Books

What I Read…

Woot woot! It’s book day!! April is the final month for Erin’s 8.0 Book Challenge, too.

I’m linking up with my favorite book gurus (Steph & Jana) for Show Us Your Books!

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman
★★★★★/5
In his old age, a grandpa looks back with fondness and regret over his relationships with his son and grandson. 
This entire story destroyed me. I read it in on sitting one a quiet Saturday afternoon. Thank goodness K wasn’t home because I bawled like a baby for the last half. I think that if you’ve ever seen someone close to you slowly (or quickly) age and fade from the person they used to be, this book will move you. This was my first Backman book and I enjoyed his writing and storytelling. I’m definitely going to check out some of his more popular books next.
Should you read it? Yes. But brace yourself.

The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch
★★★/5 
In 1659 Bavaria ostracized hangman Jakob Kuisl is tasked with torturing a friend accused of witchcraft and murder… unless he can prove her innocence. With help from his daughter and her suitor, the town’s physician’s son, can Jakob stop the madness before it escalates? 
This was a long book that felt even longer. (I really rate it 2.5 starts but I round up.) I half wonder if the translation made it drag on so terribly…? Sometimes the plot was repeated, similar to a TV show recaping what had happened before the commercial break. I’m not sure… something just made it feel slow and labored. The story itself was great! I loved the setting and the mystery and murders sent chills down my spine. Don’t even get me started on the devil character. ~eek~ I think the title and cover look a little playful, but be warned there are some torture details and most of the murder victims are orphan kids. Definitely not a light and fluffy tale. I know there are four or five more books in this series but I don’t think I’ll be reading on.
Should you read it? No. You can skip this one.

*I think both of these books were written in a different language. Lol


Now for an update on the book challenge… (It ends April 30th at 11:59pm.)

|5 points| Freebie: The Murder on the Links (Christie)
|10 points| Starts with the letter L: Last Christmas in Paris (Gaynor)
|10 points| Has a (mostly) red cover: Girl Waits With Gun (Stewart)
|15 points| A character’s name in the title: HP & the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
|20 points| From this list: Three Dark Crowns (Blake)
|20 points| “House” or “home” in the title: The House of New Beginnings (Diamond)
|25 points| Author’s first & last name begins w/ the same letter: Renegades (Meyer, M)
|30 points| Originally published in a different language: The Hangman’s Daughter (Potzsch)
|30 points| Most of the action takes place on a form of transportation: Dead Wake (Larson)
|35 points| A character suffers from a debilitating illness: Finding Audrey (Kinsella)

Up to 125 points.

Honestly, I think I’ve come to terms with the fact that I won’t be finishing Erin’s challenge this time. When I first started doing her book challenges I was barely reading two books a year. I typically average two or three books a month now so I’m not the least bit upset about not completing the challenges 🙂 I’ll get the next one, though. For some reason I left the +400 page books for the end. Even if I don’t get them done before April’s end, I plan to finish Dead Wake and Renegades.

So that’s all I’ve got. Tell me what you read this month!

Life According to Steph
Books · Movies & Television · Themes & Link-Ups

The Roaring Swinging Fabulous Groovy Blog Collaboration | The 1930s

We’re back! (And if you couldn’t find Alexandra’s 1920s post from last month you can find it here! She had a scheduling glitch.) This month we’re checking out the 1930s- not a great time for the US of A… Between the stock market crash at the end of the 20s leading to the Great Depression and the dust bowl wreaking havoc on land and crops in the west, the US was struggling. Meanwhile, across the big pond, Germany saw the growth of the Nazi party, China was traumatized by multiple floods, and Spain found itself in a civil war.

Yeah… not a great time for planet Earth.

On the first Tuesday of the month, February through November, we’re highlighting books & films from/about specific eras that we recommend! (Television shows, too, sometimes!) There’s no commitment or link-up during those months on your end, but in December we’ll host a recap/link-up for the entire year!

Despite the incredibly depressing events of the 1930s, some of my favorites stories come from this era.

