Favorites Roundup: January ’19

Snowy Forest

Featuring the snow we don’t have here in the sunny South…

A few things that brightened my days this January:

Favorite Books

Image result for the looking glass wars Having gone back to school this month, my reading plummeted a little, but this book has definitely been a highlight. I haven’t quite finished it, but the creative premise and exciting plot have me excited to reach the end!

Image result for 13 little blue envelopes This was a quick, light read with a very interesting premise and a lot more depth than might appear on the surface. I related to the main character a LOT, which always makes a book more special! (Content recommended for ages 16+)

Favorite TV Show

Image result for pushing daisies I just started Season 2 of this show, and I love it so very much! It’s a detective show that has a quirky, fantastical feeling to it, with lovable characters and lots of character development and interesting relationships. Highly recommend! (Content recommended for ages 15+)

Favorite Song

 

Have you read anything good this month? Do you read as much once school starts back up? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

P.S. A Peek Inside My Music Library (for a throwback look…anyone want an updated version?)

2018 Year in Review

Fireworks Display Above Trees

2018 is over.

This year has been a crazy ride: the completion of the college application process, the whirlwind of senior year events and grad parties and graduation itself, a two-week trip to Europe that was an incredible experience, moving into college, and completing my first semester at the college of my dreams.

On the blog, all of this change has meant sometimes spotty posts, and so I want to thank all of you so very much for sticking around and being patient with me. Now that I’ve gotten back into the groove of posting weekly, I want it to stay that way. I’m just settling in for my second semester, so we’ll see what happens as classes get going, but Saturday posts are definitely what I’m aiming for!

For now, here’s a look back at some 2018 highlights:

Most Popular Posts (By Pageviews)

Movie Review: Murder on the Orient Express

Should Christians Read Fiction?

We Need Higher-Quality Christian Art.

Transitions: Learning to Trust God Through College Applications

Why Christians Should Care About the Arts

Other Personal Favorite Posts

Why the Arts Are a Valid Career Path for Christians (are you noticing what the theme for this year was yet?)

Christian, It’s Okay to Dance.

Should We Accept Ourselves For Who We Are?

Favorite Books of 2018

Image result for circus mirandus

Image result for greenglass house

Image result for fawkes nadine brandes

Image result for love walked in

Image result for the importance of being earnest book

Favorite Movies of 2018

Image result for the truman show

Image result for the importance of being earnest movie

Image result for ramona and beezus

Image result for little women 2018

Image result for hidden figures

Coming in 2019

So…here’s the truth.

One of the biggest reasons I didn’t post as much during the fall is because I’m starting to feel really burnt out on blogging.

I feel like I don’t have anything to say anymore.

It used to be, everything would inspire me to write posts. I had a list of ideas a mile long. And sure, I still have enough ideas that I could fill the blog, but…they aren’t ideas I’m passionate about. They aren’t things that motivate me to write.

I’m in a kind of limbo right now with this blog. Blogging isn’t really the cool thing anymore, but I really enjoy it. But at this point I’ve been doing it for so long (more than four years!) that I feel like I’m exhausting my niche. I’ve changed a lot since I started this blog, and I’m not really sure what direction I want to take it in now.

I guess the main thing I’m saying is that there may be a lot of experimentation in 2019. Please, give me lots of feedback! Let me know which of my posts you like and don’t like as I play around and try different things.

And right now, I need your input. Give me requests and suggestions and questions! Tell me what you want me to focus on! More movie reviews? More bookish content? More Bible studies, cultural issues, practical posts? Lifestyle? Fashion?!

Basically, the sky is the limit for 2019, and I want to know how best to serve you! So share all the thoughts in the comments!

I hope you all had a wonderful 2018, and here’s to a full and adventurous 2019!

love, grace

Favorites Roundup: December ’18

White Calendar on White Surface

Here are some of the things that made my heart happy this December.

Favorite Books

Besides my two books of the year, here are a few other reads that I really enjoyed this month:

Image result for a thousand perfect notes Heartbreaking and beautiful. (Heavy material, recommended for ages 15+)

Image result for i'd rather be reading I read this little book in one plane ride. Besides just being super pretty to hold and look at, the essays inside are delightful and relatable. The perfect thing for some light winter reading.

Image result for austenland book This book was so. much. fun. And it wasn’t all fluff either; it had serious moments and wrestled with some things that I think many Austen fans will relate to! (Some content, recommended for ages 16+)

Favorite Movies

(Besides the cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies.)

Image result for ramona and beezus This movie surprised me with how good it was. It’s a fun, family-friendly film that’s high-quality and well-made, balancing several different storylines really well and having some very poignant and lovely messages.

