June ‘22 Afternoon Tea with SJ

Good afternoon to you!

I know, I was going to write a blog post last week on my amazing list of Japanese books to read over the summers, but alas, it has yet to see the light of the day. Perhaps next month??

Today, I’m excited to be celebrating my third blogiversary on SJ Barnard!! This year, I didn’t plan anything special because…well, just because? (I totally didn’t forget about it, honest.) If you want to ask me questions about my blog or have any other comments/things you would like to interrogate me on, feel free to do so in the comments below!

So, without further ado, let me introduce to you June ‘22 Afternoon Tea with SJ…

​​-June Afternoon Tea ‘22 Setting-

Location: Wisteria garden

Tea: matcha soy latte, lavender London fog, Editor’s blend

Offered with: Kashiwa mochi, cloud yuzu macaroons, polar bear souffle pancakes with strawberries

Last month, I suffered from a reading slump and a bookstagramme slump. I took the time off to review my reading ethics as well as what kind of content I actually wanted to post on IG. Which was super helpful, because now I feel like what I post and what I read match (wait, it didn’t before??) and I love the new aesthetic. If you’re curious about it, you can find the account @bookish_bishop

May/June Books:

  1. Subculture Literature Theory–Eiji Otsuka 
  2. Yukiguni (Snow Country)–Yasunari Kawabata
  3. Kagirinaku Toumei Ni Chikai Blue (Almost Transparent Blue)–Ryu Murakami
  4. Such Fine Boys–Patrick Modiano
  5. A Grief Observed–C. S. Lewis
  6. The Dragon and the Raven–G. A. Henty
  7. The Song of Roland–Anonymous
  8. The Order of Time–Carlo Rovelli
  9. Watakushi ni Totte Kaku to Iu Koto (What Writing Means to Me)–Ayako Miura
  10. Four Quartets–T. S. Eliot

Currently Reading: Inception & Philosophy, Casino Royale, Imi ga Nakereba Swing wa Nai

More tea, anyone? Recently, I re-discovered my love for matcha latte/frappucinos and am constantly thinking about them. The Kashiwa mochi is a bit late season, but it’s still worth it!

Music 

I have a strange feeling I didn’t listen to much music this month. I did find many classical CDs at the library I absolutely love and don’t want to return; I also got a chance to go to the record store and excavated Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky concertos. 

Practising: n/a

Listening to: Shogeki (Yuko Ando), Mixed Nuts (Official HIGE DANdism), Comedy (Gen Hoshino), Brahms Ein Deutsches Requiem Op. 45

Movie/TV Shows 

Have you tried the cloud yuzu macaroons? Yuzu is my favourite citrus fruit, so nothing can go wrong with it! 

This month, I didn’t watch many movies or TV shows, but some of the shows I absolutely LOVE to pieces are:

  • Nanba MG5…feat. Shōtaro Mamiya as Tsuyoshi Nanba, who comes from a Yankee family (which basically means delinquents, although they follow their own rules so it’s not like they do whatever they want to) and wants to spend a normal high school life while trying to hide this fact from his family who’s expecting him to take over the Kanto region. 
  • Waru…feat. Mio Imada (& other casts worth crushing on) who plays the part of a new employee at a traditional Japanese company, she ends up revolutionizing the company structure as she works toward achieving her dream goal of becoming “big” in the company.

Manga/Anime

Okay, so this month, I spent way too much time (and possibly money) on wotakatsu. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, it basically means anything to do with supporting the manga/anime/characters/idol group you are currently crushing on. For me, that looked like starting my annual re-read of Tokyo Ghoul (it’s like my third or fourth time), making acrylic key chains, AOT badges, student ID for Nanamin from JJK, etc., etc. I have so many other ideas for wotakatsu this summer and might be sharing them, IDK…(   ¯꒳¯ )b✧

Some Manga/Anime highlights of the month:

  • Oresama Teacher…by Izumi Tsubaki (auth. Of Nozaki-Kun) that I am head over heels
  • (re:) Spy x Family…by Tatsuya Endo that I (and a lot of ppl) am raving about
  • Tokyo Ghoul re-read (again.)…also, Chojin X by Sui-sensei is excellent!
  • Blue Period…a new love! I can’t wait to catch up on the current volume
  • Monster…by Naoki Urasawa. Made for binging and for digging up academic papers on the work. 

If you remember me from two weeks ago, I bravely (?) announced I will be taking it slow, meaning I won’t be writing this month, but spend the time brainstorming and configuring Notion (another new love!!) so I can maybe re-start working from July. I think my brainstorming thing was working well up until like last week, but this week I hadn’t spent as much time on it, so I’m still undecided on what to work on during July. In a way, it feels like a mild brain slog which is always not fun; at the same time, I think I could take this month of rest & hope to come back strong into writing starting July. 

