Thursday, December 31, 2015

A long book blurb... part 2

Hello Lovely Readers,

I know I don't usually post two days in a row but I want to finish up the details of my "26 book challenge" before 2016 (tomorrow). In my previous post I wrote about books I highly enjoyed and books I pulled at my heart strings... but there are other books I read and I wanted to let you know about them.

For the love of history...

I love history so much that not only did I get my bachelor's degree but also got my master's in history, though I will admit sometimes I have a hard time reading historical books because they are rather dry and so I usually turn to historical fiction. If historical fiction is good the author will make you feel as if the past is a live for you. In my previous post I shared a lot of historical fictions I loved reading this year but I am also pleased to announce I found some nonfiction I enjoyed.

1. A Season of Splendor: The Court of Mrs. Astor by Greg King- I picked this book up a couple of years ago when I visited Newport, RI and was swept away in the Gilded Age and I wanted to read anything about that era. A Season of Splendor is a wide view of the time period focusing on different prominent families, their wealth, their culture including balls, clothing and mansions and what brought about the end of the era. I underlined and tabbed many of the pages in order to go back and use as a reference in future writing projects.

2.  Testament of Youth by Vera Brittian- is the memoir of Vera Brittian who left her studies at Oxford in 1915 to enlist as a nurse in WWI. She served in London, in Malta and on the Western Front and sadly by the end of the war she had almost everyone she loved. I will admit the writing is a bit dry as I think she is trying to sound like an educated woman and to be taken seriously and not to be seen as a frivolous emotional author. I recommend this book with the companion read Chronicle of Youth which is selected pieces of her diary (selected by editor) she kept during the war... I think these two together give a better insight into her life, her experiences, her emotions and the impact World War I had on people. However, if you cannot get around to reading both books I recommend the movie Testament of Youth as I think it blends together both these works.

3. Mary Queen Scots by Anotonia Fraser - I will admit that I got intrigued to read this book because I enjoyed the historical fiction version portrayed on the CW and I honestly wanted to know how much was fact and how much was fictionalized. This book also has a special spot in my heart as I bought it in Paris at the Shakespeare and Company. Though it is thick do not let it intimate you as Fraser is a great writer and tells the history in a capturing way... I found myself tearing through it. 

Books I am glad I crossed off my literary list...

1. Charlotte's Web by E.B White- Though I love reading now I did not read much as a child and sometimes I feel I missed out on childhood classics one being Charlotte's Web. 

2. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury-Is not in my typical genre of reading but I really enjoyed it and made me think about the future and the progress of society. 

General reccomendations...

1. The Chance by Karen Kingsbury- Looking for something light, maybe a beach read or a vacation read... this is a good book. It centers around Ellie and Nolan who years ago buried letters to each other (telling the other one how they felt). Now eleven years later (2013) they are to meet up and dig up the buried letters and read them. In those eleven years their lives have changed differently. Ellie no longer has the faith she once had and lives as a single mom in California and trying to make ends meet. Nolan is an NBA star but has had his own personal tragedies that has only fueled his faith and his athletic drive. Can they go back to the days of their innocent childhood and rekindle their feeling they had for each other as teenagers? Can they forgive past hurts and pains? 

2. The Storied Life of A.J Frikry by Gabrielle Zevin- This was a simple book and reminded me of a good update of Silas Marner by George Elliot. A.J Frikry lives a quiet life owning a bookstore until he meets a publishing book seller and has his treasured possession stolen. Both these actions leave him to create a new life for himself and open his heart to a girl left in his book store. I did not like reading Silas Marner in high school but I enjoyed this update. 

3.The Blue Castle by L.M Montgomery- looking for a little bit of lighthearted frivolousness, look to The Blue Castle, Valancy Stirling as always lived at the service and mockery of her relatives and yet she yearns for a place all her own. When she finally thinks that her life is going to end she decides to live the life she always wants speaking her mind and pursuing love. I think Valancy is a great character for giving courage of those wanting to seek out a place to belong.

