Friday, September 8, 2017

Bye Bye August, Hello September

photograph by me
Is it really September already? This year has been flying by, my friends, and Real Life has been keeping me on my toes. But hey, I am going to England later this month! *runs about the house freaking out because she still doesn’t quite believe it's true* Yes, I have an impending trip to England coming up this month, autumn is just around the proverbial corner, and I am slowly working on getting my reading life back into shape. So, let’s do a quick round-up of what I have been up to of late.

I just finished reading Around the World In 80 Days by Jules Verne. I adored the 1956 film starring David Niven. While the novel is very different from the fantastically whimiscal 1950s epic adventure of the film, I still loved it. It helped knowing they were different going into the book. I have picked up reading through my two volume collection of O. Henry’s short stories after a year’s hiatus and hope to tackle A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute, Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke, and All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr this month. We will see how that goes. I just started Saving Amelie and, so far, it is doing a fantastic job of pulling me into the story.

I finished reading through the first draft of my novel The Letters of Lee Ames with a friend the other week. I have a whole slew of notes of adjustments to make in draft two and just began rewriting the opening scene a couple of nights ago. So excited for this!

Amelie from Montmartre Soundtrack composed by Yann Tiersen
Born Again - Josh Garrels
The Crown: Season One Soundtrack composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams

August is TCM’s Summer Under the Stars, where each day is dedicated to showcasing a specific actor or actress’s films, and my DVR has been busy keeping up with all of my recordings. Highlights include:
The Cameraman (1928) a silent comedy starring Buster Keaton
Double Wedding (1938) a romantic comedy starring the team of William Powell and Myrna Loy
Terror on a Train (1953) British made suspense starring Glenn Ford. The British title for this movie, Time Bomb, is a little less melodramatic.

My latest television discovery would have to be the 1970s TV show Laverne & Shirley. It is hysterical.

So, what have you all been up to? Read any great books? Found a new favorite song? Watched any really good films or discovered a new favorite TV show?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Great Book Sale Haul

photograph by me
"Book buying ban? What book buying ban?" Those were my infamous last words as I walked away from not just one but two book sales this month. So what tempted me away from my oh so determined book ban? Well, since you asked (and I conducted a poll on Twitter) here are my latest findings.

Chimneysmoke by Christopher Morley
This small book of poetry captured my interest because of its author. I read and adored Morley's Parnassus On Wheels and followed it up with its sequel The Haunted Bookshop.

Every Frenchman Has One by Olivia de Havilland
I almost bought the reprint edition of this book earlier this year and was delighted to find a vintage edition for only two dollars. The classic film lover in me is excited to read Ms. de Havilland's account of moving to France in the 1950s.

Bleak House by Charles Dickens
Yes, I already own a copy of this Dickens classic but this one is a beautiful vintage edition by Oxford University Press with original illustrations.

The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk
I have never seen the film they made out of this novel that Humphrey Bogart won his Best Actor Oscar for or read anything by Wouk, but I have an interest in seeing both the film and exploring Wouk's writings. His name keeps cropping up in WORLD magazine articles. Which would you recommend first, the book or film?

Tales From Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb
I first heard of Charles Lamb when I read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and then this particular title kept popping up here and there. And the cover on this one is particularly pleasing. So I bought it.

The Tiger of Mysore by G. A. Henty
Is there any homeschooler from the conservative Christian community of the 2000s who did not voraciously read Henty when they were young? If not, I am sincerely sorry. You missed out on a slew of wonderfully fun adventure stories, but there is still time to remedy it. And if any of you also greatly enjoyed reading Henty as a youth, let me direct you to this post which contains a particularly brilliant summary of every Henty story ever written.

Downton Abbey Rules For Household Staff
This little book I picked up goes over the different roles that the staff had in a Downton Abbey era household. As a history buff, historical fiction writer, and someone who enjoyed the show this was half for fun and half for research.

The Brandons by Angela Thirkell
Book seven(?) of the Angela Thirkell Barsetshire series. I first heard about this series from Elisabeth Grace Foley and have been keeping an eye out for the series ever since. I previously located a copy of Wild Strawberries (book 2). Now, I just need to find the first book High Rising.

A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute
I am excited to read my first of Shute's novels set in Australia. I loved Pied Piper and Pastoral, so I have my fingers crossed for this one as well.

Gather Ye Rosebuds and This Same Flower by Jeannette Covert Nolan
I know nothing about these two books except that, according to their dusk jackets, they take place in the American mid-west during the early 1900s. I found them in an out of the way corner of the book sale which turned out to be a gathering place for a bunch of Nolan's books.

Hobnailed Boots by Jeannette Covert Nolan
A Revolutionary war story. The title on this one sounds familiar and I half believe that maybe years ago we read it in a family read aloud, but I honestly do not know for sure. I may be mistaking it for another book with boots in the title.

O. Henry: The Story of William Sydney Porter by Jeannette Covert Nolan
A fictional biography of O. Henry. This type of book is how I am most familiar with Nolan's work. Also, I found old newspaper clippings inside and the inside of the cover is brilliant. (See top left corner of photograph.)

Miss Pinkerton by Mary Roberts Rinehart
I have never actually read anything by Rinehart but I have been intending to remedy that. The subtitle on this sold me— "Adventures of a Nurse Detective". A mystery + a nurse = a book I will most likely love. My childhood dream was to be like Florence Nightingale. Let's just say I had a romanticized notion of what the nursing profession was like. I probably would have horrified Miss Nightingale. Not to mention, blood and I do not have a good history. But I digress ...

Introducing Charles Dickens by May Lamberton Becker
A biography of Dickens that I read and enjoyed in school years ago, I was delighted to stumble across a copy to add to my own library.

The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War In 1914 by Christopher Clark
I feel like the title is fairly self explanatory on this one. It is yet another nice thick non-fiction book on a time of history that fascinates me.

Have you been to any good book sales recently? Have you read any of these books? 

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.