Image result for home alone Watched this for the first time ever this Christmas season, and loved it, of course.

Favorite Articles/Blogs

Favorite Videos

Favorite Song

 

What music did you enjoy this Christmas? And what are some of your favorite Christmas movies? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

Book and Movie of the Year

Books on Bookshelves

About the Award

The True and Pure Book and Movie of the Year award is an unofficial, created-by-me award. I recognize what I consider the best book I read and the best movie I saw in the previous year, along with a runner-up in each category.

I make an effort to choose more modern books, since we can all agree that classics are classics for a reason, and my goal is to help you find amazing media that you might not have heard of or be unsure about. But the award in general is not limited to media that was released this year. I choose out of everything I read and watched in the course of the year, not only things that are brand-new.

You can find previous awards here:

2015

2016

2017

Book of the Year: Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley (2015)

Runner-Up: Greenglass House by Kate Milford (2014)

circus mirandus.jpggreenglass house.jpg

About the winner: 

Do you believe in magic? Micah Tuttle does.

Even though his awful Great-Aunt Gertrudis doesn’t approve, Micah believes in the stories his dying Grandpa Ephraim tells him of the magical Circus Mirandus: the invisible tiger guarding the gates, the beautiful flying birdwoman, and the magician more powerful than any other—the Man Who Bends Light. Finally, Grandpa Ephraim offers proof. The Circus is real. And the Lightbender owes Ephraim a miracle. With his friend Jenny Mendoza in tow, Micah sets out to find the Circus and the man he believes will save his grandfather. (from Goodreads)

If you loved The Night Circus, or if you have any kind of interest in magical circuses, or if you like children’s books that feel deep and meaningful and old-fashioned in the best way, Circus Mirandus is for you. The magical-circus atmosphere is lovely, and the story is wonderful. It doesn’t use magic as an excuse, presenting realities of life in a way that doesn’t deny their weight. But it does it in a childlike way, balancing innocence and hope with the pain.

I’ve been really enjoying children’s books lately, and it’s always a delight to find more recently-published books that have this kind of quality and depth. Unlike the runner-up, this one isn’t a Christmas read necessarily, but the magical feeling lends itself very well to this season. It would be a great family read-aloud, a great one to give to younger siblings, or something to read by yourself on a cozy winter day beside the light of the Christmas tree.

About the runner-up: 

It’s wintertime at Greenglass House. The creaky smuggler’s inn is always quiet during this season, and twelve-year-old Milo, the innkeepers’ adopted son, plans to spend his holidays relaxing. But on the first icy night of vacation, out of nowhere, the guest bell rings. Then rings again. And again. Soon Milo’s home is bursting with odd, secretive guests, each one bearing a strange story that is somehow connected to the rambling old house. As objects go missing and tempers flare, Milo and Meddy, the cook’s daughter, must decipher clues and untangle the web of deepening mysteries to discover the truth about Greenglass House-and themselves. (from Goodreads)

This is another more recently-published children’s book that has an atmosphere very similar to The Mysterious Benedict Society. I love it because it has the innocent feeling of childhood, but yet is a complex and deeply meaningful story with real conflict. The characters are interesting and complex, the family dynamics between Milo and his parents are really enjoyable, and the plot has plenty of twists and turns and different elements that all weave together really nicely. It takes place leading up to Christmas, so it’s a great one for the season, or to read at any point during the winter, and would also make a great family or sibling read-aloud!

Movie of the Year: The Truman Show (1998)

Runner-Up: The Importance of Being Earnest (2002)

Image result for the truman showImage result for the importance of being earnest

About the winner: 

In this movie, Truman is a man whose life is a fake one… The place he lives is in fact a big studio with hidden cameras everywhere, and all his friends and people around him, are actors who play their roles in the most popular TV-series in the world: The Truman Show. Truman thinks that he is an ordinary man with an ordinary life and has no idea about how he is exploited. Until one day… he finds out everything. Will he react? (from IMDb)

This is one of the most thought-provoking movies I’ve ever watched. It’s entertaining, definitely, with plenty of humor and an intriguing premise. But when you start to think harder about the premise, you realize all of the questions that the movie is really raising, and what a serious movie it really is. It leaves you searching, trying to put words to its themes, raising questions of ethics in media, of what reality TV does to our society, of consumerism and entertainment culture. And it does all of this in a carefully crafted story, in which no detail of cinematography, costuming, setting, etc. is overlooked, and in which we are equally made to laugh, cry, and think.

