Monday, March 31, 2014

What I Read: March

March was a really good reading month for me, in terms of how much I enjoyed the books I read. :) I read several books that I've been meaning to read for a long time, plus I had a few rereads.

I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith. I have wanted to read this book for years now...I think it was actually the first book I ever added to my to-read list on Goodreads back when I first signed up on there. You can read my review by clicking on the title, but basically, here's what I thought. I absolutely adored the first half. It was amazing. And I got incredibly frustrated with the second half. I felt like the main character had changed into someone I really didn't like anymore. But then I loved the ending. :) So basically, this story has really stuck with me so far, and I think my frustration with the second half will lessen quite a bit when I reread it.

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I won't get into this one, because I already did a post about the book and the latest film adaptation, which you can read here.

Cinder, by Marissa Meyer. I loved this book. It's the first YA I've read in a long, long time (probably since the Hunger Games?) that actually lives up to its hype. It was so good and brilliantly done, and this is coming from someone who loves fairy tales but who isn't into sci-fi (except for Doctor Who :). It's a thick book but it goes by so quickly, and I can't wait to read Scarlet. And Cress.

My Stubborn Heart, by Becky Wade. Once again, I loved this book. In the Christian fiction genre, I generally stick with historical fiction. But after this, I will definitely be branching out more into contemporary! Everything about this book felt natural and realistic, and it was completely lacking in the slight awkwardness (for lack of a better word) that I usually find when I do read Christian contemporary. It was awesome, and I'm so glad I'm getting Becky Wade's second book for my birthday next month. :)

Matilda, by Roald Dahl. I'm working towards reading all of Roald Dahl's books (I've read about ten of them so far, I think?), and while I was very familiar with this story, I wasn't actually sure whether I'd read the book or not. After a chapter or two, I realized that I had, so this was a reread for me. This is probably one of my favorite of Dahl's stories...Matilda is such a wonderful character! (And no, I don't own this gorgeous Puffin edition, though I wish I did! Mine is an old, tattered movie tie-in edition that I got from Goodwill years ago.)

The Inimitable Jeeves, by P.G. Wodehouse. I enjoyed this one more as I went along, but I didn't love it like I had hoped to. It was funny, though, and I loved Jeeves, especially his tendency to be personally offended by Bertie's bright fashion sense. :) I can't wait to see some of this TV series, because I feel like it's something I'll enjoy watching more than I enjoy reading...if that makes sense.

Blue Skies Tomorrow, by Sarah Sundin. Why on earth did it take me so long to read the last book in this series? The first one is probably still my favorite, but this was a very close second. I was once again blown away by how good this series is. I felt so stressed out while reading this one because Ray and Helen each go from one awful situation to the next, and I felt so bad for them. They really suffer! Ray's adventures in the military were probably my favorite of the three brothers', though, because I really didn't expect all of that to happen. But I will say that Sarah Sundin really knows how to wrap up a series in the most wonderful, fulfilling way. :) I highly recommend the Wings of Glory trilogy if you like WWII historical fiction!

Austenland, by Shannon Hale. Since I've only watched the film Austenland about six times so far this year (I'm not exaggerating), I've been itching to reread the book. So I did. This was my third time reading it, and I think it has grown on me each time! I realized this time around that the film is a pretty faithful adaptation...a lot of the dialogue was word-for-word accurate. I do love the movie more than the book. (You won't hear me say that often!) Still, I enjoy this one, and I'm glad I finally have my own copy. I don't even mind that it's the movie tie-in edition, because I adore the film and hey, who's seriously going to complain about having JJ Feild on the cover of their book? :) When I got this one from Book Outlet, I also got a copy of Midnight in Austenland, so I'm excited about finally getting to read that one.

It seems that I had a hard time keeping by "reviews" brief this month, but what can I say? I really loved five of the eight books I read in March. :)

Friday, March 28, 2014

A bit of knitting.

I feel like all of my posts on the blog lately have been either book or film related. That's not a bad thing exactly, because books and movies are two of my favorite things. :) I just feel like it's been forever since I've had any sewing or knitting projects to share!
I have been making things this month. And last month. I started sewing checkbook covers for the shop (plus some new wallets), knit my dad a pair of socks for his birthday, sewed myself another Renfrew t-shirt (which I will hopefully get pictures of soon), and sewed a skirt for someone else.
But the only thing I actually have pictures of to share so far is a knitted set I made for a new baby in the family! My cousin Amy and her husband have an adorable new baby girl, so here's what I made for her...

First up is a bonnet from this pattern. This was my first time knitting this pattern, but I'm really pleased with how it turned out! It does have a sweet, vintagey look, I think. The only changes I made were to join in the round for the back, so I didn't have to seam it up (I hate seaming in knitting) and to attach an I-cord tie instead of the button band (I used this tutorial). After a lot of fiddling at first with the attached I-cord to figure out how to pick up stitches so it would look neat, it was pretty simple and I'm happy with how it turned out.
A swirl hat. I made one of these for my niece Stella, but she's since outgrown it. I made this one in a bigger size than the bonnet, so it would fit later on, too. This is a nice little pattern that looks really cute on babies but not so cute always looks crinkly when you try to get pictures. :)

A pair of baby mitts...