To see other books I read for this challenge click on this "26 book challenge" page (link)

I have already seen some book challenges on Pinterest for 2016 (link) and while I liked this challenge as it kept me motivated to read post grad-school, I won't be doing another challenge. I have lots of books I want to read or re-read on my list and I think I will be making my way through those. Though through some encouragement of my sister, I will try to be better in 2016 and in the future of having a page of books I like. I currently have "Books to get Lost In" (link) but it is not very up to date and I want to share more books I have read. I will working on compiling a list of books I love and recommend for you all... will keep you updated when that is officially published. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

For the love of reading... A long book blurb

Hello Lovely Readers,

I am back in Boston. I have been away seeing part of my family in Houston where it was hot, humid, and felt more like September than Christmas, but being with my niece and nephews, and my family was more important than the weather and that made it feel like Christmas.
The kiddos and I with their books
From the pic above, you can see that I spread my love of reading to another generation... I sure hope they never tire of me giving books. I gave books to a few people this Christmas some of them were books I had read in my 26 book challenge (link) that I really liked and thought other people would like and now that I have finished the challenge (link) I wanted to go through the books I read, focusing on the books I really enjoyed, pulled on my heart strings, or other various thoughts

Some books I really enjoyed..
1. First Impressions by Charlie Lovett- it is an intriguing literary mystery to keep you guessing who actually wrote Pride and Prejudice. I picked up this book because I love Jane Austen and looking for good fan-fiction about the author or her works. I also liked reading a book written by a guy that actually felt to be written by a woman. I don't usually read books written by men, I don't know why, but I am not usually drawn into male author's works... so I was pleased by this book.

2. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson- was a historical fiction novel with a sort of time traveling novel that made you think... "What if you could live life over and over again, till you got it right?" Ursula Todd keeps being able to live her life over and over to fix the mistakes she has made till she gets it right, but what will she do with that power? I will admit it took me a bit to get into it because the first couple chapters were a bit repetitive but over all the story was interesting and I loved the concept of the story.

3. Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller- I can't really even put into words my love for this book. Just read it!

4. The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley- This book was given to me by a friend and I have already passed it along to others. It also introduced me to the plot twisting, historical and modern day writings of Susanna Kearsley and I cheated a few times on this challenge to read more of her books. Half of the book is set in present day where author Carrie Maclelland is searching for the inspiration for her newest novel, the other half is set in 1708 and the story of a Jacobite uprising. I love reading multi-generational stories and I loved both the present and past story lines weave together and both kept me wanting to see what happens next.

5. The Lake House by Kate Morton.- This is another multi generational novel, told from many different perspectives and shows how a secret from the past can still impact our present. Kate Morton is one of my favorite authors and one reason is that she blends the past and present together wonderfully. I feel as I have just written about this book I don't want to be too repetitive... so go read my post "Book blurb...The Lake House" ( link).

For more info on this books go to my "26 Book Challenge" (link)

Books that pulled at my heart strings...

1. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah- I am not a huge WWII fan when choosing historical fiction, once again don't know why. So I think it is interesting that the two books that pulled at my heart strings the most are set in WWII. This book is set in German occupied France during the war and is about two sisters who must chose different paths in trying to protect their homes and lives around them. The eldest, Vivanne, tries to keep her head down and just tries to survive and to keep her family farm going. The younger one, Isabelle, joins the French Resistance and helps pilots who have crashed sneak into Spain. Though they chose different paths they both make ripples in the war effort.

2. The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult- is yet another multi-generational story and weaves together Nazis Germany and the concentration camps with a small town in New England. I found this story very powerful and had to take deep breaths after reading some parts because of the descriptions of how the Nazis treated the Jews was very powerful and I couldn't push it aside and think "well that is all in the past" as I know it happened and it was horrific. In present day, Sage who is part Jewish, has hidden away from the world after a horrible accident that killed her mom and she is left with many scars. Her life is changed when a new acquaintance, Josef, confesses that he is a former Nazis officer. This story nicely weaves Sage, her grandmother's story, and Josef's story together.

3. Light between Oceans by M.L. Stedman- is about Tom Sherbourne, who returns to his home, Australia, after fighting in the trenches on the Western Front (WWI) and takes a job as light house keeper on a island. He likes the solitude of it all until he meets Isabel who is young, bold and beautiful. They go through many heartaches with a few miscarriages and stillborn deaths (this is the part that made me cry) and they kind of believe life is hopeless until there is a boat crash on the island and baby girl is left helpless on the shore. Though they live a happy life together when they return to the main land they see their choices have made impacts on other people's lives and now they must decide what to do. I held my breath for many moments in this novel.

These three I would recommend but would suggest keeping a pack of tissues with you when you read. 

