Friday, April 14, 2017

Q&A Answers

photograph by me

It took a bit longer than two weeks to get together (surprise, surprise), but here are my answers to your questions!

How many of Jane Austen's novels have you read, and do you have a favorite? I have only read two— Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey. Of the two, Northanger Abbey is my favorite. I hope to read Persuasion this year and want to reread Pride and Prejudice.

Who are your fictional crushes/ships? Is it unusual to have never really had a fictional crush? I don't know. I have admired characters, but I am not sure I would consider them crushes. Though, I could probably develop a crush on Liam Marshall from Kirsty Cambron's A Sparrow In Terezin.  He is such a good kind hearted and courageous fellow. Now, when it comes to fictional ships it is an entirely different story. Sir Percy and Marguerite Blakeney from The Scarlet Pimpernel. Captain Scott and Mrs. Wyatt from Flame Over India (1959). Peter and Elle from White Collar. Tommy and Tuppence. Daniel and Thacia from The Bronze Bow. Bella Wilfer and John Rokesmith from Our Mutual Friend. Sybil and Branson. Is that enough?

What is a genre you haven't read, but you want to try? Or, a genre you didn't think you'd like but were surprised by? I really want to try out science fiction. It is a genre I have only experienced in film or television and really want to explore further. I even have a list of science fiction books to acquire when my book buying ban is lifted. This next one is not necessarily a genre, but I really want to get into more poetry and learn more about poetry.

Best contemporary recommendations? If I am honest I have never read a contemporary novel that I have enjoyed enough to recommend. Of course, I have only read a handful of contemporary set novels. I have read vintage novels that would have been contemporary when they first released. *ahem* But those don't really count anymore.

Nonfiction favorites? Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand is probably by far the best biography I have ever read. Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon is one of the best books on creativity I have ever read. Otherwise, City Notebook by McCandlish Phillips is a fascinating peak into New York City during the 60s and 70s.

What are your favorite historical periods/settings? Which are your favorites to write about? At this point in my life, I greatly enjoy reading and learning more about the early 1900s through the 1960s. The same goes for writing. Except, I do love writing westerns that take place during the nineteenth century. As for settings, I have noticed I have a penchant for setting stories in either New York City or London. *ahem* I have a feeling that is not going to end anytime soon. I love writing stories during the World Wars and the times in between and afterwards. There are so many good stories to tell.

How do you write—pen and paper, computer, etc? I mainly do my writing on my laptop. I have always found it easier to keep things on my computer and it saved timed instead of having to type up everything. I will do smaller projects (i.e. blog posts, short stories, character interviews, brainstorming) with pen and paper. I have great admiration for people who do their writing entirely with paper and pen.

What's your favorite period drama miniseries? Favorite TV show? This is hard. I might do a few divided up into categories. If you have learned anything about me, it is that I have difficulty choosing just one favorite or one runner up. For miniseries, two of my favorites are Cranford, an adaption of several of Elizabeth Gaskell’s stories set in an English village during the 1840s, and a more recent watch The Bletchley Circle is a mystery show set in the early 1950s involving women who had been codebreakers during WWII coming together to solve a crime. (Will warn you though, Bletchley Circle is not light fare. The crimes are dark, so I would recommend with discretion for an older audience.) Now TV shows is going to be even lengthier. Two of my favorite classic TV shows would be The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Rifleman. My favorite crime/mystery shows would be White Collar and Foyle’s War. Favorite period set television shows would be Call the Midwife and Lark Rise to Candleford. And yes, maybe even Downton Abbey. Downton and I have a complicated relationship. I really love specific seasons and really, really hate others. I have only ever seen seasons one, two, and six in completion and the rest in bits and pieces. Other shows I am getting into of late are The Rockford Files and Wagon Train.

Do you have any hobbies? I am trying to decide if reading is a hobby or a lifestyle. If my computer would cooperate, I would love to get into film editing. I guess you could say my hobby is classic films. I love watching old classic films from what is considered the Golden Age of Hollywood and analyzing their stories, cinematography, design, and other aspects. As I describe myself on some of my social media bios, I am a film junkie.

You mentioned travel, many places have you visited, and what was your favorite? Any special place you have still to visit? I have done a lot of traveling, but only in the States. Some of my favorite traveling memories have been driving out to California. I love visiting the National Parks and watching the scenery as you drive through the western states. One of my favorite cities to visit is Boston. I love the history in that city and Brattle Book Store. My most recent trip was to New York City. I love that city. There are so many good restaurants that cater to those who are gluten-free or have other allergens. Bookstores. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The coffee shops. The architecture. Europe is the headliner on my bucket list of traveling dreams. I want to travel all over England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Germany, and basically the entire continent. If I am honest though, I really would not object to traveling the entire world.