And now for my favorites...the little baby boots (or Baby Uggs, according to the pattern). I've made two pairs of baby booties before, and they were little Mary Jane type ones. I wanted to try something new, and I absolutely fell in love with these little boots.

It took me a while to wrap my head around how exactly they were going to come together...because they're knit flat and seamed up, but the way the shaping works, they sort of start looking a little 3D before you seam them. It's a really unusual construction, but hey, it works! I think they're just adorable. :)

And just to show you an update of what I've been knitting on exclusively* since March 1st:

*Exclusively except for a few evenings of spinning when I really just needed a break from this project.

Sorry for the really bad picture, but this is the most recent one I have. My Lady Marple sweater is coming along nicely! So far all of the parts that I thought were going to be super difficult (for me, anyway) ended up not being pretty simple. This sweater is actually fitting me, which is an awesome feeling since my last one was so big! I took this picture about a week ago, and since then I've completed one sleeve and started the second one. After that, the neckband and the button bands are all I have left! :)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sleeping Beauty {1959}

{Animated Disney Film #16 of 53}

While I remember watching Sleeping Beauty as a kid, it's not one of those Disney movies that I watched over and over again. Instead, it's one that I think I came to appreciate more as I got older (except for one little thing...more on that later :).

Sleeping Beauty just has a really medieval, classic fairy tale feel about it. It's one of the few classic Disney movies that doesn't feel modern in any way to me. And I think it's meant to be that way. The music is adapted from Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty ballet (so it doesn't feel modern in the least), and the whole look of the film was inspired by medieval art.

For me, personally, Sleeping Beauty probably makes it into my top five favorite classic Disney films (I'm considering "classics" as those made between the 30s and the 70s). As far as the traditional fairy tale stories go, I like it more than Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, but a little less than Cinderella.

Okay, my thoughts for this one are pretty random (as usual), so I'll just jump in. First of all, one of the most tragic moments in the whole movie is the scene where the king is burning all of the spinning wheels. As the owner of a spinning wheel myself, I was all, "No! Don't burn them!" :) Seriously, though, that seems like a really impractical thing to do. {You guys know I'm partial to any story involving spinning wheels or spindles or the like. And in honor of that aspect of this story, I was spinning yarn on my wheel while watching the movie. I usually knit while watching movies or TV, but I figured in this case spinning would be more appropriate...}

One of my favorite scenes is when the three fairies are preparing for Briar Rose/Aurora's birthday while she's out in the forest. I love watching them try to bake and sew without magic. It's hilarious! (I love how Fauna puts the frosting and candles on the cake before actually baking it.) It does make you wonder how they survived those sixteen years, though. Surely cooking or sewing skills were required at some point...

I think that Sleeping Beauty is one of the most gorgeous Disney movies. A perfect example of this is the whole Once Upon a Dream scene in the forest. The forest background, with the detailed trees and all of the unusual geometric shapes in the bushes (they look like trimmed topiary), the colors of It's so visually stunning. According to the DVD special features, that one scene took over a year to finish and cost the studio over $10,000. (This movie in general was the most expensive one Disney had ever made at the time. And it wasn't actually that successful at the box office at first, so it was hard to cover all of the costs...the company had to lay off lots of artists the following year because of financial difficulties.)

Speaking of that scene, I really like Prince Philip's horse, Samson. I like to think that Samson paved the way for memorable horse characters in modern Disney movies. Like Maximus in Tangled and the Prince Hans' horse and Sven (technically a reindeer but he acts really similar to Maximus!) in Frozen. :)

And still speaking of that scene...this is my only issue with this movie. Prince Philip and Aurora "fall in love" way too fast. I know this is a fairy tale. It's an animated movie. It's not real life. But it still bugs me! :) At least Cinderella and her prince danced and talked for a couple of hours at the ball before deciding they loved each other. But these two...nope. They've known each other for approx. ten seconds, and then they're holding hands. Then they're standing against a tree, looking out over the kingdom, and the prince has got his arms wrapped around her. And he's all, "Who are you? What's your name?" Hello!! You should probably have found that out before! (Now that I think of it, doesn't it happen this quick in Snow White, too? I don't know. It just bothers me more in this movie for some reason.)

The scene where the curse is finally fulfilled is so creepy. I remember thinking that as a kid, and I still think so. :) The part when Aurora is left alone and Maleficent lures her into the fireplace-turned-passageway. And that eerie music is playing and Aurora's skin looks green. Ew.

(By the way, why exactly does Maleficent hate Aurora so much? She can't be that upset just because she wasn't invited to the birth celebration. Is she holding a grudge against the parents? Is she just so evil that she can't stand the sight of any happiness? I hope we'll find out more about this backstory in Disney's upcoming Maleficent film.)

This was the first time I had noticed how strong the good versus evil theme is in this movie. I mean, the good fairies give Prince Philip the Shield of Virtue and the Sword of Truth! And there's constantly talk of good triumphing over evil and true love conquering all.

As for the ending, the battle between the prince and Maleficent wasn't nearly as long and epic as it seemed to be when I was little...but I still enjoy it. :) I just love the part where the thorns grow up around the castle and when Maleficent transforms into a dragon.