To see other books I read for challenge click this link

Monday, December 21, 2015

Book Blurb... The Lake House

Hello lovely readers,

I know it has been awhile since I posted about the "26 book challenge" I have been going through this year...the last book on my list was to read "A Book set Somewhere you've Always Wanted to Visit" at first I thought this book would be about Africa or India or someplace exotic. I decided then after read the The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley and watching Poldark over the summer, both set in Cornwall I began to fall the idea of wanting to go to Cornwall, England. And while I have been to London and Bath. I still really, really want to go to the English country side.
In Kensington Park
Thankfully I found the book that satisfies my love of the English country side and yet makes my desire to visit to grow even so more so.  That book is The Lake House by Kate Morton.
Meeting Kate Morton
In May (with some of my birthday money) I pre-ordered the book and anxiously awaited the book to come in the mail and it was worth the wait. I have loved Kate Morton's writing for years, she has a brilliant way of tying the past and present together to figure out a mysterious secret, and while she lives in Australia she writes mostly about England. Half the book takes place in 1930s and in 2003 to solve the case of a baby boy who has disappeared into thin air...

Living on her family’s idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, innocent, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories. But the mysteries she pens are no match for the one her family is about to endure…
One midsummer’s eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. What follows is a tragedy that tears the family apart in ways they never imagined.

Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as an author. Theo’s case has never been solved, though Alice still harbors a suspicion as to the culprit. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old estate—now crumbling and covered with vines, clearly abandoned long ago. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone...yet more present than ever. 

The story was gripping and I loved the different perspectives between Sadie, Alice and Eleanor Edevanes (Alice's mother) keep the story going and trying to figure out what happened to Theo. Not only did it touch on the 1930s, it also went into 1910s and World War I, which is my favorite era. So not only is this book set in a place I want to visit it is also is set in a era I would love to visit (if I could).

As part of the story is set in the 1930s I loved imagining the character Eleanor in great gown (left). And Kate Morton wrote great passages of details about London in the past that I underlined or tabbed so I can refer back them. For example, "London had a distinctive smell, the unpleasant mingled of manure with exhaust fumes, of old and new, and she was glad when she turned into Hyde Park and caught the scent of roses." And one quote that caught me was, "Eleanor, wondered sometimes whether hope, that awesome, awful habit, ever died; better still, whether it could be killed. Things would be so much easier if it could, if it were simple as flicking a switch. But, alas, it seemed hope's glimmer always hovered in the distance, no matter how long one journeyed towards it without it."    

I loved this book and highly recommend it if you like to mysterious secret historical novel. I also recommend if you like the English country side.


Friday, December 18, 2015

Friday Films... A Little Chaos

Hello lovely readers,

Before I can truly write a review of A Little Chaos that there are some aspects of the movie that might make some people uncomfortable. I am not condoning these actions I am just saying it was common in French Court for the King and the people around him to have mistresses. These aspects made me hesitant to write about this film but I thought this was a beautiful film I had to share it with you all. 
I will admit the film is a little slow and the love story is slow and with films like Star Wars and other high action movies coming out I think this film might not satisfy someone who loves a fast pace movie. From the trailer you can tell it is a romantic story but the romance is so little you don't even know they are in love until Andre Le Notre's (played by Matthais Schoenarts) wife points out that he is infatuated with Sabine De Barra (played by Kate Winslet).

I was first intrigued by this movie after watching Far From a Maddening Crowd and I thought Matthais Schoenarts looked familiar so I looked up his other film credits, only to discover I had never seen a movie of his but I discovered this film. I was intrigued by the casting and loving both Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman I put it on my waiting list at the Library... got to love the library and free access to 100s of movies. 

The movie starts off saying "There is an outdoor ball room at Versailles, in what follows this much is true." So the character of Sabine is fictional, as there would be no women landscapers at the time, regardless Kate Winslet plays Sabine very well. Sabine is strong, passionate, and does not confirm to the world around her.  This draws attention to her not only from the love interest but also from the King and his brother Duke of Orleans (played by Stanely Tucci.)
Stanley Tucci and Alan Rickman in awesome wigs
At the start of the film Sabine is hired by Andre, who is in charge of the landscape for the gardens at Versailles but he cannot handle demands of the King so he brings her on. At their first meeting he does not seem to like her very much, because she won't confirm, they discuss how gardens are to be structured and she doesn't agree with him. Then they have a beautiful scene in her personal garden where Andre discusses when God made men he put them in a beautiful garden, since we have been banished we have been seeking out our own Eden... it could almost give you the desire for a green thumb. While Sabine doesn't want to confirm to the world around her, she does have to navigate the happenings of French Court... oh and Jennifer Ehle (aka Elizabeth Bennet) makes an appearance. She also needs to deal with some struggles of her past in order to accept love.