What are your favorite coffee shops? I feel like this ties in beautifully with the previous question. There is nothing I like more than discovering favorite coffee shops in the cities I visit. Sadly, the list is not so very long. I only started drinking coffee in the summer of 2015 *gasp* and I have not traveled as much since. Here are three of my favorites:
   Intelligentsia Coffee Roasters — Chicago, Illinois
   Bluestone Lane — New York City, New York (Their flat white is so good!)
   La Colombe — New York City, New York. (The draft latte is like nothing else. I have cravings for it and cannot wait until I visit a city that has a La Colombe. Their latte is amazing too.)

Friday, March 31, 2017

Book Review: A Sparrow In Terezin

photograph by me
Kristy Cambron first came across my radar sometime after the release of her first novel The Butterfly and Violin. It was a review of her second novel, the one I am reviewing here, that I read in WORLD magazine that sealed the deal. I knew I wanted to take a chance on these books. WWII. Art. Gorgeous covers. Good reviews. It had enough of my favorite things to take a chance on.

So, last year I took that chance and read The Butterfly and the Violin. I fell in love with Kristy’s writing and style of storytelling. I became a fan. And now I just finished her second novel A Sparrow In Terezin and there is no going back. I am officially invested in Kristy’s writing career. *stalks any news of upcoming Kristy Cambron books*

A Sparrow In Terezin follows the story of Kaja Makovsky as she barely escapes Nazi occupied Prague, forced to leave her parents behind, and then finds herself facing the London Blitz in England. Working for the Daily Telegraph, Kaja is horrified to learn of the extermination of Jews in concentration camps by the Nazis and makes the decision to go back to Prague. Determined to get her parents to safety, Kaja returns to a Europe shrouded in darkness and suffering.

As much as I loved Butterfly and the Violin, I enjoyed and loved A Sparrow In Terezin even more. I felt more connected to Kaja as a character and to her and Liam’s story. For some reason it felt more personal. Maybe it was Kaja’s more reserved personality or the fact that she worked for a newspaper, I am not sure. If I am honest, I was more connected to Sera and William’s present day storyline this time around as well.

One of my favorite aspects of this story was Kaja's fierce determination to hold onto hope even in the darkest of times and worst of situations. Even when she felt like there was no hope, there would be a reminder that God had not abandoned them and that even in the horrific suffering of the concentration camps there was reason to hope. And how, sometimes, these reminders come from the most unthinkable of sources.

Kristy’s writing and style of storytelling is one of my favorites. Her writing is so vibrant and touching. I adore her usage of dual timelines, even if the WWII era thread will always be my favorite. And I love the fact that in a Christian publishing market dominated by romance novels, she never has the romance threads be the point or sole focus of the story. Her stories are the kind that touch your heart and you cannot easily forget.

Basically, go read this novel. If you love WWII historical fiction or really good, moving stories you are bound to love this one! I cannot wait to read her other new releases.

Have you read any of Kristy Cambron's novels? Or, do you have any pressing questions you want to ask me? Leave a comment on my post here and I'll answer them next week.

Monday, March 20, 2017

In the Works

photograph by me

Happy Belated Saint Patrick's Day, all my fine blog readers! I went out more this year for St. Patrick's Day than I think I ever have before and I am now in a very Irish/Celtic mood. I have brought out all my Irish/Celtic/Scottish music from my obsessed teenage years. (It's not like I ever abandoned it though. Not really. It is a predecessor of the folky-rock-ish sound that is my favorite for music, after all.) Can I just say, Hanna has some of the best music suggestions?

Anyhow, I have been working on plans for future blog posts. I have one in the works about my current Work-In-Progress and then I am looking at my to-read list for books to review here. But I have another much more informal post I would like to do. I would like you to know me better. I am very socially awkward. (Imagine me holding a friend's baby while rambling on about decapitation and being extremely thankful the babe's mother was not there to witness my floundering. I'm also very thankful that the baby had no understanding of what I was going on about and was too young to ask me what it meant. *ahem*) I also have a hard time letting people outside of my immediate family know much about me and what I like. They know I write and I love books, but I never go into details. It's one of my big goals for 2017— to let people get to really know me as I actually am and to get to know other people better instead of shying away from social settings and interactions. So, ask away! Ask me anything you would like to know about me, books, film, music, art, travel, that gluten-free life, or anything else you can think of to ask me and leave the question in the comments of this post! I will make a hopefully long and chatty reply blog post in the next two weeks.