Would you like another cup of editor’s blend? It’s my favourite tea for writing/reading sessions, excellent to be had hot or cold. This month was slow considering academics as well. I was taking an Intro to Hebrew course at my church which was loads of fun & made me realise how theologically deep the Hebrew language was. I want to keep up my learning but haven’t figured out a way to do it yet. I’m also looking forward to my summer term coming up at uni where I’ll be taking poli-sci and philosophy, not to mention my year two registration is coming up. I don’t know, is it just me who finds it a great joy to brainstorm course schedules and plans??

This is completely a side note, but souffle pancakes are best had right after they’re done. We’ve tried many times to make souffle pancakes–and sort of epically failed. I mean, they’re still good flat but that would just be normal pancakes…

Anyhow. 

Life has been exciting because now the weather is starting to hold and it actually looks like summer! I went on a downtown stroll with a uni/church friend, and we had an epic time going around all of the Japanese stores (like Muji, Daiso, Seria, etc.) in the vicinity. I also got to go on a date with Mom (which we hadn’t had for the longest time ever) and we had ramen and went to more Japanese stores (like Uniqlo and wotaku stores). This week has been a mini-vacation for me since I went on a sleep over to a Japanese friend’s house where we spent even more time reminiscing about our favourite manga fandoms. Good times, I say. 

So, life has been good. I can’t believe I’ve been blogging for three years now, and I couldn’t have done it without you! Thank you for being a part of SJ Barnard, and I hope that you have an even better summer ahead of you. ⸜( ´ ꒳ ` )⸝♡︎

Thank you for reading! How was your June? What are some of the highlights this month? Do you have any questions about blogging or about me? What are some of your summer plans? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!

5 + 1 CS Lewis Books on my TBR/Re-Read

Hullo, world!

It’s a beautiful Saturday morning–a quiet, peaceful sort that reminds me of what Christ has done for us. I actually debated whether or not to write a blog post this week because it feels…a bit sacrilegious…then again, I realised it’s a good time to reflect a bit on the more theological-heavy readings I like to do!

*proceeds to haul out my stack of the CS Lewis library*

So I present to you, the 5 + 1 (shorter) CS Lewis books on my TBR/Re-Read shelf!

1. Miracles

‘The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation. They say that God became Man. Every other miracle prepares the way for this, or results from this.’

This is the key statement of ‘Miracles’, in which C. S. Lewis shows that a Christian must not only accept but rejoice in miracles as a testimony of the unique personal involvement of God in his creation.

Using his characteristic lucidity and wit to develop his argument, Lewis challenges the rationalists, agnostics and deists on their own grounds and provides a poetic and joyous affirmation that miracles really do occur in our everyday lives.

I’ve read this book before, but I don’t remember much about it, only that it was (as usual) a really good book on miracles! So, it’s probably a good time to re-read it & make sure the thing stays in my head…(´∩ω∩`)

2. Reflections on the Psalms

Lewis writes here about the difficulties he has met or the joys he has gained in reading the Psalms. He points out that the Psalms are poems, intended to be sung, not doctrinal treatises or sermons. Proceeding with his characteristic grace, he guides readers through both the form and the meaning of these beloved passages in the Bible.

This book has been on my TBR for a long time…and now that I’m trying to memorise the Psalms, I think it’s worthwhile the read. 

Also, I must confess that I’ve avoided reading/thinking about Psalms for the longest time–I don’t hate it, but I had difficulties with it despite the number of times I’ve gone through it. I’m hoping this book and memorisation will cure me of this. ( ´•௰•`)

3. A Grief Observed

Written in longhand in notebooks that Lewis found in his home, A Grief Observed probes the “mad midnight moments” of Lewis’s mourning and loss, moments in which he questioned what he had previously believed about life and death, marriage, and even God. Indecision and self-pity assailed Lewis. “We are under the harrow and can’t escape,” he writes. “I know that the thing I want is exactly the thing I can never get. The old life, the jokes, the drinks, the arguments, the lovemaking, the tiny, heartbreaking commonplace.” Writing A Grief Observed as “a defense against total collapse, a safety valve,” he came to recognize that “bereavement is a universal and integral part of our experience of love.”

Lewis writes his statement of faith with precision, humor, and grace. Yet neither is Lewis reluctant to confess his continuing doubts and his awareness of his own human frailty. This is precisely the quality which suggests that A Grief Observed may become “among the great devotional books of our age.”

I feel like since most of the CS Lewis books are perpetually on my TBR/Re-Read shelf, my comments will start sounding the same– “it’s been on my TBR shelf, so I MUST read it!”

But for this book specifically, I have a vested interest even though I haven’t technically lost anyone close to me, my grandmother (in Japan) has been ill for a while now and it’s tough to be far away, knowing she can pass away any time without knowing the salvation found in Jesus. 