One reviewer on IMDb wrote that she would "watch Stanley Tucci read a phone book, he is that good." I quite agree and I did find him quite an amusing character.


The story was charming and beautiful with costuming and settings to match. I know it is a British Film (directed by Alan Rickman) but I found it funny that all the settings were in England. Some of them I even recognized from watching The Young Victoria a lot. But try to not let that distract you if you watch the movie.

I would recommend this film if you like Sense and Sensibility (for Alan Rickman and Kate Winslet), The Young Victoria (beautiful settings) and Marie Antoinette (French Court). 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Tunes for Tuesday... Christmas music

Hello Lovely Readers,

After my last Tunes for Tuesday (link) where I shared music that inspired me while I was writing I thought this week it would be fun to share my favorite Christmas Music... In no particular order.

Even though I said no particular order this has been my favorite Christmas song this year
Song: Mary Did You Know?
By: Pentatonix 

Song: God Rest Ye Merry Men
By: Mercy Me

I listen to this song probably all year round--it is so beautiful
Song: O Come O Come Emanuel
By: Bethany Dillon

Song: O Holy Night
By: Carrie Underwood

I like these next 2 songs because I am from Oklahoma
Song: Oklahoma Christmas
By: Blake Shelton and Reba McEntire

Song: BC Clark's Jingle

I know this song gets dissed for being too materialistic
but I have memories of singing it with my sister
Song: Santa Baby
 By: Eartha Kitt

Song: Carol of the Bells
By: Pentatonix

No Christmas song list would be complete without this
 Song: Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas
By: Judy Garland

Ah! So many Christmas songs I love... it is probably favorite type of music. And while in some ways I wish I listened to it all year round I am glad to keep it special for this time of year.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Friday Films... Age of Adeline

Hello Lovely Readers,

Last weekend I watched the beautifully artistic film of Age of Adeline staring Blake Lively. Blake Lively was perfect casting she is flawlessly and classically beautiful, she looked in the 1920s style to modern day fashion. The story is one of those where you have to suspend reality and just believe it is possible. In the beginning of the film we see Adeline have a horrible car accident (it is in the trailer... so not a spoiler) and because of a bolt of lighting she is never able to age. She then has to be on the run as she worries people will want to arrest her and maybe do test on her (she lives in the MacArthur era so people might think she is a communist spy). Anyway she moves every 10 years and she is about to move when she meets Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman... Orphan Black and Nashville). Ellis is swept away by Adeline's beauty and brains (I mean she works at a how awesome is that). He is also very persistent, which at first worries Adeline but then she gives in and they fall in love (that is not a spoiler as it a romantic movie). He takes her to meet his parents and his dad (Harrison Ford) instantly recognizes her as Adeline, even though she says that was her mother. From there things begin to unravel... will Adeline run again? will she tell her secret? 

Ellis and Adeline
The main reason to see this movie is to see the
costuming. As I said Blake Lively was great casting she can live in any decade and still look wonderful. She can wear any style and still look beautiful... okay I will admit I got a little bit of a girl crush on her (from watching this).

And while the story was romantic and I got a little sappy feelings from parts of it I am glad I did pay a movie ticket for it... sorry Lively. I thought the film was beautiful and the story good for the message it was trying to portray but on my budget I think I would have been upset with myself if I spent $10 dollars on a ticket. However, for a movie to watch for free on Sunday afternoon it was delightful.

The one part that really annoyed me was the voice over. It wasn't Lively's voice so it made me distant from the story and I think there could have been a way to portray what the voice was saying better. But overall I thought it was a good twist on a love story. 
This is just a sampling of the costume design... but as I love costume design I will probably search out more movies with the same costumer. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Tunes for Tuesday

Hello Lovely Readers,

I am so happy to announce that in my current work in progress I am a few pages of typing up my story to be done with the first draft of part one. YEAH!!! It feels so exciting and weird all at the same time. I love sharing my scenes with you guys (well who ever reads it) and other things that inspire me. Today I wanted to share music that keeps me inspired.

