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)

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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)

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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

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Book and Movie of the Year 2016

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It’s already time for another book and movie of the year post! I had so much fun doing this last year and so I’m excited to do it again.

The choice, especially for books, was slightly agonizing, but I’m happy with the titles I’ve picked. In the end I just had to go with a gut feeling about which books most deserved this title.

Disclaimer: I am not getting paid to promote C.S. Lewis. Futhermore, this blog is not sponsored by C.S. Lewis, who happens to be no longer living anyway so how he would sponsor my blog, I don’t know. 

All jokes aside, I was a little concerned about choosing another C.S. Lewis book for my Book of the Year (last year’s was That Hideous Strength), but what can I say? C.S. Lewis is truly one of the greatest authors ever, and out of all the books I read this year, this one was the best. I do not take this choice lightly, and I didn’t want to choose a lesser book simply so that I wouldn’t have the same author two years in a row.

(It’s my award. I make the rules. And I say that the book can be by the same author two years in a row.)

So with that out of the way, I present to you…the 2016 Book and Movie of the Year! 

Book of the Year: The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis

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Runner-up: The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart 

The Last Battle is the final book of the Narnia series, the culmination of every plot in the other books. I had definitely read it before, but I was so young I didn’t remember, and this year was the first time that I sat down and read the whole Narnia series, from start to finish within a few weeks, on my own. The Last Battle blew me away.

The endings of the other books are all so bittersweet, with the children returning to the real world, unsure if they will return. But not this one. This one displayed the great climax of human history and the great resolution of final peace and joy. The ending is made even sweeter because of the previous books, all of the characters reunited in eternal happiness. This book somehow captures what the feeling may be like when Christ returns, and it is a picture of heaven that I will never forget.

The runner-up is a whole series, because taking one book out of the series robs it of its magic. The four books together make The Mysterious Benedict Society series what it is: a wonderful story of friendship and good defeating evil. While a children’s book, it has such important messages for all ages, and is a story that everyone can enjoy. It is a happy story that is deep and meaningful at the same time, a rare find in this age of dark and depressing or light and fluffy books.

Movie of the Year: Big Fish (2003)

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Runner-up: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005) 

I don’t think Big Fish is a movie that can really be explained. I can’t explain what it’s about, or why it had such a huge emotional effect on me, but I’ll try anyway.

The movie is the story of a father and son, shown in the present and in flashbacks through the father’s life. All during the son’s childhood, the father told wild stories about his own life, passing them off as truth. As an adult, the son greatly distrusts his father and resents those stories.

The movie explores their relationship, especially when the father becomes very sick. It explores the power of stories and the lasting effect they have on our lives. The ending had me crying my eyes out, and the whole movie is fun, humorous, entertaining, deep, beautiful, and sad all at the same time.

And yes, more Narnia as the runner-up. This year I watched a Narnia movie for the first time, and was really pleased with how well it was adapted! The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is visually gorgeous, well-cast, and stays very true to the book. I’m hesitant to watch the rest of the movies from things I’ve heard, but this one at least did a very good job and left me happy and satisfied.

 

What do you think? Do you like my choices? What are some of the best things you read and watched in 2016? Tell me in the comments! 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Childhood Christmas Favorites

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If there is one holiday that has tons of nostalgia surrounding it, it’s Christmas. Everyone has childhood traditions that have been part of their holiday season as long as they can remember, that provide continuity from year to year in the midst of growing up and going through changes in life. Christmas is a time to return to childhood, no matter how old we are.

This week, I want to continue the ‘Christmas favorites’ theme, taking a foray into the past and sharing three little pieces of Christmas that have been staples of my holiday season as long as I can remember. These are things that were huge parts of my childhood, that I still enjoy around Christmastime, and that I consider timeless, classic, and enjoyable for all ages.

 

Carpenters Christmas Portrait

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My family has listened to this album over and over on repeat every Christmas as long as I have been alive…first on tape, then CD :). It is such a classic! Not to mention it has so much nostalgia mixed in for me that it is always one of the first Christmas albums that I want to listen to at the beginning of the season. When I hear it the first time, I know Christmas has really arrived.

If you haven’t ever heard this album, you must listen to it! Classic Christmas at its finest.

