remember the plot well enough (and was smart enough to dog-ear pages with quotes that struck me) and I definitely remember the themes Suzanne Collins explores and I know that I finished this book feeling like I absolutely needed to get my hands on the fifth book. I appreciated Collins even more than I already did after reading this book. I still am awed by her ability to talk about war and politics in ways that are appropriate for kids (and still interesting for adults). Somewhere between reading the third book in this series and the fourth book, it occurred to me that I might like The Underland Chronicles more than I like The Hunger Games.

The fourth book, Gregor and the Marks of Secret, is a bit different from its predecessors in that we don't have a direct prophecy or end point this time. The plot is a bit more mysterious and open ended. Basically, Luxa (I gave some character descriptions here), the future queen, is sent a message of distress and she and Gregor go searching for an answer. They find out that the mice of the Underland are once again being driven out of their homes by a more powerful species. (Sound familiar? Collins' stories are political ones.) But when she and Gregor explore, they realize that (spoiler alert - though this isn't a huge reveal and won't ruin the series for anyone, probably...) this time, the mice aren't just being driven out of their homes; they're being murdered. It's a genocide orchestrated by the Bane and the rats. We see some more character development in this one, especially with Luxa as she begins to truly come into her role. Ultimately, she declares war on the rats.

Needless to say, this book is dark. It's the darkest in the series, in my opinion. If I had kids, I'd want to read it with/to them. I wouldn't want them to read it alone. That said, I still think it's an age-appropriate exploration of war and politics and hatred and fear.

And if you happen to be reading it now, be prepared for some scary real-life parallels:

"He will find followers, because he’s the Bane. He’s got the white coat, and the size, and enough hatred brewing inside him to wipe out the Underland as we know it. Most rats will overlook the fact that he’s unbalanced, because he’ll be telling them exactly what they want to hear. They’ve been starved too long, and then so many died from the plague... especially the pups. No, the gnawers won’t care who he is or what he does if he brings them revenge."

Familiar, right?

While it's a not as conclusive as the previous books, it's still pretty excellent. It's sad, of course. But we get to watch as our characters consider whether there are things worth going to war over, if there are things that justify killing. (And as the series goes on, I tend to think that most of the "good" characters make the right decisions, which is why I think this series is so good for kids. Like it or not, we're currently living in a war-obsessed country and I think it's great for kids to question such values. This book will prompt those questions.) It's also nice to see the characters face trials bravely. Obviously courage and bravery and sacrifice are good things in books and in real life.

Neville knows. He would like The Underland Chronicles.
So basically, loved this book. I didn't love it as much as the third book, but it's an important step in the series and sets us up for the fifth and final book. It doesn't work as a stand alone novel, though, so you'll have to start from the beginning. A very good place to start.

You won't regret it. Go pick up this book/series, pronto.

Since Liz and I now have a book review blog (Filthy Casket Book Reviews!), this can be found over there, too. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Best of the Alphabet: Baby Names

I stumbled upon a new name-blog a few nights ago and was pumped. It's got all sorts of cool stuff, from name suggestions to "sibling sets" to old birth announcements for twins named Lloyd Joel and Boyd Noel. Anyway, add to this discovery a dash of boredom and a sprinkle of, ahem, loopiness from medicine and we've got a new Baby Name List idea: favorite names for each letter of the alphabet. Liz, my long-suffering friend who oft puts up with my baby name craze decided to participate too! As has Dana!!!! (She doesn't get as many obnoxious baby name convo requests from me as Liz does - she's more my "Harry Potter questions in the middle of the night" person - but we have talked about names and we may or may not have once fought over "Teddy," eventually deciding I'd use it for a boy and she could use it for a girl.) This list doesn't include all the names we love, just our very favorites for each letter. (I also didn't want to include any names I would never actually use, which is why the letter U, for example, has no names even though Ulysses and Urban are fine names.) In cases of multiple favorites, the very best is in bold. Without further ado.....