My questions for you: What did you do this Saint Patrick's Day? And what are your favorite Irish songs/singers?

Thursday, March 9, 2017

2016 In Review: The Films

Better late than never seems to be my blogging style these days. Approaching on two months since my favorite books of 2016 post went up, the film half is finally making its appearance.

At the beginning of 2016, I made the decision to make a list of every movie I watched that year so I could keep better track of the ones I saw and look back. It is somewhat incomplete, because I know I forgot to write down some, but most of them are recorded and I hope to keep better track this year.

Anyhow, here is a list of my top 10 films watched in 2016. Please note, that, after much debate, I have decided to only count films I saw for the first time. I’m going to talk about re-watched films at the very end because Singing In the Rain.

The Gunfighter (1950). Gunfighter Jimmy Ringo kills a young man in self defense and leaves town, traveling to another town where he hopes to be reunited with his family before the young man’s three brothers catch up seeking revenge. Starring Gregory Peck and featuring a stellar supporting cast, this western moves along quickly and packs an emotional punch.

Little Annie Rooney (1925). In a way 2016 was the year of silent movies for me and this one came out as one of my favorites. Mary Pickford is luminous and adorable. And this film contains what might be one of the most heartbreaking scenes I have ever watched. Watch it.

Casablanca (1942). I finally got around to watching this classic and why it took me so long I will never know. Claude Raines, Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Heinreid, S.K. Sakall, and other familiar members of the Warner Brothers studio lot comprise a cast that made this the classic it is. And did I mention Claude Rains? His performance in this is superb.

Judgment at Nuremberg (1961). This intense drama based on the Nazis war crime trials that took place after the war packs a mean punch, only this film narrows down the focus onto German judges who were put on trial for their actions during the Nazi regime. An outstanding cast led by Spencer Tracy includes Burt Lancaster, Maximilian Schell, and Richard Widmark who are more than ably supported by Marlene Dietrich, Montgomery Clift, and Judy Garland.

The Farmer Takes a Wife (1935). Set on the Erie Canal as the railroads were beginning to flourish, a riverboat cook, born and raised on the river, falls in love with a farmer determined to find himself a farm to live out his dreams. Starring Janet Gaynor and Henry Fonda, this film took me by surprise and ended up delighting me.

No Highway in the Sky (1951). Scientist Theodore Honey has a theory about why a new airplane has been crashing and while en route to investigate the crash site, he finds himself on one of the planes he believes to be defective. With a cast that boasts Jimmy Stewart with Glynis Johns and Marlene Dietrich supporting, how can you go wrong? A thoroughly engrossing film.

The Shop Around the Corner (1940). Another classic I finally got around to watching, I had previously seen the musical remake In the Good Old Summertime starring Judy Garland. Two shop clerks get off on the wrong foot and dislike each other intensely, while falling in love with each through an anonymous correspondence. Starring Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan.

The Kiss of Death (1947). A film noir directed by Henry Hathaway, the plot follows ex-con Nick Bianco (Victor Mature) as he assists in helping the assistant DA collect evidence against his psychopathic former prison mate (Richard Widmark). Cast also includes Karl Malden in a bit role, Coleen Gray, and Brian Donlevy.

Desk Set (1957). Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn star in this romantic comedy where an efficiency expert finds his match in a researcher at a broadcasting company's reference library. I’ve been told Katharine Hepburn’s character’s job in this movie is what I should have been if I had lived in the 50s. I love looking up random facts and I usually remember them.

And tied for tenth place, I’m going to go with The General (1927) and Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928) two silent comedies starring Buster Keaton. Keaton is another silent film discovery I made in 2016. His serious take on slapstick comedy is film gold.

And now it’s time for honorable mentions. (You didn’t think you would get by without them, did you?)

First, I will go with two films that were re-watches for me but secured much higher rankings in my list of favorite films the second time around: The Great Escape (1963) and Singing In the Rain (1953).

I honestly lost count of how many times I watched The Great Escape in 2016. I first watched the recorded off TV copy that is my family’s and was horrified and aghast to discover the screen had been cropped from its glorious widescreen into a pan and scan. *ahem* I will refrain from ranting on the atrocity that is cropping widescreen films. Anyhow, it was shown on TCM in all its widescreen glory a couple of days later and all was made right. The Great Escape stars an all-star cast in a WWII POW escape story based on actual events.

I first saw Singing In the Rain maybe seven(?) years ago but was not a massive fan. I honestly did not understand why it was such a classic. My younger sister and I decided to re-watch it one night and fell head over heels for it. It is a classic for a reason. It is such an exuberant film! The main cast includes Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O’Connor all at their finest. I highly recommend it.