 

Noelle of the Nutcracker by Pamela Jane

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I got this book one year as a child and loved it immediately, and have read it every year since and read it aloud to both of my younger sisters. I don’t know what it is about it that makes me love it so much, but I do, and it’s as much a tradition for me as anything else that my family does.

If you’re a teen or adult, you can probably read it in one sitting, which is all the more reason you should pick it up; it would also make a great gift for any younger siblings or cousins, etc. who are bookworms (or dancers!). Probably my favorite holiday book of all time!

 

The Nutcracker (American Ballet Theatre and Mikhail Baryshnikov)

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Okay…if I’m being honest, when I was a child I watched this year-round, not just at Christmas. But I’m including it here because it was such a part of my childhood and is technically Christmas-related.

It was probably the first ballet I ever saw, and could probably be credited with making me want to dance, which makes it even more special. Plus, Baryshnikov and Kirkland are such an incredible pair! There are other versions of the Nutcracker that I like just as well now, but none of them have the nostalgia of this one.

 

These three things all hold very special meaning for me, and they would also all be wonderful even without the nostalgia! I highly recommend them to all ages; they would be good for kids, teens, or adults to enjoy, or for families to enjoy together.

What are some of your most nostalgic Christmas favorites? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

Coming soon: Advent reflections from The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp (posts during the week next week since I’m on break from school!)

7 Childhood Books I Still Love

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We all have those books from our childhood.

You know the ones I’m talking about; the ones we’ve read thirty times, the ones that sit battered and worn on our bookshelves, the ones that we still pick up and read when we get the chance, the ones that will be the first books we share with our children.

Today I wanted to share a few childhood books for me; these are not only ones that I loved as a child, but ones that I still love, reread, and would recommend to anyone, young and old. Yes, many of these will take older readers one sitting to read, maybe two, but that doesn’t make them any less deserving.

Here are 7 childhood books that I still love and think that everyone should read. If you have siblings, relatives, or friends who are younger and need something clean and good to read, try these; if you’re looking for something light and enjoyable yourself, try these!

The Penderwicks and sequels by Jeanne Birdsall

This series is not only a childhood favorite, but four of my favorite books of all time. The fourth book actually just came out, and the fifth (and last…*sniff*) one is coming soon, but I discovered the first one basically by accident a long time ago. The series details the everyday (and sometimes not-so-everyday) adventures of four sisters, but that little blurb doesn’t do them justice by a long haul!  They are so, so, so good. Go read them now.

Elsie Dinsmore and sequels by Martha Finley

I haven’t read this whole series, but I’ve read like the first twelve or fourteen so many times. These books have been a big part of my life since I was very young and Elsie is my ultimate role model.

Ballet Shoes and sequels by Noel Streatfeild 

Even if you’re not a dancer and no longer a kid, I still recommend these! It’s a fascinating look into how ballet and theater used to be taught…I wish it was still this way and I could get a performing license at  age twelve…But anyway, these books are great and I’ve read them more times than I can count.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

I like everything by Gail Carson Levine, but this was the first book of hers that I read and I’ve read it many times since. It’s the story of a girl cursed at birth with obedience; she has to do what others tell her to no matter what. A fascinating Cinderella retelling, one of the first fairy tale retellings I ever read, and a great read!

Betsy-Tacy and sequels by Maud Hart Lovelace 

The first four books in this series were a big part of my childhood. (Once they get into high school it isn’t as enjoyable for young children; I love the rest of the books now, of course.) Such a cute, timeless friendship story!

The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright 

Probably one of the most re-read books on this entire list (I know I’ve said that about all of them, but I mean it), this book details the attempts of the Melendy children to save up their money and have some Saturday adventures. I know I read the others in the series at some point, but this is the one I’ve always loved the most!

The School Story by Andrew Clements

Andrew Clements is just a good writer overall, but this book has a special place in my heart because of the subject matter. It’s about a girl who decides to masquerade as an adult in order to get a book published; it’s a “realistic” story about real kids but completely far-fetched when it comes to the likelihood of this happening in real life. So fun!

 

So there you go! Seven of my favorite childhood books. Have you read any of these? What books played a big part in your childhood? Tell me in the comments below!

love, grace