A Names

Charlotte: Annie (as a nickname), Agatha/Ambrose, Augustine
Liz: Abigail/Alexander
Dana: Abigail, Adelaide, Adeline/Adam

B Names

Charlotte: Beatrix, Bernadette/Bosco, Benjamin
Liz: Bonnie/Benjamin
Dana: Beatrice

C Names

Charlotte: Caroline, Clementine/Clement
Liz: Claire/Cooper
Dana: Christian, Cecilia/Christopher

D Names

Charlotte: Della/Donovan
Liz: Daisy/Daniel
Dana: Dana (lol jk) Diana, Daphne/David

E Names

Charlotte: Evangeline, Eliza, Eleanor/Edward
Liz: Emelia/Elliot
Dana: Emma, Emilia/Elijah

F Names

Charlotte: Felicity/Francis
Liz: Felicity, Fern/Flynn
Dana: Flannery/Fred, Fitzgerald, Fitzwilliam

G Names

Charlotte: Genevieve/Gabriel, Gerard
Liz: Genevieve/Griffin
Dana: Georgiana, Georgia/George, Greg

H Names

Charlotte: Harriet/Hugo
Liz: Hattie/Harper/Henry
Dana: Helen/Henry

I Names

Charlotte: Ignatius
Liz: Isabelle/Ian, Isaac
Dana: Imogen/Isaiah 

J Names

Charlotte: Jane/James, John
Liz: Joanna/Jacob
Dana: Jane/Jack, James

K Names

Charlotte: Kate, Kit (both as nicknames)/ Konrad
Liz: Katherine/Keagan 
Dana: Kendall/Killian 

L Names

Charlotte: Louise/Lewis (honorable mentions: Lucy, Loretta)
Liz: Lydia/Liam
Dana: Laura, Leila/Levi 

M Names

Charlotte: Margot, Magdalene/Martin
Liz: Molly/Mathias
Dana: Madeline, Magdalena/Mason 

N Names

Charlotte: Noelle/Nicholas
Liz: Nora/Nathaniel 
Dana: Nova/Noah 

O Names

Charlotte: Ottilie/Oliver
Liz: Olivia/Oliver 
Dana: Ophelia/Oliver 

P Names

Charlotte: Pepper, Philomena/Patrick
Liz: Piper/Parker
Dana: Priscilla, Penelope/Peter 

Q Names

Charlotte: .........
Liz: Quinn/Quentin (I guess...) 
Dana: Quinn/?

R Names

Charlotte: Rose
Liz: Rachel, Ruth/Russell 
Dana: Renesmee.. JK. Rose/Ronald

S Names

Charlotte: Stella/Samuel
Liz: Sophie, Sadie/Samuel (honorable mention: Sybil)
Dana: Savannah/Samuel 

T Names

Charlotte: Tilly (as a nickname)/Theodore
Liz: Taylor/Theodore
Dana: Theodora (Teddy)/Theodore 

U Names

Charlotte: .........
Liz: .........
Dana: ........

V Names

Charlotte: Victoria
Liz: Virginia/Victor
Dana: Vada, Virginia

W Names

Charlotte: Willa/William
Liz: Winry/William 
Dana: Winnie/William

X Names

Charlotte: Xavier
Liz: ........
Dana: ........

Y Names

Charlotte: ..........
Liz: .......
Dana: Yael/.. 

Z Names

Charlotte: Zellie
Liz: Zinnia/Zachary 
Dana: Zinnia, Zoey/Zachary

So I guess it's a win for Oliver, Theodore, William, and Samuel. ;) This post was super fun to write. I loved seeing all the overlap (Magdalene/a! Felicity! Henry!) and I got a kick out of how surprising some of the names were (still not over Dana's choice of Greg or Liz's pick of Griffin). I like that even with a decent amount of overlap, you can still sense our different styles.

Also, Keagan will forever remind me of kegels. BUT YOU DO YOU, LIZ.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Sterling, Castile, Dallas, BLM

I've gone back and forth over the last few days on whether or not to write anything about the killing of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the officers in Dallas. I've addressed Black Lives Matter before (1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 if you're interested) and I still feel the same way: the movement is righteous and we need to continue to assert that black people matter. I don't have anything very eloquent to say, but I decided I'd jot down a few random thoughts, especially since my audience is largely white. And lately there seem to be a lot of Confused and Angry White People. 

The Dallas shooting was horrific and tragic. I am heartbroken for the officers (and protesters) who were shot and for their families. I have no reason to believe they weren't good people. 

If you think less of Black Lives Matter after the Dallas shooting, you're wrong. The movement has spoken against the violence, they did not sanction or plan it, and they value all life. And even if those things weren't true... 