I really do love Sleeping Beauty. It's a gorgeous movie with a uniquely old-fashioned look about it, compared to most Disney classics. I would love it even more if I could suspend my disbelief at the whole "love at first sight" part. Ha. :) And I'm really, really excited about the film Maleficent coming out later this year! Have you guys heard the super-creepy version of Once Upon a Dream from the film trailer? I usually don't like it when modern singers attempt classic Disney songs, but this is amazing.

Up next on the list is 101 Dalmatians and the infamous Cruella De Vil!

How about you? Do you like Sleeping Beauty? Are you excited for Maleficent?

Friday, March 21, 2014

My favorite film soundtracks.

I love movies. I love music. So it only makes sense that I would also love film soundtracks. :)
I used to listen to soundtracks all the time. When I was in school, I listened to instrumental ones constantly while I did schoolwork or homework. I listened to classic movie soundtracks while taking a bath (I can't believe I just admitted that, but yeah...I'm one of those people who listens to music in the tub). I listened to Disney soundtracks in the car. No shame!
I don't listen to them quite as much as I used to, but I still appreciate a good movie soundtrack! I love how a story and music can intertwine in my mind, and how hearing a certain song can remind me of an exact moment in a film. It's sort of like being able to watch a film while doing other things. :) Here are some of my favorites!

Instrumental (mostly):

Pride and Prejudice. This shouldn't surprise you. P&P is my favorite book, the 2005 adaptation is my favorite film, so of course this is one of my favorite soundtracks. Seriously, though, it is gorgeous. I still listen to this one a lot when I'm trying to read and the house is just a little too loud for me to focus on my book. :)

Jane Eyre. Some more of the genius of Dario Marianelli. I don't love this film adaptation of Jane Eyre as much as I did when I first saw it (the mini-series is so much better), but this is one of the most hauntingly beautiful soundtracks I've ever heard. It gives me chills.

Titanic. I've probably been listening to this soundtrack longer than any of the others on the list. I used to be obsessed with this film (and as I recently mentioned, it's responsible for my lifelong crush on Leonardo DiCaprio). But even if you're not a fan of the blockbuster movie, or the Celine Dion theme song (honestly, I like the theme, but not the vocals version), you have to admit that this is some amazing, heartbreaking music.

Emma. This soundtrack is very cheerful and charming, just like the BBC mini-series that it comes from. :)

North and South. Technically this soundtrack was never released, which is ridiculous because it's so good. But if you look online, you can usually find it...that's all I'll say about that.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and Prince Caspian. I'm a huge Narnia fan, and I do enjoy the movies (though, in the case of the second and third ones, they could have been so much better). The music from them is really pretty, too. And I adore the Switchfoot song on the Prince Caspian soundtrack.

The Artist. The soundtrack for this movie is so fun and quirky (just like the film itself), and I love how 1920s-ish it is at times.

A Series of Unfortunate Events. As with Titanic, I also used to be obsessed with this movie...I still really like it (maybe I'll watch it again soon and do a post about it?). The soundtrack is sort of wacky and dark, with some really lovely, tender moments. Like the movie. :)

Classic movies:

Singin' in the Rain. I used to listen to this one so often that I had practically every note memorized. :) It's from my favorite classic movie (and musical), so of course I love it to pieces.

The Wizard of Oz. I knew this one almost as well as Singin' in the Rain, though not quite. One of my favorite songs on the album that's sadly underrated: Optimistic Voices. :)

'S Wonderful: Gene Kelly at MGM. This is sort of a "best of" CD. And if you're not obsessed with Gene Kelly, it probably won't impress you. But I happen to love Gene Kelly's dancing and his singing. This album has some of the more popular songs he sang in his MGM musicals.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow: The Golden Age of Hollywood Musicals. I don't even know if this two disc CD is still available or not...I bought it on Amazon years ago. It has tons of random songs from musicals, some very famous (Over the Rainbow, Singin' in the Rain), others somewhat obscure. Along with the That's Entertainment! films, this gave me a great start on a list of films to check out when I first started getting into musicals.

Modern-ish music:

Penelope. Of course this was going to make the's one of my favorite modern films. With the exception of one or two songs, I love this soundtrack. I don't know any of the artists on the album, and when I got it, the only songs that I really loved were Waking Life and the instrumental song from the end of the movie, but the others grew on me. (By the way, Waking Life is sang by Schuyler Fisk. Who I knew nothing about until this past week, when I randomly discovered that she was the girl who played Kristy in the Baby-Sitter's Club movie that I grew up loving! Wow.)

The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond. This isn't technically a soundtrack, though some of the songs do play during the credits of the film. I was interested in this one because 1) it featured the Civil Wars and the Secret Sisters, two artists who I love, and 2) I had heard that a lot of it was sort of bluegrass-sounding. But I never expected to love this CD as much as I do! They did such an amazing job of choosing songs that fit with the spirit and atmosphere of the film perfectly. But while the songs definitely have a Hunger Games vibe, they're so good that I can listen to them anytime, not just when I'm in a soundtrack mood.

You've Got Mail. Again, this shouldn't be a surprise since this is another of my favorite movies. It's just a really good mix of music, with a bit of an oldies influence (Bobby Darin, Louis Armstrong, etc.).