About the runner-up: 

Two young gentlemen living in 1890’s England use the same pseudonym (“Ernest”) on the sly, which is fine until they both fall in love with women using that name, which leads to a comedy of mistaken identities… (from IMDb)

I love this play, and the movie is an excellent adaptation in which everything was done pretty much exactly as I had imagined it. The whole story is an absolutely hilarious comedy of errors, making this probably the funniest period drama that exists. The actors are amazing as well: the cast features Colin Firth and Judi Dench. Overall, it’s just a quality movie that’s full of innocent fun, one that can be watched over and over, on rainy days and sick days, with other people or by yourself, a movie that, at least for me, will never get old.

Have you read/watched my selections? If so, did you like them as much as I did? What are your favorite books and movies of 2018? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

Little Women: A Sweet Modernization of a Classic Story

Image result for little women 2018

Little Women (2018) 

My Rating: 3.5 stars

Age Suggestion: 12+

About the Movie

Directed by Clare Niederpruem

PG-13, 1 hour 52 minutes

A modern retelling of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel, we follow the lives of four sisters – Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March – detailing their passage from childhood to womanhood. Despite harsh times, they cling to optimism, and as they mature, they face blossoming ambitions and relationships, as well as tragedy, while maintaining their unbreakable bond as sisters. (from IMDb)

My Thoughts

Little Women has been one of my favorite books for a very long time, and I thought this was a well-done modernization of Louisa May Alcott’s story. If you’re looking for total accuracy to the book, you won’t find it, but considering that they had to both modernize and fit everything into a 2-hour movie, the changes worked okay.

The movie starts with Jo as an adult, trying to get her writing published in New York City, and tells the story mostly in flashbacks. I liked the format and thought it was a good way to make such a familiar story more interesting and fresh. In order to fit everything in, they had to make some changes to the timeline, which did mean that certain relationships weren’t explored or explained as much as I would have liked. But I think it’s impossible to fully do justice to everything from the book in one movie, and overall the pacing was really good. Choosing to focus more on Jo’s story, while it meant that other things were glossed over, made the movie more cohesive and focused.

For the most part, the actors were well-cast and did a great job. Laurie was perfect; Lucas Grabeel perfectly captured the character that everyone loves, while still giving him a fresh spin. The same with Ian Bohen, who played Professor Bhaer (i.e. Freddy); it was a new take, and not how I would have imagined him, but it really worked and still captured the essence of the character.

The sisters were really great, and while it was a little weird that the same actresses played the three older ones for the whole movie as they grew up, it worked out pretty well. And the switch of actresses for Amy was rather disorienting, and I didn’t particularly care for the older one; so I’m actually glad they didn’t do that for all of them. The only actor that I found disappointing was Brooke. He was done as incredibly awkward, and maybe I missed something, but that’s never how I imagined him.

I especially loved that they included the scene where the girls reenact Pilgrim’s Progress. It was so well-done and I love that they didn’t throw out the faith element altogether. (Beth wears a little cross necklace during the whole movie too, which maybe I’m reading too much into, but I think it’s cool!)

(Content warnings: Meg goes to two different parties where people are drinking and dancing; at one of them, she meets a guy and they have a brief kissing scene before she pulls herself away. There are romances, of course, but they are all clean. One character falls and hits her head, and it shows a good bit of blood; another character gets very sick.)

Overall, I thought the movie did a great job portraying the essence of the book. There were lots of funny moments with the sisters that, to me, perfectly captured what it’s like to grow up in a big family. It especially meant a lot to me seeing this movie at this stage in my life; I have three younger sisters, and having just moved away to college, I spent about three-fourths of the movie in tears because of how much it made me appreciate my childhood. Watching the March sisters grow up and have to navigate changing relationships and lives hit very close to home for me right now.

I would recommend this movie to anyone who wants a sweet movie that will make you laugh and cry. It explores the importance of family and of going after your dreams, and how hard that can sometimes be. While it’s not anything super deep, it’s a feel-good, enjoyable watch for a cozy fall day, especially for anyone who loves Alcott’s story as much as I do.

Have you seen Little Women, and if so, what did you think of it? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

Favorites Roundup: August ’18

Hello!

So…

It’s been a long time.

Since I last wrote, I packed up my entire life, moved 14 hours away from home, met a new roommate, moved into a new dorm, made some new friends, started some new classes, and basically started a whole new life.

And now I hope to be back to blogging for good! My life has settled into somewhat of a routine, and although it’s crazy busy, I’ll be trying to fit blog posts in every Saturday. Throughout the fall, I’ll be getting back to the Transitions series, so that you can come along with me on my college journey and hear what I’m learning as the weeks go by.