B O O K S

(1932) A few years ago I fell in love with Amory Ames. The first book in the series, Murder at the Brightwell (Ashley Weaver), is a mix of British elite, classic mystery, and a tiny bit of romance. Since that seaside scandal, Weaver has penned three more stories with a fifth due out Sept. 4th. I love getting lost in Amory’s (and her playboy husband Milo’s) adventures.

(1933) I’d wager that 75% of us (at least) had to read To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee) in high school. I did, but it’s been a while. I remember this book being the perfect marriage of childhood innocence and adult conflict. I won’t lie- I decided not to read Go Set A Watchman when it was released because of the controversy surrounding Lee’s consent. To Kill a Mockingbird is the only Scout, Jem, and Atticus I know.

(Late 1930s) I expressed interest in Agatha Christie to a classical book-loving colleague a while back and she recommended I start with And Then There Were None. It was the perfect 1930s Clue-like mystery! Christie’s writing is timeless- the language was easy to digest and the plot flowed along seamlessly. Keep in mind, the original title and titular poem that this book was based around isn’t P/C by today’s standard, but the major contention points have been altered and the story sucks you right in. I love that the story was serialized in newspaper format when it was first released.

The 1930s are a fun setting for mysteries 😉

M O V I E S

It’s been SO LONG since I’ve seen Fried Green Tomatoes. It is one of my mom’s favorite movies and the song “Goodbye Earl” by the Dixie Chicks always reminds me of it. I need to rewatch this one soon.

(1935) Is The Green Mile a popular movie? I referenced it once to a friend and she told me she’d never seen it. It’s a sad one but it’s so good. But I hate the one part and I HATE Sam Rockwell’s character. But I love John Coffey. This film conflicts me.

(1937) I feel foolish for putting this on here, but Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? is one of my dad’s all time favorite movies. It’s so silly but it has George Clooney so…. I suffer through it when he puts it on for the millionth time.

*dates indicate setting, not release

B O N U S !

I don’t have any 1930s tv shows or musicals to recommend. Do you?

On the shelf…

In 2015 BBC released the 3 episode mini-series And Then There Were None (based on the book I just mentioned)! I definitely want to check this out- especially because the cast includes Aidan Turner and Sam Neill.

I started the movie The Sting just last night but I didn’t finish it in time for this post. I’ll have it done for our final December recap. You should watch it, too, because Paul Newman and Robert Redford are very easy on the eyes.

I was reading an article about all the period dramas on Netflix (which of course I’ll share with you) and I saw the British drama Dancing on the Edge. I think it looks interesting!

We try not to repeat our recommendations so be sure to check out Alexandra’s blog now!

Big bands and WWII await us in May when we cross into the 1940s. Possibly one of the most romantic eras, I love this decade for its big band music and sharp fashion. Plus we start to see women hold down the fort and demand some credit!

Did you miss our first two decades?
Check out my recs from the 1910s and the 1920s!

Books

What I Read…

First & foremost, Happy Birthday (yesterday) to my Kyle ❤︎

According to GoodReads I am right on track for my goal of 50 books this year. That makes me a little nervous since up until now I was ahead by a book or two. Hmm… We’ll have to see how the year progresses.

Anyway, I’m obviously linking up with Steph & Jana today for Show Us Your Books! Here’s what I’ve been reading…

Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart
★★★★/5
The Kopp sisters were seemingly good at keeping their noses clean but then their buggy is struck by an automobile driven by the ruthless silk factory owner, Henry Kaufman. How much will Constance sacrifice to bring the rapscallion to justice?
I loved Constance. She trusted her gut and her shooting hand and her instinct. She was brave with apprehension, smart with self-doubt. Her humor and fierce loyalty to her sisters made me giggle and tear up. I freaking loved that she wasn’t afraid to push back. For some reason I had reservations about this book. I had some weird expectation and it didn’t align with the story told. I don’t know why… but that’s why it got 4 stars from me. Under different mental circumstance it might’ve been a five.
Should you read it? Absolutely! Especially if you like strong females, mysteries, and/or historical fiction.