Black lives would still matter. No matter what happened or happens, regardless of how you or I or anyone else feels about tactics, you should still know and understand and state that "black lives matter." Because for the past 300 years and even today, the law does not value or protect black lives. The first step in rectifying this problem is to acknowledge it and address it. 

It is possible to grieve for the officers and still argue that we need to radically change how policing is done in this country. 

It is possible to dislike, to hate violence but to understand how it happens. I personally wouldn't want to engage in violent actions* (unless it's in self defense or to actively defend someone else), but I also don't know what it is like to be a target of state violence. I can choose to not be violent and also not denounce an entire movement because there are some folks who think violence is the best tactic. 

Pick a method of resistance that suits your strengths and find out how you can help the larger movement.

You can understand how a person(people) is angry without wanting to justify violence born of that anger. Part of being a semi-intelligent adult with complex emotions is understanding something even when you don't particularly like it. It is entirely possible (maybe necessary?) to wish those officers were alive and that the shooting in Dallas never happened but to also understand the rage behind it. Shooting unsuspecting police officers cannot be justified in my mind. But the rage? The rage is justifiable. 

If you are sad about Dallas but didn't mourn over the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, check your priorities. 

If you think the use of war tactics and materials are necessary after the slaughtering of those officers, but didn't think protesting was necessary after the slaughtering of the 565th and 566th people killed by police this year, check your priorities.

If you were outraged at the killings of Cecil the Lion and Harambe the Gorilla but not at the killings of black men by people who were sworn to protect them, just unfriend/unfollow me. Find Jesus. (So, like, half the people I went to hs with.)

I'm angry at the killing of those police officers. I'm angry that black people continue to be unjustly targeted and killed by police. Get it through your head that you can be both. 

Get it through your head that racism is real. 

Get it through your head that not all cops are good. 

Get it through your head that change is hard but necessary. 

Stop saying "all lives matter." It's defensive, it's detracting, and it's bad logic. If I say "cheeseburgers are great" it in no way means "hamburgers are awful." A hamburger can be perfectly lovely with the right condiments.

And, the most important thing: listen to black people. LISTEN TO BLACK PEOPLE. Stop denying statistics and stop denying their very experience.    

(Also: It is not okay to kill suspects with robot bombs.)

I've been praying for Alton and Philando, and for Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith, and everyone else affected. But we need to do more than pray. If you're white and you've been silent so far, I'd urge you to get involved. I believe there will be a day when things like this no longer happen. 

*I don't support violence against people. Property, however? Fuck property. People>property. At this point I am all for breaking windows. Before you think I'm a loon, I'll ask you your thoughts on the men behind the Boston Tea Party. If you see them as heroes, then don't tell black people or white allies not to cause chaos. If ruining property is the way to make the state care about people, then that's what'll happen. Don't blame the protesters, blame the state which continues to undervalue human life. They/we are trying to make changes via peaceful protesting. If that doesn't work, then overboard with the tea, as it were.  


Friday, July 8, 2016

June Into July | 2016

Eight days in and I'm finally writing this month's post.

I haven't prioritized blogging at all lately, and for the most part I'm okay with that. I've been sick a lot, I've been in the hospital twice this month, so when I'm feeling good I'm more interested in reading or hiking or doing yard work to try and make that $$ than I am in blogging. I'm sure this will change as summer fades, but for now it's what's up. 

But I'm not ditching it all together. I'm still trying to keep up with some book reviews over on Filthy Casket. And I'm going to try to get at least one blog post up over here per week, but I'm not stressing over it. 

Since I wrote last month's post so late, I'm just going to cheat and extend those goals through this month. #ambition #not They were: 

1. Get outside more So far so good.
2. Read six books I've read eight and a half! I'm on a reading roll. Give me some butter. This month I'd specifically like to chip away at my summer reading list
3. Post five book reviews I've done two so far.
4. Finish the reviews of the books in The Underland Chronicles I've not done any since making that goal...
5. Eat better meh, somewhat so far.
6. Lose ten pounds I've lost three at this point.

So those are my goals for the rest of the month. 

I wanted to keep this post short and I don't have a ton to say, but it seems wrong to not mention some of the things going on right now. For the moment I'll leave it at just saying that my heart is heavy for Alton Sterling and his family, Philando Castile and his family, and the officers and protesters shot in Dallas and their families. And especially for Cameron, Sterling's 15 year old boy, whose sobs haven't left my mind since the night I heard them on TV.