And a couple of other random soundtracks that get honorable mentions, because I love some of the songs from them but they're not absolute favorites: The Sound of Music, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Alice in Wonderland (Tim Burton film), and Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Of course, Disney had to be its own little category. :) These are the Disney soundtracks that I like most (if not all) of the songs from, in no order:

-Beauty and the Beast
-The Lion King

I also love certain songs from these: Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Peter Pan, and Frozen, among others. I just really love Disney music. :)

What are some of your favorite movie soundtracks?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Yarn Along

Reading: The Inimitable Jeeves, by P.G. Wodehouse. I've heard a lot about how hilarious Wodehouse is, and I really want to watch the Jeeves and Wooster series from the 90s. But I wanted to read at least one of the books first, so...I am. :) It's good so far, though maybe not quite as hilarious as I expected. But I absolutely love the quirky cover of this book!

Knitting: Still knitting away at my Lady Marple! It's getting so big that it's impossible to fit into a photo. :) I'm finished with the fronts, and now I'm working on the back from the armholes up. The easy part of this sweater is behind me and soon I'll be getting into techniques that are new to me, like short rows and a three needle bind-off...should be interesting!

{Yarn Along is a weekly link up hosted by Ginny where you can share what you've been knitting and reading.}

Monday, March 17, 2014

Lady and the Tramp {1955}

{Animated Disney Film #15 of 52}

The next film on my Disney list is one that I grew up watching, so I have very fond memories of it: Lady and the Tramp. I'm actually a little surprised that I like this one so much because 1) I don't typically enjoy "animal movies." Because animal movies have a tendency to be sad. And not just sad like regular movies, but a special kind of sad that only animal movies can be, and I don't like that. And 2) it's a movie completely about dogs. And I'm much more of a cat person than a dog person, to be honest.

Lady and the Tramp is just such a charming movie. Somehow it reminds me a bit of Dumbo, except more cheerful and in a more ordinary setting (as opposed to a circus).

I love the cozy feeling of that first scene...the snowy village of Victorian houses with stained glass windows. So lovely. I also love the fact that the husband and wife are known in the story as Jim Dear and Darling. :) I don't think I had watched this film since I started knitting, because this time I was like, Darling knits! On double pointed needles! Knitters tend to notice when characters in stories also knit. :)

There seems to be less of a focus on songs in this movie than in other classic Disney movies. There are a couple of really famous ones, of course: Bella Notte and The Siamese Cat Song. As a cat lover I'm a little disappointed that the only two cats in this whole movie are Aunt Sarah's awful Siamese cats. Their song is really addictive, of those that has a tendency to get stuck in your head! And who doesn't love the famous Bella Notte scene with Lady and Tramp sharing a plate of spaghetti?

Of course I have to mention the voices behind the characters, because I'm the Disney geek who is fascinated with that sort of thing. :) The voice of Aunt Sarah was done by Verna Felton. I've mentioned her before because this was her fourth time voicing a pretty dominant character in Disney movies (two elephants in Dumbo, Fairy Godmother, Queen of Hearts, and now Aunt Sarah), and she would go on to do two more. Then there's Bill Thompson, who was the voice of Smee in Peter Pan. I instantly recognized him as the voice of the English bulldog here, but I had no idea that he actually voiced five characters in this movie! He was Jock, Joe (the chef at the Italian restaurant), the bulldog, the dachshund, and a policeman. It wasn't just five different was five different accents: Scottish, Italian, English, German, and Irish. And Thompson himself was American. :) Pretty amazing.

And then there's Peggy Lee. She was the voice of Darling, the Siamese cats, and Peg (the female dog in the pound). She also sang four songs for the film: most noticeably "He's a Tramp" as Peg. I'm pretty sure this is the first time that a popular singer of the day was so involved in a Disney film. I think that's interesting because in more recent years (as in the 90s to present day), it seems like popular entertainers are often used as voices in Disney movies. Or at the very least they're stuck in at the end, singing a song during the credits. :)

Okay, enough about the voices. My favorite scene in the film is the one at the zoo with the beaver. I've always loved that scene and it still makes me laugh. :) I love it when the beaver says in his whistling voice, "Say, it works swell!" (Also, because of the scene before this one, I always remember thinking as a kid that a muzzle must be a terrible thing for a dog. Sort of like the ultimate shame, ha. I guess it is that way for Lady in the movie!)

My least favorite scene would be the one at the dog pound. All of those pitiful dogs with tears (very unrealistically) dripping down their noses. Remember what I said about animal films being their own brand of sad? Thankfully things cheer up soon when you meet the quirky group of dogs living in the pound. Boris the Russian philosopher is my favorite of those characters. :)

And then we come to the rat scene. As a kid, I had no problem seeing that awful rat as the villain in the movie. After all, a rat in a baby's room? That is pretty disgusting. But watching it now, it just seems a little silly and unrealistic. :) I do love how shadows and darkness are used in the animation of that scene,'s amazing. What I want to know is, what kind of monster rat is this thing? It looks average-sized at the beginning, but in some parts of the fight it looks like it's half the size of Tramp! What in the world? It's like a ROUS or something.