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
★★★★★/5
On the island of Fennbirn triplet queens are born, separated, and raised by foster families in accordance with their strengths. Then, on their 16th birthday, they are called to kill one another in pursuit of the crown. 
I loved this story. Be warned- it starts off very slowly. All the action takes place in the final+30% of the book. The author weaves in world building with character development- and there are a lot of characters. I liked how each sister had totally different personalities and unique story lines with different issues going on… but a similar goal of surviving. I thought I’d love one sister more than another, but I felt myself hoping for the best for all three. Dang… this was just a twisty, fully developed first book. I am dying to get my hands on the next one in the series. Lastly, when are my naturalist powers going to kick in? Obviously my familiar would be a fox. Lol.
Should you read it? If you enjoy fantasy mixed with friendship & romance & action, YES.


I regards to Erin’s 8.0 Book Challenge…

|5 points| Freebie: The Murder on the Links (Christie)
|10 points| Starts with the letter L: Last Christmas in Paris (Gaynor)
|10 points| Has a (mostly) red cover: Girl Waits With Gun (Stewart)
|15 points| A character’s name in the title: HP & the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
|20 points| From this list: Three Dark Crowns (Blake)
|20 points| “House” or “home” in the title: The House of New Beginnings (Diamond)
|25 points| Author’s first & last name begins w/ the same letter: Renegades (Meyer, M)
|30 points| Originally published in a different language: The Hangman’s Daughter (Potzsch)
|30 points| Most of the action takes place on a form of transportation: Dead Wake (Larson)
|35 points| A character suffers from a debilitating illness: Finding Audrey (Kinsella)

Up to 95 out of 200 points.

Right now I’m (still) working on Dead Wake and I’ve started The Hangman’s Daughter. All the books left on my challenge list are +450 pages. Nice going, Audrey.

What did you read this month? What are you reading right now??

Life According to Steph
Books · Movies & Television · Themes & Link-Ups

The Roaring Swinging Fabulous Groovy Blog Collaboration | The 1920s

Alexandra and I are back to bring you some roaring 20s recommendations! The United States was between wars but there were battles raging behind speakeasy doors, on the streets of New York, and at the hemline of ladies’ dresses!

Also, when and why did we stop using the term “zozzled” (drunk)? I vote to bring it back.

On the first Tuesday of the month, February through November, we’re highlighting books & films that we recommend from/about specific eras! (Television shows, too, sometimes!) There’s no commitment or link-up during those months on your end, but in December we’ll host a recap/link-up for the entire year!

I know lots of people love the 1920s, mostly because of Fitzgerald & DiCaprio. I am not one of those people. The Great Gatsby doesn’t show up on my list 😉 (But maybe it does on Alexandra’s… check it out!)

B O O K S

If you check it out on GoodReads you’ll find that Circling the Sun [Paula McLain] has mixed reviews. I enjoyed it well enough, though. Like many works of historical fic, it’s slow moving. You can’t rush a person’s life and sometimes there are sluggish moments. Also, Beryl Markham was a flawed woman and it shows in this story- but she was also a badass. The descriptions of Kenya and unpredictability of the country are rich in this story of societal survival.

(1929) The movie was a TOTAL flop, but the book Serena [Ron Rash] is one of my favorites. Damn… I both admired Serena and hated her. She was vile- but also so powerful and strong and manipulative. A woman living in a man’s world, surrounded by vast wilderness. This book has romance, but it’s not a romantic story. It was a story about survival and greed and destruction. Honestly, it is just a really good, slow burning wilderness tale. (Some reviewers on GR noted that there’s animal abuse. Technically it’s people living in the wild in 1929… so yes, there’s hunting and trapping etc.)

I’ve saved the best book for last… Orphan Train [Christina Baker Kline] is hands-down one of my favorite books. This book sucked me in, shattered my heart, pieced it back together, broke it a few more times, then warmed it up and sent it off with a kiss. As the title suggests, this is a story about orphans- specifically Vivian and Molly- and their journeys, struggles, and triumphs. I love this book.

M O V I E S

(1924) I’m not really a musical-loving gal but Chicago is one of my favorites. Zeta-Jones, Zellweger, & Gere play their parts perfectly. Annnd now I have “Cell Block Tango” stuck in my head.