4. Till We Have Faces

In this timeless tale of two mortal princesses- one beautiful and one unattractive- C.S. Lewis reworks the classical myth of Cupid and Psyche into an enduring piece of contemporary fiction. This is the story of Orual, Psyche’s embittered and ugly older sister, who possessively and harmfully loves Psyche. Much to Orual’s frustration, Psyche is loved by Cupid, the god of love himself, setting the troubled Orual on a path of moral development.

Set against the backdrop of Glome, a barbaric, pre-Christian world, the struggles between sacred and profane love are illuminated as Orual learns that we cannot understand the intent of the gods “till we have faces” and sincerity in our souls and selves. 

I’ve read this book around three times now, and with every re-read, it becomes even deeper. I only own this as an eBook, so I’m seriously considering buying it so I can annotate it…٩(´꒳`)۶

5. The Weight of Glory

The classic Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis, the most important Christian writer of the 20th century, contains nine sermons delivered by Lewis during World War Two. The nine addresses in Weight of Glory offer guidance, inspiration, and a compassionate apologetic for the Christian faith during a time of great doubt.

I’ve started reading this and school overwhelmed me, so I haven’t finished it. I think this book will be really relevant to me esp. given the politically charged atmosphere of Canada & the world these days. 

6. The Problem of Pain

For centuries Christians have questioned why, if God is good and all-powerful, he allows us to suffer pain. C.S. Lewis sets out to disentangle this knotty issue, but adds that, in the end, no intellectual solution can avoid the need for faith.

My brother bought this on our latest used-bookstore haul (you might remember it from two months ago) and he’s been telling me how good it is. (Although the point is kind of moot by now since we all agree that all CS Lewis books are THE classics.) So, as soon as he finishes it, I’ll probably beg him to lend it to me. (   ¯꒳¯ )b✧

And that sums up today for now!

Thank you for reading! How is your holy week going? Do you have any CS Lewis TBR/re-reads? What are some of your favourite CS Lewis books? (Or, a book you keep coming back to?) Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!

United We Fall Review & Email List Update

Hullo, world!

I got through my first week of uni & although I’m already getting the anti-Christian vibes in one of my classes already, most of my profs & classmates are really nice and I’m super hyped about it! 

Today, I have an exciting announcement to make…United We Fall, Bk 2 of How We Rise by Brooke Riley is coming out in 3 days!! Whoo!!! I was very privileged to ARC read her book, and here’s my review below…

United We Fall

Rating: 4/5 stars, PG13

Content: Violence, Romance, government control, thematic elements, some language

What is truth? What are lies?

It’s been two weeks since Raegan’s death. Two weeks since a big blow was dealt to the resistance. Two weeks since Peter lost his best friend and perhaps his soul mate. Now, he’s out for revenge on everyone responsible, starting with the biggest coward: Agent Specter.

Peter doesn’t care what rules he has to break to bring down those who took away the one he loved the most. When someone he never expected comes forward with information that seems too good to be true, he has to make a decision on what to do before it’s too late.

The shocking sequel to How We Rise

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My Review

I can’t wait for UWF’s upcoming release in 3 days now!!!

NOTE: I received an eARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

♱⋰ ⋱✮⋰ ⋱♱⋰ ⋱✮⋰ ⋱♱⋰ ⋱✮⋰ ⋱♱⋰⋱♱⋰ ⋱✮⋰ ⋱♱⋰ ⋱✮⋰ ⋱♱⋰ ⋱✮⋰ ⋱♱⋰⋱

1. Theme–Again, Brooke kept her focus on family, friends, and basically relationships between people when the world is changing. It’s quite relevant with today’s political atmosphere and spoke to me. (   ˙꒳​˙   )

2. Prose–I was pleasantly surprised to find Brooke grew more into her prose. As UWF features multiple povs, I was really happy to find each character had a more distinct voice than bk1. ଘ(੭ˊ꒳​ˋ)੭✧

3. Characters–Okay, this is obviously where I have to stop because, UWF is super character-driven like you would not believe.😂 (Also, most of the character arcs are spoilers for those of you who have not read bk1, so please be warned!) Prepare for your heart to be shattered, everyone!! 。°(´∩ω∩`)°。

> Peter: First of all, I was kind of sure HWR destroyed a lot of characters and the one who got the full brunt of it was Peter. *inserts comforting words & marshmallows and anything I can think of* I loved how he struggled with coming to terms with what it would look like after such a tragic bk1 ending–which he sort of didn’t, but anyway.🤔 I think it was realistic how he grappled with grief and guilt and revenge, and how it might continue into bk3!! Gahh!!