Two more random little things from the end of the movie. The baby, as an eight month old around Christmas time, looks remarkably like Michael from Peter Pan! I can't believe I never noticed this before. It's probably because Peter Pan was the last Disney movie I watched and it's still fresh in my mind. But his hair is almost identical, especially the color of it, and he's wearing the same light pink footsie pajamas set. Michael is basically just a slightly older version of the baby in Lady and the Tramp (Michael and the baby...see what I mean?). Also, no matter how many times I watch it, and even though I know what happens, I still get a bit teary when I see Trusty coming through the gate with his leg bandaged up at the end. :) Maybe animal stories aren't so bad after all...

Basically, Lady and the Tramp isn't my favorite Disney movie by any means. But it's still really charming and sweet, and since I have fond memories of watching it as a child, it will always make me feel nostalgic. :)

Next on the list is Sleeping Beauty, another childhood favorite!

Do you like Lady and the Tramp? How do you feel about animal movies in general?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Great Gatsby: book and film discussion.

Note: spoilers from the book are everywhere in this post! You've been warned. :)

Earlier this week, I read The Great Gatsby for the first time. It's one of those books that I've always felt that I should read, because it's a classic. I didn't read it in high school like most people did. Over the past year or so I've been more anxious to read it, especially since a film adaptation came out last year.

Here are my thoughts on the book itself, mostly copied (and elaborated on) from the Goodreads review I posted almost immediately after finishing it...

I'm not quite sure what I thought about it. I had heard so much about it, obviously, but it wasn't exactly what I expected (especially pacing wise). I don't think I really understood a lot of the symbolism and metaphors in it. Honestly, I read because I love stories. Not because I'm looking for hidden meaning or symbolism in them. Sometimes I see something a little deeper in a book, and that's fine, but I don't exactly go looking for it. But in this case, I was reading an old student copy that I got for free, and it was underlined and marked like crazy. Maybe I was too focused on the fact that I might be missing something. Or maybe I would get more out of the book if I actually did study it?

I guess I come away feeling slightly underwhelmed. The writing was nice in places, but I feel like I wasn't really in the mood for vague, flowery language at the time. And other times it went in an apparently pointless direction (like the list of people who attended Gatsby's parties...that list of names meant nothing to me!).

I didn't feel connected to any of the characters, except for Gatsby, who I just felt so sorry for. I feel a bit weird about this because I don't know if the reader is supposed to feel so much pity for him. (I can't help but wonder if my feelings had anything to do with the fact that I was picturing him as Leonardo DiCaprio the whole time. I've sort of had a crush on that guy since I was about eight years old, so that could be why I felt so sympathetic towards him. :) He wasn't a good person. He was shallow and a liar and involved in questionable things. But here's the thing...

I don't go for tragic love stories. I never have. I have no sympathy at all for the selfish characters in stories like Romeo and Juliet and Wuthering Heights and Gone With the Wind. And with this book, it's more than just a tragic love's adultery. I'm a Christian, and naturally I bring my beliefs with me into everything I read. I hated the infidelity in The Great Gatsby. Most particularly: it made me sick how Tom went on against breaking up the family ideal and how shocked he was at the idea of his wife being unfaithful...this is a man who basically started cheating on his wife on their honeymoon and who has kept a mistress for years. I kept thinking, do none of these people take their marriage vows seriously? Why even get married if it's assumed that nobody is going to be faithful to each other?

Though I really couldn't, I wanted to root for Gatsby and Daisy. If only they had got married in the past when they had the chance. That's one of the reasons why I found Gatsby endearing: I think he truly loved Daisy, even though his behavior bordered on obsessive. They would have been good for each other, and I think they would have had a happy marriage. But Daisy made her decision and married Tom (the jerk), and though I almost want to justify Daisy and Gatsby's relationship because they would have been so perfect for each other (and because her husband was unfaithful), I just can't.

But that's one of the biggest reasons why I liked Gatsby: his genuine love and concern for Daisy. He wanted to protect her, and he wanted to go back and start over, acting like the past few years never happened (though of course that would have been impossible, especially considering Daisy and Tom have a little girl together!) He was always so hopeful and somehow charming. But mostly he was just one of the most pitiful characters I've ever read. Especially his end. Oh my goodness...the contrast of his crowded parties to his empty funeral! I hate that during his life he was always surrounded by people but in his death he was almost completely incredibly heartbreaking.

(And that's why I liked Daisy at first but had come to really dislike her at the end. She would have let Gatsby take all the blame for things she did, accidental or not. The thing that really got me was that she didn't even acknowledge his death. It makes me wonder if she really loved him at all. Normally in a situation like this, I would appreciate her staying in her marriage, but with Tom as a husband I really can't see her being happy....ever. And that's depressing.)

By the way, before reading this book, I somehow had it in my head that Daisy died at the end, and I had no idea that it was Gatsby who died instead. That was definitely surprising!

So that's what I thought about the book. Very mixed feelings, but I was drawn in enough to immediately go and add the 2013 film adaptation to my Neflix queue and bump it up to the top of the list. :) Now that I've watched the film, here's what I thought about it and how it compares to the book.

At first, all I could see were the differences between the two. Well, really just differences in how I had imagined characters and situations in the book to how the film interpreted them. Like Nick. While reading the book, I imagined Nick to be a worldly, confident sort of guy. In the movie, he's so goofy and awkward, at least towards the beginning of the story (I'm not talking about the non-flashback bits at the sanatorium, by the way).