(1925) Typically I avoid animal movies but Balto was one of my favorites growing up. Of course the cartoon is merely that. A dog named Togo actually led most of the journey and after the serum was delivered the dogs weren’t treated well at all 😠 But this movie is a sweet one.

(1925) In high school I used to peruse Hollywood Video for movies to watch and that’s how I found The Painted Veil. It’s a sad but beautiful love story, set during the cholera epidemic in China.

(1926) I don’t know why, but The Mummy is one of my all-time favorite movies. I love Evie and her sass, I love the Egyptian theme, and I love quoting this film all. the. time.

(1926) Could I claim to be a true PotterHead if I didn’t include Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them?

*dates indicate setting, not release

B O N U S !

I owe my love of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries to Kristen. And when you get hooked on this three-season-series you can thank me 😉 I love that Alexandra loves the clever and gorgeous Phryne Fisher, too! All three seasons are on Netflix.

Obviously Downton Abbey, too! So good it transcends a single decade 😉

On the shelf…

When it was release The Artist was nominated and won a whole bunch of awards. I’d like to see it!

I recently saw Radio Girls [Sarah-Jane Stratford] pop up in a few blog posts. I think it sounds right up my alley!

Don’t forget to go check out Alexandra’s recommendations, too!! And if you missed out 1910s post you can find it HERE!

Next month we’re checking out Alexandra’s favorite era- the 1930s! It was a tough decade for our country but from devastation and depression is born hope and stories of courage and resilience! We’ll share some of our favorites in April!

Books

What I Read…

February has not been a good reading month for me, but fortunately I finished four books by the end of January.

I’m all over the place with ratings today but nothing drops below a three. Maybe I’m too nice? Or maybe I’ve just been good at picking books this year. I don’t know…

Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen
★★★/5
When Scarlet joined Robin Hood & his merry men she buried her secrets, her identity, and her long hair under her hat and took on the roll off Will Scarlet, thief. When Scarlet’s past suddenly catches up to her she’s forced to make a decision: run or fight.
This book should’ve be right up my alley. It’s been on my TBR list forever & when Alexandra sent it to me this Christmas in our blogger gift exchange (thank you!!) I finally cracked it open. Unfortunately, there were three big things that irked me. First, I hate love triangles. Second, there was SO much self loathing. Damn. Everyone has demons, but geeeez. Third, and most irritating of all, the entire book was from Scarlet’s p.o.v. and she used very poor grammar to imitate English peasants. As a coping mechanism, I forced my brain to correct it while I was reading. Scarlet was a bad ass character, though, and the story itself was very quick and interesting so overall it was a decent YA Robin Hood retelling.
Should you read it? Maybe… keep in mind it’s YA and it needs to be your kind of story.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling
★★★★★/5
In his second year at Hogwarts Harry can’t stay out of trouble. With a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher wreaking havoc on his life, Harry tries to continue his studies, catch the snitch, protect his friends, and solve the mystery of the sinister Chamber of Secrets.
Harry Potter reviews are weird because I love these stories so much. #biased CoS isn’t my favorite book in the series, but I love that you can get lost in these stories like you’re falling into an old memory stored in a diary. 😉 This book reveals a little more about the Weasley family and their way of life. And I’m obsessed with the illustrations in all these editions.  Also, if you’re familiar with the stories, some foreshadowing and “Easter eggs” appear that support future story lines. I love how Rowling weaved the books together. This was obviously a reread for me.
Should you read it? Yep, but only after The Sorcerer’s Stone.
*I shared my thoughts on this book last Thursday!