> Spencer: I was not expecting his arc to be this good. Tbh, I don’t remember much about him in bk1 (sorry, lol) and it came as a surprise when he stepped into the tragedy to really pull people together into healing and mending…and forgiving. I think this was a big score. So many YA dystopia I’ve read was depressing because the “rebellion” was just an excuse for revenge, a circle of hate upon hate. But Spencer changed all that. Honestly, he’s probably my fav. character because of it. 🥰

> Evan: Obviously, my absolute fav. character (other than Spencer & Peter) is Evan. Okay, I was waiting for UWF just because I wanted to know where Evan was going after HWR. 🙈 And, quite naturally, I am waiting for OWA to follow him all the way to the end. *terminate rant before I spoil anything*

> Carissa: I wasn’t expecting her to grow into the sort of jarring ending from bk 1…I think she def. helped deepen the world of the HWR trilogy because I didn’t see it as clearly before. She still isn’t my fav. but towards the ending of UWF, she really expanded into herself. (*´꒳`*)

> Samantha: Another character I’ve been waiting to see where she’d go, and I was not disappointed! Although to be sure, I would have liked to see more of where she came from and where she is currently, there’s a large cast at hand, so I think it was okay…

> Jackson: Here, I’ve absolutely got to stop. *deep breath* Do you like the “traitors who mend” arc?? (As in Edmund?) Do you like dorky characters who are actually really caring on the inside?? Have you been waiting for Jackson since the ending of HWR?? If so, Jackson is totally there for you and that’s like the only incentive you should need to read this book. (   ¯꒳¯ )b✧

> Nicole, Sawyer, Noah, Stella: They were all deepened down & I was happy we got more screen time on them, although I do think they can be more fleshed out…Nicole & Sawyer’s arc was realistic and offered another way for the worldbuilding to expand. 

!!SPOILER ALERT!!

(If you want to read it, highlight the paragraph below…)

> Raegan: I debated whether or not to put her in here, but I will. Tbh, I didn’t really feel for her in HWR and then the ending shook me…

And we have UWF. 

Raegan is honestly such a resolute character that I feel bad for not seeing it earlier. She goes through such a traumatic experience but keeps her resolve, keeps moving forward. And that’s something not everyone can do. 

4. Plot–UWF reads like a contemporary dystopian, so the plot is not too convoluted but rather more straightforward. It felt flatter in terms of action. There’s certainly tension and a buildup, although it felt a little too predictable. I think I would like to see more twists in bk3!

5. Execution–Overall, I think Brooke tied together all these elements well into a solid contemporary-dystopian. I think I would have liked to see more coherence in worldbuilding and a more streamlined plot to character arcs, but that’s about it. (୨୧ᵕ̤ᴗᵕ̤)

★∻∹⋰⋰ ☆∻∹⋰⋰ ★∻∹⋰⋰ ☆∻∹⋰⋰★∻∹⋰⋰ ☆∻∹⋰⋰ ★∻∹⋰⋰ ☆∻∹⋰⋰

If you like:

a) character-driven stories

b) redemption arc

c) contemporary-dystopian

This book is for you!!

AUTHOR BIO

Brooke Riley started her writing journey at fifteen when she had an idea about a world falling to ruin. Though the stories have come a long way from their original conception, she has found a refuge in writing books. A lover of literature and an avid bookworm, words have always been somewhere ingrained in her soul.

When she’s not writing, she’s dreaming up new worlds, making playlists, or hanging out with her family.

You can find her on:


Email List Update

Last week, I asked around a little about my email list. For a while, I’ve been meaning to work on it and haven’t really been able to, but from September, I want to change that. 

“Mailchimp, as you might know, takes some time to set up (even with personalised templates). And, it hasn’t felt like it conveyed my sentiments &c really well anymore …

So, from now on, my monthly email would look a little different. Since I have the monthly reflection-thing going on already on my Afternoon Tea with SJ series I will cut the redundancy of stating them here. Instead, I will focus more on the month’s starting goals, TBR, WIP goals & c.”

PERKS of joining my email list:

You’ll get…

  1. Weekly blog updates delivered straight to your inbox
  2. Monthly goal updates on reading, writing & life
  3. One aesthetic writing quote wallpaper + One aesthetic writing task wallpaper
  4. Exclusive sneak-peaks into my WIPs, character collages &c!
  5. Priority updates into my future online writing group

So, if you haven’t already, please consider subscribing to my email list. WordPress is a good place for my blog, but for any other announcements, it isn’t the greatest. By subscribing to my email list, you can be sure to stay in the loop of where I am outside the blogosphere. 😉 

And that’s it for today!

Thank you for reading! Are you excited for Brooke’s upcoming book release, United We Fall? Have you read How We Rise? Are you subscribed to my email list (yet)?? Let me know your thoughts in the comment below; I’d love to chat with you!