Song: Serenade (Piano, Violin)
By: Schubert

Song: Distance
By: Christina Perri

This is has become a recent favorite song of mine:
Song: Dancing in the Mine Fields
By: Andrew Peterson

Song: Shattered
By: Trading Yesterday

Song: Stat with Me (Violin cover)
By: Sam Smith

Song: I see Fire
By: Ed Sheeran

There are more songs on my writing playlist but six is a good even number of songs to share... I hope you enjoy. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

NaNoWriMo... check in #3

Hello Lovely Readers,

Frequently how my writing looked
I just wanted to let you know I did not get to 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo and I am okay with that. Before I started this challenge I read some bloggers about how they survived NaNoWriMo and it seemed to me they had no social life and were hanging on to sanity by a thread (okay I might be exaggerating) but I didn't want that to be me so I told myself "what ever I get done, I get done." I said this because I just wanted to focus on my writing this month and it was my first time doing this challenge. Also I still wanted to keep a life...though I'm sure my roommate felt a bit neglected sometimes (sorry).

For this month I set myself little goals, one to type up whatever I have already written out and two to work through some scenes that I was struggling with. I am happy to say I accomplished those goals.

Working through some scenes was hard because I felt mentally blocked and sometimes I would have to tear pages out of my notebook and try again. My mom once told me "crazy is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." I think I went crazy sometimes because I would try over and over rewriting and reworking scenes and even though the words were the same I expected the outcome to be different. I might be a naive writer but I think as a writer you have to do this.

The following scene (set in 1915 between Mattie and Kelby) I think took me five tries to write out before I felt the flow fit into my story:

"Why do men think they can only prove their worth by fighting. I do not think there is a woman alive who thinks in such a way."
"It is is is in our blood, it comes from being cavemen and hunters and gatherers, always fighting to protect our loved ones and resources,"
"Do you really think this war is about resources?"
"No but it is to protect the ones we love," he discreetly rubbed his thumb over the top of her hand.
"You are not going to go are you?"
"Not yet," he pulled back at truth of that statement. He didn't want to go, first he couldn't leave his mother alone with Shane already fighting and second he had no interest in killing men when he was more interested in healing them. However, he knew if war went on much longer he might be recruited, he was of age and in good health.

"Promise me Kelby, promise me you won't go until its absolutely necessary." Mattie had just read Marcus was going to training camp to lose Kelby would be to much.
 "Absolutely necessary, I promise," he took her hand in hers and kissed the inside palm.

"Please Lord don't take him from me as well." Mattie looked into Kelby's eyes and she saw them living a long life together, but maybe that is just what she had wanted to see.

"Now it is a beautiful day, the first in a long while let us not waste it by worrying about a future we cannot know. Do you care for a ride? We can get a nice long one in before sunset, besides we must keep these horses in full form in case they are called for active duty." Kelby tried to make light of the situation but anyone who truly knew him know how it had tore his hear to lose a horse. Last month the army came for Clemson, a horse he had raised since a colt, and that had left Kelby a bit distraught.

Mattie eagerly agreed to the ride, she couldn't remember the last she had been on a horse. The country had been at war for eight months and while the paper was full of half truths and inaccurate numbers, the truth from the front lines were slowly being felt. Everyday they were told they had to make sacrifices for some that meant sugar and for others that meant sons. Any moment that felt similar to the past was a glorious feeling. The sun was so bright and welcoming, it warmed her cheeks and brightened her spirits. She was happy to put away any thoughts of Shane at the front, soon Marcus going to war, and she wanted to believe Kelby would never join them. The felicity of the ride and the beauty of the day made it hard to imagine men were being killed by the hundred in an area of Ypres, not more than six hundred kilometers away.

No one between Cranston and Southerton could imagine the horrors that the Germans were releasing on allied men. The men were praying that their day of battle would soon be over with the setting sun only had new weapon to face. A poison gas floated through the air over no mans land sinking into the trenches that were suppose to protect them from bullets and artillery was now the death of them. The pale yellow toxin burned their eyes, stung their throats, and left them suffocating for air. If they lived through that they suffered severe headaches and feeling lightheaded making them seek comfort on the ground only to breath in more gas. The men who could breath at all was jerky and shallow at best and they would climb out of the trenches against orders but in instinct to survive only to be gunned down by awaiting machine guns. "Its a death trap!" the men yelled as they retreated to a better spot. 
{Poisonous Gas}
I know this scene will need to be edited more but I was so proud of myself for writing a battle scene especially since I have not been battle or in a trench.

So while I did not get to 50,000 words... my last word count was just over 35,000 words I am proud of myself so spending so much time and energy on my story. The work I did makes me feel invigorated to keep going instead of being burned out (as I got the impression from the bloggers). As much I want to keep writing and I spent so much time working away that I didn't give myself much reading time so I for December I now want to find a better balance. AH! it is December!