Also, Tom's mistress wasn't anything like I expected. She was so tacky. So was the party they hosted at their flat. I have this vision in my head of 1920s-1930s glamour, probably mostly gleaned from classic movies. :) I knew the party would probably be wild, but I somehow expected it to still be pretty classy, you know? This one wasn't in the least. And Gatsby's parties seemed over-the-top. Maybe this kind of wealth and extravagance was realistic, but I sure wasn't imagining anything that crowded and huge and crazy when I was reading the book.

But I really, really enjoyed the portrayals of Gatsby and Daisy. I've already mentioned my childhood love for Leonardo DiCaprio, but he was the perfect Gatsby. And seriously, does that guy ever age? At certain moments in this movie, when he was speaking in a low voice or looking a certain way, he was Jack Dawson in Titanic all over again. I can't believe that he can look so much the same after over fifteen years. And Carey Mulligan made an excellent Daisy. She's been good in every film and TV show I've seen her in, and I was especially impressed with her American accent here. :)

The movie itself was stunning visually, but combined with the breakneck speed of it all, it was quite overwhelming. There were a few quiet, subdued scenes, but watching this movie often felt like getting whiplash. Also, the cinematography had almost a fantastical feel that I wasn't expecting.

Also, at first the music was a little jarring. I knew about this before watching the film, but the soundtrack is mostly rap and hip-hop inspired stuff. I don't even like that kind of music, anyway, and I do love jazzy music, so of course I would have preferred more authentic and appropriate music of that era as the soundtrack. But in some cases it wasn't as awful as I expected, especially when the music did have a little bit of 1920s jazz sound incorporated into it.

Honestly, as someone who just read the book days before watching the movie, I felt like this was a really good book-to-film adaptation. It was almost word-for-word accurate in so many places. And here's the weirdest part: I feel like the movie made me appreciate the book more. That doesn't happen very often to me. Watching the film, with its emphasis on the pretty writing and famous lines from the book, made me appreciate the writing style more. Actually seeing the scenes playing out while the narrator was speaking those words made everything click for me. I might have rushed through the flowery language while reading the book because I was anxious to get on with the story. But the film put it back in front of me again and made me realize that there were some beautifully written lines in the story.

The Great Gatsby isn't the feel-good type of story I usually go for. It's a bit depressing, but since it's basically a cautionary tale, I guess that's the point. Still, I'm really glad I read it and saw the film. I have a feeling that this is the kind of story that sticks with you. I will be rereading the book in the future, and I think I'll probably appreciate it more each time I do. And I was really impressed with the movie. I will definitely be revisiting it and I recommend watching if you've read the book.

In case you're wondering, the film is rated PG-13. There are some content issues, but honestly it was cleaner than I expected it to be with that rating. Just keep in mind that it does take place in the Roaring Twenties, so there is a lot of drinking and immodest dress, plus a bit of violence and some scattered language and inappropriate scenes.

What do you think of The Great Gatsby: book, film, or both?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Book haul (bargain books and thrift store finds).

Like I mentioned before, I always feel a bit weird posting "book hauls." Especially when, less than a month ago, I wrote about buying fewer books. Apparently I have great big wonderful ideals but zero will power, especially when it comes to cheap books...
So I'm a hypocrite. At least I admit it. And while I'm in a confessing mood: I placed an order with Book Outlet last weekend. Goodness. I justify that by saying some of those books will be birthday gifts. And they will be, but that doesn't change the fact that in a little over a month, they'll be sitting on my shelves. (Is there even any more room on my bookshelves? I kind of doubt it, though I don't like to think about it. If I mysteriously stop blogging, it will probably be because I've been buried alive by my beloved books.)
Honestly, books are my one weakness when it comes to purchases. Not clothing (in general, I could care less about buying clothes), shoes, jewelry, fabric, or even yarn (as much as I do love yarn), but books.
Anyway, enough of these negative thoughts. :) I really am super excited about most of these, so here goes...

I bought these two last month at Ollie's. Our store just got in a huge shipment of religious fiction, and seriously...most of these books were published in the past two years or so. Practically new releases! I've heard good things about Barefoot Summer (Rissi!). And I read and loved Sarah Sundin's Wings of Glory series (except the third book...I own it but haven't read it yet), so I was excited to find the first book of her new WWII series. I can't remember which is which, but one of these was $3.99 and the other was $4.99.

These four came from my local Goodwill, which has a pretty amazing book section. The paperbacks were $2 and the hardcover was $3. (They've gone up on their prices, but they're still relatively cheap!) I love the idea of an Austen-ish memoir, so All Roads Lead to Austen should be good. Brideshead Revisited is a classic that seems to appear on a lot of lists. I have a bit of an obsession with memoirs about Paris and I love dessert, so Paris, My Sweet sounds like something I'd love. :) Then there's Rebecca, which I am really, really excited about reading!

Can we just take a moment to appreciate how truly awful this cover of Rebecca is? It looks like a romance novel from the 70s or something. I actually saw this copy the last time I was in Goodwill, but the cover was so unappealing to me that I put it back. But after realizing that my local library doesn't have the book, and that a new copy costs about $12 online, I decided that I could probably handle the cover. I kept thinking about this copy, and when we went back to Goodwill, there it was, sitting in the exact place where I left it. Poor little book. :) I felt so guilty then that I had to bring it home! (Yes, apparently I personify my books. And if I must, I can discard the dust jacket because the hardcover is plain black.)