More on that later. For today, I want to share with you a belated list of some of my favorite things from August. Because I kept meaning to do this, and these are too good not to share.

Favorite Books

Image result for save the date morgan matson My first Morgan Matson book definitely lived up to the hype. Check out my full review here.

Image result for fawkes nadine brandes This book is full of incredibly powerful themes and issues. Brandes does something many authors fail to do, and fits her faith into a book in a deep and beautiful way without making it preachy. (And this book was written for the general market!)

Favorite Movies

Image result for newsies live I KNOW I’ve mentioned it on here before, but…a bunch of dorm friends and I rewatched it the other night, and I just have to say it again. Newsies Live is one of my favorite movies of all time. And it’s on Netflix, so there’s no excuse not to watch it!

Image result for the lion king Guess what?? I watched this for the VERY FIRST TIME. Amazing. Of course.

Favorite Articles/Blog Posts

Favorite Videos

Favorite Song

 

What’s the best movie you saw in August? Share in the comments!

love, grace

Save the Date: A Fun, Funny Summer Read

Image result for save the date morgan matson

Save the Date by Morgan Matson

My Rating: 4 stars

Age Suggestion: 16+

About the Book

Charlie Grant’s older sister is getting married this weekend at their family home, and Charlie can’t wait—for the first time in years, all four of her older siblings will be under one roof. Charlie is desperate for one last perfect weekend, before the house is sold and everything changes. The house will be filled with jokes and games and laughs again. Making decisions about things like what college to attend and reuniting with longstanding crush Jesse Foster—all that can wait. She wants to focus on making the weekend perfect.

The only problem? The weekend is shaping up to be an absolute disaster.

Over the course of three ridiculously chaotic days, Charlie will learn more than she ever expected about the family she thought she knew by heart. And she’ll realize that sometimes, trying to keep everything like it was in the past means missing out on the future.

My Thoughts

I had never read a Morgan Matson book before this one, although she’d been on my radar for a while. Since this one was recently released and seemed like a good summer read, I picked it up from the library and started reading…and couldn’t put it down!

I forgot that I really liked contemporaries. I love all of the little details about the everyday life of characters and families, and Matson really does the details well, creating a realistic environment that is easy to picture and sets the atmosphere for an entertaining story.

The story is a pretty typical, if slightly over-the-top, comedy of errors, which is enjoyable in and of itself, especially when set around a wedding. What makes it even better is the characters. A comedy of errors – carried out by a family of six siblings? So much fun to read about. Each sibling was well-developed and their banter was honestly one of the best things about this book. Coming from a big family, I always love seeing family dynamics and the way in which siblings relate to each other.

I do want to mention that this book centers around a definitely secular family full of twenty-something children. So there are some mentions or instances of them doing things that I definitely didn’t approve of…partying, hooking up, etc. And one of the main subplots of the book focuses on a romantic encounter the main character has, and the aftermath of that; I did appreciate that the guy was eventually shown to be not-so-great, and a much better love interest won the day (seriously he – not saying who – might well have been my favorite character…and the scene in the grocery store…so cute!). But because of some of these elements I’d definitely recommend the book for ages 16 and up.

Overall, this book could have been cliche, but there were enough unique elements to make it the fun kind of cliche. The mom’s comic strip, the large family dynamics, setting it all around a wedding weekend…it was the best kind of cliche, the kind that is fun and relaxing.

I legitimately could not put this book down. I looked forward to reading it in a way that I haven’t looked forward to a book for a long time, and read it in every spare moment. It was just so much fun. I have a significant book hangover from it, and I’ll definitely be checking out more Morgan Matson in the future!

Have you read any books by Morgan Matson, and if so, what is your favorite of hers? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

Favorites Roundup: June/July ’18

A roundup of some of my favorite things in the last few months…

Favorite Books

Image result for love walked in This is a new-to-me author and also a new-to-me style of literary fiction. It’s a beautiful book and I’ll definitely check out more by her. (Content recommended for ages 16+.)

Image result for wires and nerve Got this for my birthday and…read the whole thing on my birthday. Marissa Meyer never disappoints.

Favorite Movies

Image result for the sound of music I went to Salzburg as part of my trip so obviously watching this (for like the 4 billionth time) was a must. It never gets old…and there are so many layers that I didn’t even catch when I was a kid.

Image result for goodbye christopher robin The story of the real-life Christopher Robin…I really enjoyed this movie, especially the first half. I didn’t like the way it jumped ahead in time at the end, but I can forgive it for that.