The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking
★★★/5
The Hygge (hoo-ga) trend is sweeping the nation & this book dives into the titular traditions, lifestyle, and behaviors- further proving why Denmark is one of the happiest countries in the world.
I am a skeptical person. While I like the idea of happiness and coziness throughout the home (as hygge represents), I took issue with the author making broad, general statements about Denmark and the Danes. I’ve never been and I don’t really have any Danish friends, but they ALL can’t possibly be candle lovers and bread bakers, right? The book was informative about hygge, but not without sounding a little… uppity? arrogant? I’m not sure… Again, I’m skeptical and cynical so I didn’t enjoy the *voice* of this author. (It wasn’t an audiobook- I’m referring to his textual tone.) You might like it- it just wasn’t for me.
Should you read it? No, not unless you’re really interested in this new millennial craze 😉

Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor & Heather Webb
★★★★/5
Evie Elliott is stunned and excited when her brother Will & his best friend Thomas leave England to fight in WWI. Letters travel to & from France for four grueling years as the threesome and their friends and family keep in touch during those dangerous years.
Halfway through the book I decided it was three star-er… then the last 80 pages happened. The entire story was told in letters and telegrams. I haven’t read a book like that in a while. I loved all the friendships and relationships. I loved the slow romance and the build to the final year of the war. There were big gaps in letters and heartbreak and happiness- pretty much everything you’d expect in a WWI romance novel. I cried at the end, too. Big surprise. Lol
Should you read it? If you’re a fan of historical fiction, specifically wartime romance, then yes.

Erin’s Challenge has been progressing…

|5 points| Freebie: The Murder on the Links (Christie)
|10 points| Starts with the letter L: Last Christmas in Paris (Gaynor)
|10 points| Has a (mostly) red cover: Girl Waits With Gun (Stewart)
|15 points| A character’s name in the title: HP & the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
|20 points| From this list: Three Dark Crowns (Blake)
|20 points| “House” or “home” in the title: The House of New Beginnings (Diamond)
|25 points| Author’s first & last name begins w/ the same letter: Renegades (Meyer, M)
|30 points| Originally published in a different language: The Hangman’s Daughter (Potzsch)
|30 points| Most of the action takes place on a form of transportation: Dead Wake (Larson)
|35 points| A character suffers from a debilitating illness: Finding Audrey (Kinsella)

Up to 65 out of 200 points.

Linking up with Steph & Jana again! What’d you read this month?

Life According to Steph

Books

Thoughts While Rereading Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets

*Hedwig’s Theme plays while the words in this post float into focus*

If only, right? Anyway, if you caught my last post like this you know that I’m rereading the HP series as the illustrated versions are released. (Also, I’m taking my time. I know they’ve already released #3 and I’m just finishing the second one. I know, guys 😜) So anyway, I’ve collected my thoughts on The Chamber of Secrets because I know you’ve been dying to read them.

*No true spoilers, but there’s alluding. Just FYI

The movie makes the escape from the Dursley’s house much more dramatic than it actually is…

Fred and George (F&G) damn near figure out the whole mystery in Chpt 3.

You learn SO much more about the Weasleys in the books.

Lucius Malfoy actually behaves like a father in the books (but also like an ass).

I found myself reading with vigilance during the exchange with the Malfoys in the bookstore.

There’s a lot more fist fighting in the books, lol. I like it.

Prof. McGonagall will always be my favorite professor.

The scene from the movie with Neville fainting during the Mandrake re-potting didn’t happen in the book, which makes more sense to me. He had a knack for herbology. The movie makes him look like a doofus in everything but that wasn’t true.

Lockhart in incredibly infuriating. Like Umbridge, we all know someone who behaves that way and it makes them hateable in a relative way.

I feel like Jo was making a very pointed statement about the Slytherin house when she pointed out that there were no females on their quidditch team (and 3 on Gryffindor’s).

The way F&G fight for what’s right, regardless of who or what they’re defending, makes me love them so so so much.

I’d have liked to see the Deathday Party portrayed in the movie. Ha.

The dueling scene is way more comical than the film gives it credit for…

I wish they’d have included the Dursley’s Christmas gift to Harry in the movie.

The comparison of Hermione to McGonagall is 👌 perfect.

Malfoy’s a right git. He speaks so openly about killing Mudbloods. He makes the movie version likeable. Grrr…

In the book Tom has motive to report the heir… It doesn’t show that in the movie.

I forgot the spider hunt is actually Ron’s first time in the Forbidden Forest. 

The sadness in the Gryffindor common room after Ginny is taken is so heartbreaking. (highlight for name)

I think Harry & Ron should’ve gotten some credit for at least trying to put the dangerous tasks in the adults’ hands…

Things explained in this book: Hagrid’s umbrella, the broken vanishing cabinet

I loved the handful of things alluded to- especially in regards to horcruxes.