The same day that we went to Goodwill, we also stopped by Ollie's again. While sorting through the new arrivals, I found A Tangle of Knots, which is a middle grade book that I've been wanting to read (it released last year). It was $1.99. For a brand new hardcover! I love bargain books. :)

Then we went to another Goodwill (whew), where I found a hardcover copy of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. I read it (from the library) in February and really enjoyed it, so I'm pleased to have my own copy! I always keep an eye out in thrift stores for books from this series, but this is the first time that I've actually found one. It was $2.50.

If you guys want me to show you the books I bought from Book Outlet when the package arrives, just let me know...*hangs head in shame*

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Miss Marple in the 60s.

Sometime last year while visiting my grandparents, I caught part of a film on TCM. It was one of the Miss Marple movies of the 60s, starring Margaret Rutherford as the detective. I couldn't help but be drawn in, and then I decided I wanted to watch all four of the films featuring this Miss Marple.

Though I'm familiar with her as a character, I've never actually read any of the Miss Marple books. I've only read a few Agatha Christie mysteries (and seen a few of the Poirot adaptations), but I thoroughly enjoyed those. I absolutely love detective stories of the cozy mystery type (as in, I don't really want a lot of gratuitous blood and gore and such), so I am always, always wanting to read more of Christie's novels. I just haven't gotten around to it yet. :)

So what I'm saying is...these four films are awesome. They are: Murder She Said (1961), Murder at the Gallop (1963), Murder Most Foul (1964), and Murder Ahoy! (1964). You don't have to have read any Miss Marple books to appreciate this film. Actually, you might enjoy them more if you haven't read any of the books because I don't think that the films are very accurate to the books. In fact, I think only one or two of the movies are even based on books?

Don't watch these films for the plot. The mysteries are pretty good (some better than others), but nothing absolutely spectacular. Watch them for Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple. Because she's basically my hero. She's an elderly spinster who:

1. Climbs through windows. And rides a bicycle. Not at the same time, of course. :)

2. Fearlessly lies in wait for murderers to approach her after they realize that she knows they're guilty.

3. Has a crush on a librarian, who helps her solve the crimes. (And the actor who played the librarian was actually Rutherford's real-life husband!)

4. Dances the Twist.

5. Can pull off wearing anything from tweedy English country clothes to horseback riding outfits to velvety evening gowns. (Sometimes all in the course of one film.)

6. Knits! All the time! She knits in every movie, I believe...usually something on small DPNs, like socks. Once she even knits in the courtroom.

7. Swordfights with the murderer (as is the case in the final film). Because, she was of course, the 1931 Ladies' National Fencing Champion. Would you expect any less?

Seriously. Miss Marple is too awesome for her own good.
More reasons to love the films...they have a great sense of humor. Also, they have this wonderfully quirky 60s English theme song that I happen to have stuck in my head right now. And the cinematography is really lovely sometimes! There are a lot of pretty shadows and black and white contrasts, and quite a few cleverly planned scenes where several characters are sneaking around at the same time, barely missing each other as they pass through doors and hallways.

I realize this isn't a real review, but it's been months since I watched the first three of these films, so I feel like I can't write a very comprehensive review of each one. :) Just know that while these aren't the most accurate adaptations, they are so much fun and I really recommend them.

I want to watch more Miss Marple, but looking around on Neflix, I'm not sure where to begin! What do you guys recommend? Should I start with the 80s ones starring Joan Hickson or the newer ITV series (which I've heard is notorious for changing plots and characters)?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Yarn Along

Reading: I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith. I've been wanting to read this book for the longest time. I'm a little over a hundred pages in, and I'm loving it so far! :)

Knitting: Lady Marple, in Wool of the Andes (garnet heather colorway). My friend Carolynn and I are doing a little cardigan knit-along this month! We're knitting different patterns, but the goal is to motivate each other and end up with a couple of beautiful sweaters. Lady Marple is honestly like the perfect English granny sweater. :) It's rather addicting and I am really enjoying knitting it. {Project page}

{Yarn Along is a weekly link up hosted by Ginny where you can share what you've been knitting and reading.}

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Vinyl Records {Collections: 1}

I'm definitely a collector. Some might say hoarder. :) For a while now, I've been wanting to do a series of posts about several of my collections, and I'm finally getting around to it! I don't know how often I'll do one of these posts...maybe once or twice a month.
Anyway, first up is my record collection. (Lots of photos in this post, so I apologize in advance! Also, they're not the best quality. My room is dark.)
I love listening to records, and I've been collecting them ever since I fell in love with old music. Most of my albums came from thrift stores and yard sales, and they generally cost about $2 or less. Several of them were given to me (when people find out that you collect records, it's a perfect chance for them to get rid of their unwanted ones!). I don't really have tons of space for my records, so every so often I go through them and weed out the ones I don't listen to anymore.
In case you're wondering, this is the record player I have. My parents bought it for me for my birthday years ago, and I've been happy with it! It's pretty, and though it's not the absolute best quality (the knobs are a little loose and wobbly, and with anything other than a CD, you have to turn the volume up at least halfway to get a decent volume), I've never had any trouble with it. And I love that I can hook my iPod up to it...that's how I listen to music most often. (But don't pay $120 for it. Target puts it on sale for $80 sometimes.) I also have one of those big Wurlitzer stereos from the 60s that was given to me by a neighbor (you can see it here).