Favorite Podcast Episode

“What About That Quiet Time”, from the Uniquely Woman podcast, was a thought-provoking dive into where our term “quiet time” comes from and why it’s hurting our spiritual walk. Definitely worth your time to listen to!

Favorite Articles/Blog Posts

Favorite Videos

 

What was your favorite read of June and July? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Entertaining, but Predictable, Action Flick

Image result for ant man and the wasp

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) 

My Rating: 3 stars

Age Suggestion: 13+

About the Movie

Directed by Peyton Reed

PG-13, 2 hours 5 minutes

As Scott Lang balances being both a Super Hero and a father, Hope van Dyne and Dr. Hank Pym present an urgent new mission that finds the Ant-Man fighting alongside The Wasp to uncover secrets from their past. (from IMDb)

My Thoughts

This movie, to me, was entertaining and had some good elements, but overall wasn’t anything special. The stream of Marvel movies coming out in the last few years has become increasingly predictable and repetitive, and Ant-Man and the Wasp was no exception.

Paul Rudd, of course, was excellent. Abby Ryder Fortson (who plays his daughter) is also really good, especially for a child actress; her parts never feel overly cheesy and she fits right in with the rest of the cast.

The villains were lacking, however. There are several different “antagonistic” characters throughout the movie, which meant that most of them weren’t given the screen-time or development they needed to go from cookie-cutter to complex. But even the main villain character, despite the way the movie focused on her and gave her a backstory, felt like she had been recycled from every other movie Marvel has made. There was nothing unique about her, or her character arc. Honestly, I think the movie could have been better if her storyline had been taken out completely. There would have been more room for the family dynamics and funny shenanigans that made the first movie so memorable.

Speaking of shenanigans, I will always love Luis and his buddies. Their scenes were almost as funny as the first movie, and I just wish there had been more of them.

I also appreciated that the action sequences were not monotonous or overly drawn-out, which is a hard feat to accomplish.

(This is pretty mild for a Marvel movie. There’s some mild swearing and a brief imagined scene of intense kissing, but the action sequences are relatively tame unless you’re bothered by the quantum-physics elements.)

Overall, I felt that the biggest problem was that the movie lacked theme, making it cookie-cutter entertainment with no point. Dr. Pym is not a heroic figure; he is selfish and absorbed in his own goals, no matter what that means for the people around him. But this is never commented on, and we’re expected to continue rooting for him as the “good guy” even when we can almost sympathize with the villains more.

There was so much room in the movie for an exploration of when it’s okay to break the law for the greater good, and when it isn’t; the value of a single life; the purpose of a hero; and much more. Yet that was barely touched. I got action, humor, and emotion…all of the ingredients that should make for a good movie. Yet it ended up feeling shallow.

I crave movies that make me think, that are deep and purposeful, or that tug on my emotions in a meaningful way. This one, while fun, just didn’t deliver.

What do you think? Have you seen Ant-Man and the Wasp? If so, do you agree with my opinion? What are some of your favorite movies that are entertaining while offering deep themes? 

love, grace

Favorites Roundup: May ’18

How was your May? Mine involved some senior milestones: college decision day, my final high-school dance production, prom…as well as boring, everyday things like school and volunteering and choir rehearsals. I’ve been fighting off serious senioritis to finish strong…now I only have four days left!

In the meantime, here are some things that have been brightening my days lately…

First of all, this amazing song:

changes everything

 

 

A highly practical guide to the Christian life for young people; just as good, if not better, the second time. (Read my original Goodreads review.)

 

 

A Million Dreams (My Lady Bibliophile) – a thoughtful, uplifting review of a movie that I had mixed feelings about

penderwicks last

 

 

An amazing conclusion to an amazing series. (Read my Goodreads review, although I warn you, it’s a bit fangirly.)

 

 

 

Image result for jane and the dragon

A childhood show that I rediscovered this month, and fell in love with all over again. It has complex characters, interesting storylines, amazing acting, and hilarious dialogue. Highly recommend for all ages!

Image result for pippin

 

My sister was in this show back in the fall, so I knew I liked the music. But I’d forgotten how much, and recently became obsessed with it again. The show isn’t entirely clean, but the music is, and it’s well worth listening to!

 

 

17 Secrets of Audiobook Narrators – this sounds like it would be such an interesting career path!

And I really want every writer to take Abbiee’s advice, please…?

How was your May? Did you discover any awesome new music? What was your favorite book you read? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

Read more:

Favorites Roundup: Feb-April ’18

The Book Life Tag

Interview with Victoria Lynn – London in the Dark Anniversary Tour!