Three more honorable mentions that I greatly enjoyed were: It’s Always Fair Weather (1955), The Four Feathers (1939), and Journey For Margaret (1942).

What were your favorite films watched in 2016? And what have been some standouts so far this year?

All photographs via Pinterest.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Pinterest Storyboard Party: 2017 Edition

Elisabeth Grace Foley is hosting a second edition of her Pinterest Storyboard Party and I am more than a little bit excited to show off some of my storyboards! The party's intention is to let writers showcase their Pinterest storyboards for finished works, works-in-progress, and stories still being mulled over.

This western story is a rehashing of my first completed novel. The story has been stripped back to its bare bones and refocused to what would have been backstory in the original first draft. I am very excited about its prospects!

This story set in Nazi occupied Holland is still in the researching and plotting stage, but I already have a clear idea of the characters and the atmosphere. I just need to get my hands on some more detailed information about Holland and everyday life in Holland during WWII and the post-war period. Anyone have suggestions?

Spanning from the turn of the century to the 1920s, this is another story that is currently undergoing plotting and research. I am excited with the idea of this one, but I am a little afraid I might be biting off more than I can chew.

What are some of your favorite Pinterest storyboards? And do visit Elisabeth's post and join in the writerly fun!

P.S. I promise, promise, promise that the film half of my 2016 In Review post is coming. I promise.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

2016 In Review: The Books

photograph by me

2017. A new year, a new me. And insert all those cliched sayings that capture how most of us feel at the start of a new year. I have many goals I would like to fulfill in 2017, but first I want to recap 2016.


Reading wise, 2016 was a little of a disappointment for me. I did not reach my Goodreads reading goal in 2016 or surpass my previous reading record. I only made it to 25 books. However, I did discover new authors and was blown away yet again by old favorites.

If I had to make a list of top five reads it would probably be:

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. This is a book every bibliophile needs to read. It is like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society but actually a true story. Enough said. Go forth and read it. Goodreads review.

The Warden by Anthony Trollope. My introduction to Anthony Trollope and the first book in his Chronicles of Barsetshire series, the plot of the book failed to completely engross me but I have fallen in love with his authorial voice and satire. I cannot wait to read the next book in the series Barchester Towers. Goodreads review.

Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney. Unflinching and vivid are two words that describe this translation of the famous Anglo-Saxon epic poem. You can read further gushing here.

Resist by Emily Ann Putzke. High expectations were fulfilled when I read this piece of historical fiction based on a true story. Hans and Sophie Scholl and the rest of the White Rose came to vivid life. I have a more complete review here.

Sundown Slim by Henry Herbert Knibbs. There was something different about this story in comparison to other westerns I have read (admittedly, I have not read many). The relatively soft-spoken hero thrust into a cattle rancher vs. sheep herder conflict made for a memorable read.

Okay, scratch five, we are going to make it a tied for sixth with an honorable mention.

Pendragon’s Heir by Suzannah Rowntree. An epic, time traveling retelling of the legend of King Arthur and Camelot, this full length novel by Rowntree built upon all the things I love about her fairytale novellas. I cannot wait for her Crusader epic Outremer. Yes, I realize I probably have a long wait.

Storming by K.M. Weiland. This book was pure fun. I fell in love with the characters, and while I will admit it has its faults, it has become one of the few books I actually fangirl over with family members who have read it.

And honorable mention actually goes to Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. The notorious prequel/sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird, this was a different read for me because of its controversy. I read TKaM during a summer vacation to California in 2014 and it was my favorite read of that year. To Kill a Mockingbird is a well deserved classic and I loved it to proverbial bits. While, Go Set A Watchman does not quite match up to its predecessor in quality and suffers from a little bit of choppiness, it still has its author’s distinct voice (and also remember, it is the untouched first draft). Nonetheless, I thought Go Set a Watchman provided food for thought and let Scout grow up. I am glad I read it and as I write this, I become more and more convinced I need to reread both books.

And three more honorable mentions because I cannot write a post about the books I read in 2016 without them: The Bells of Paradise by Suzannah Rowntree, The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron, and The Legend of Sam Miracle (Book 1 in the Outlaws of Time series) by N.D. Wilson.

Okay, I am going to end this now.

P.S. Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon.

Alright, I am actually finished this time. This post was originally going to include a list of my top favorite films watched in 2016, but because of how lengthy both sections became I divided it into two posts. So be on the lookout for that film post sometime next week.

Now, what were your favorite reads last year?