First of all, I have my new records. I love it when modern artists make their new music available on vinyl! They are expensive, though (usually around $20), so I don't have many. :) I love She & Him, and I found these two at a FYE store. They included codes for digital downloads, too, which is amazing because of course I wanted to put the music on my iPod, too.

Then I have The Secret Sisters album (it was a birthday gift, but ordered on Amazon), and Relient K's Mmhmm. (That's actually a two album set, and I got it free when I preordered that CD years and years ago. They albums themselves are gorgeous...they're mint green and have a sunflower in the center!)

I have several of these big boxed sets from Reader's Digest. My favorite one is The Swing Years, which introduced me to lots of big bands when I first got interested in that kind of music! I also love the Bing Sings one, though. So many Bing Crosby songs, in chronological order from his first hits to his later songs. :)

A few more Crosby albums. The one on the left is probably my absolute favorite album that I own. It's Rosemary Clooney and Bing singing travel songs. Not only do they sound amazing together, but they have a great banter going on, too. It's so much fun to listen to. :) {The one on the right doesn't actually include Bing's instrumentals of some of his hits.}

A couple more big band records.

And my Glenn Miller albums! He is by far my favorite band leader. The one on the left, despite the atrocious cover, is a two album set and the best Glenn Miller record I own. It has so many of his hits! I expected to dislike the "New" Glenn Miller Orchestra, but honestly they did a great job of continuing with his classic sound.

More Glenn Miller.

Frank Sinatra! The most glorious voice ever. :) These are my favorite records of his that I own...

As well as these three. What can I say? The Capitol years were great ones. Also, apparently Sinatra wore the same hat throughout those years. :)

And my other Sinatra records that I don't listen to as much.

Some hits of the 30s, and that one with the crazy cover. Because sometimes you just need some flapper music, you know?

A bit of Doris Day, and a collection of Buddy Holly's hits. Because he was pretty awesome, and very underrated.

And now for my Elvis records. I started collecting Elvis records years before I bought any others. Because from the time I was about 9 until I was approx. 17, I was completely obsessed with Elvis. I knew every bit of trivia about him. My parents took me to Graceland. I had a life-sized cardboard stand-up of Elvis in his famous gold suit (honestly, I still have's folded up in my closet :). His face covered my walls, and I kept up a small Christmas tree year round to display my Elvis ornaments. Yes, it's true, you guys.

I still love Elvis, but I'm not nearly as devoted as I once was. :) I still enjoy his music and think he was one of the most incredible entertainers ever. I keep meaning to watch through all of his movies, which should be fun despite the fact that he basically plays the same character in all 31 of them.

A couple of "greatest movie hits" albums...

Gershwin instrumentals and...Cole Porter for Dancing. Because, you know, I do a lot of dancing. To Cole Porter songs. Obviously. :) My main professor in college actually gave me this one (along with some others that I ended up not keeping).

Now we get into the soundtracks. How to Steal a Million is one of my favorite classic movies, and the soundtrack to it also happens to be one of my favorite records! It's deliciously 1960s-ish. Then I have soundtracks for The Pajama Game (the Broadway version- not the Doris Day film) and Porgy and Bess.

The Broadway version of My Fair Lady (because while I think Henry Higgins is a jerk, I do enjoy the songs) and songs from two Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals that I haven't actually seen yet: South Pacific and Carousel (this isn't the film version).

The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins, both film versions.

I do love Disney. :) I have two "greatest hits" records with songs from classic Disney films, and the Snow White soundtrack.

And a couple of kids' records. Lady and the Tramp and Hansel & Gretel have storybooks inside and play the story with music. The Wizard of Oz one includes songs from the movie, but they're not performed by the actors from the film.

(I have images of my nerdy little future children sitting around a record player and listening to these while following along in the storybooks. And hey, if any of them eventually want a life-sized Elvis in their room, I've already got it taken care of, thank you very much.)

Some other random ones: Lynyrd Skynyrd (I think that was my dad' has the infamously long Free Bird on it :), some Elvis 45s, an ABBA one featuring Dancing Queen (that was my mom's), Man on the Moon (which is apparently some sort of recording celebrating the first man on the moon? It's narrated by Walter Cronkite...I haven't listened to it yet), something from the Beatles (I don't even like them, so I'm not sure where this one came from), and a couple of others.

And finally, my Christmas albums. Perry Como, one featuring Julie Andrews, and one with various artists (including Nat King Cole, which is why I've held onto it. It's impossible to find any of his albums around here).

Elvis Christmas albums...

And more from Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra.

So that's my record collection! I got rid of quite a few albums last year, and I haven't bought any new ones in at least six months (the Goodwill where I used to buy them often doesn't really have any now). I'd like to fill in a few gaps eventually...some Nat King Cole, Rosemary Clooney, and Ella Fitzgerald would be nice...but right now I'm pretty happy with my collection!

Writing this post has got me in the mood for vinyl, and I've been listening to my records a lot more lately. :)