I watch the films all the time when they’re on TV but I haven’t read the books in year. I know a lot of this was comparisons to the movies. It’s just strange (and sometimes sad) to see what they left out.

If you’re wondering if I’ll ever stop fangirling for the Weasley twins or praising McGonagall’s name the answer is NOPE. Also, I’ve said it a million times but these illustrated books give me all the heart eyes. I can’t wait to crack open the third!

So what’re your thoughts on The Chamber of Secrets? How about the film?

Books · Movies & Television · Themes & Link-Ups

The Roaring Swinging Fabulous Groovy Blog Collaboration | The 1910s

I’m so excited to kick off this series with Alexandra! Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres and I love that we’re sharing some of our top picks with you guys! Even if you’re not into h/f I’m hoping that some of our suggestions strike your fancy 😊

After you scroll through mine pop over to Alexandra’s blog and see what she recommends!

On the first Tuesday of the month, February through November, we’re highlighting books & films from/about specific eras that we recommend! (Television shows, too, sometimes!) There’s no commitment or link-up during those months on your end, but in December we’ll host a recap/link-up for the entire year!

Before I launch into some 1910s recommendations I wanted to share a conversation I had with K…

K: So… you’re sharing recommendations on your blog for each decade?
Me: Yeah.
K: As in… “Recommendation #1: Don’t get on the Titanic.” ?
Me: No, dear. As in book and film recommendations set in the decade.

He’s a total goof. Anyway, on to those recommendations.
Please note that the dates indicate the setting, not the publication.

B O O K S

(1900) The Magician’s Nephew [C.S. Lewis] kicks off The Chronicles of Narnia and is technically set in the 1900s. Potato Potato. (That phrase doesn’t translate well to text.) I think the Chronicles can get boring if you read them in a row without a break, but I really like this first book a lot.

(1911) While Peter Pan (J.M. Barrie) the play was written in 1904, the book wasn’t published until 1911, so it counts. I love diving into classic fantasies (Alice in Wonderland, The Chronicles of Narnia, anything Roald Dahl). I found this book to be fun and whimsical (although it didn’t age well p.c.-wise).

(1914) Last Christmas in Paris (Hazel Gaynor & Heather Webb) is written in letters and telegrams. It’s a slow historical fiction burn (with no sultry romance, lol), but it was enjoyable and quick to get through. Definitely recommended for those who enjoy war romances.

(1914) I’m 100 pages into Girl Waits with Gun (Amy Stewart) and it comes HIGHLY recommended by Jana. I will be finishing it soon because it keeps sucking me in.

(1915) Right now I’m reading Dead Wake (Erik Larson), a nonfiction microhistory on the events surrounding the sinking of the Lusitania. Sometimes nonfiction books bore me, but Larson writes the truth in a very dramatic and entertaining fashion. I love that I’m learning about sea life and the war and Europe (and how they tie together) all in one book!

M O V I E S

(1910) I doubt that I need to go into detail about the magical joy of Mary Poppins, right?

(The movies category is weak on my blog for this era. I don’t watch a ton of war movies, but obviously anything WWI would fall into this category. Do YOU have any suggestions for ME?)

B O N U S !

I’m a big ol’ fan of Downton Abbey. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea (PUN INTENDED) but I think it has a great pace with plenty of ups and downs that keep you coming back for new episodes.

On the shelf…

I’ve heard great things about The Alice Network (by Kate Quinn). I bought it from Amazon months ago and I still need to read it. I know it’s set in the 40s, too, so if I read it by May & enjoy it I’ll bring it up again!

The Girls in the Picture (Melanie Benjamin) has been on my TBR shelf for a while. I actually think it’s all queued up on my Kindle. Anyone read it?

Admittedly, my post is light on recommendations for this era. (Alexandra‘s isn’t, though!)

Hopefully some of these selections appeal to your history-loving heart! In March we’ll be foxtrotting our way through the 1920s! We hope you’ll join us!!

But also… if ever transported back in time, don’t get on the Titanic.