january, february, march 2016: what I’ve been reading & watching

So, I’ve come up with this idea of doing tri-monthly updates on what I’ve been reading and watching because it’ll simplify whatever end-of-the-year posts I end up doing about the subject.  I’ve taken to recording every movie I watch this year (and every year after, hopefully) on IMDB, as well as going into my third year of having a ‘books read this year’ shelf on Goodreads.  So far this year I’ve read thirty-one books and watched fifty-nine movies.  I think the great disparity between the two numbers is because I was so sick for so long that I didn’t read a lot, but I could watch movies (and did, on a regular basis).  Still, thirty-one books is nothing to be ashamed of, in my opinion.  I think I’ll focus the most on books and movies that I’d not read or watched before 2016, as that will be more interesting, but I may throw in some comments on old favorites.

Beginning with the books…

Casablanca: Behind the Scenes by Harlan Lebo and Round Up the Usual Suspects by Aljean Harmetz – I’m putting these two together because they’re both about the same subject.  Extremely interesting, though I found C:BTS to be more readable than RUTUS.  Casablanca is my favorite movie of all time (well, I still find it difficult to chose between it and The Magnificent Seven) and all the behind-the-scenes information was fascinating.

A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass – I greatly enjoyed Mass’ The Candymakers, so I was eager to read more of her books and AM-SS did not disappoint.  It’s about a girl with a rare disorder called synesthesia that allows her to see the colors of letters, sounds, and numbers.  It’s an intriguing premise, right?  It’s a well-written and deeply moving book (a few tears were shed over the fate of a certain character, though I saw it coming).  Wendy Mass is such a great author.

Shane BY Jack Schaefer:

Shane by Jack Schaefer – THIS BOOK IS AMAZING.  Definitely my favorite new-to-me book that I’ve read this year.  I want to write a full review sometime soon, but I love this book so much that I’m finding it hard to get my thoughts together.  Trust me, though – you won’t regret reading it.  I read it all in one sitting on a gloriously sunshiny afternoon and I definitely recommend the ‘one sitting’ treatment if you can find the time. (Shane isn’t a big book, anyway.)

The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall – When I first read the synopsis for this book, I wasn’t too excited because Batty was my least favorite of the Penderwick sisters (she was so little in the other books that I couldn’t really relate to her and I found the other girls’ stories more interesting).  But now, Penderwicks in Spring is my favorite in the series and I can’t wait for the fifth (and final) book.  I laughed over this book, because Birdsall writes charmingly and with humor, but I didn’t expect to cry so much – and not all those tears were happy ones.  It’s a tender, thoughtful story about growing up and facing life.  I loved it.

And now for the movies…

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) – This is such a good western, definitely in my top ten.  It’s been a couple months since I saw it last, so I don’t remember enough about it to write a bunch of deep thoughts, but it was GOOD.  The first John Wayne movie I’ve seen (except for The Longest Day, which isn’t really a John Wayne movie) and though I have yet to fully warm up to him, he did turn in a great performance.  Ditto for James Stewart and Vera Miles and Lee Marvin, who played a delicious villain.

Back to the Future (1985) Love this one.  It’s smart and funny and all the cast are great.  Plus, I enjoy stories about time travel.

Schindler’s List (1993) Where do I begin?  I’ve already spilled a bunch of my thoughts on this movie into a blog post, but there’s always so much more to say.  Even over two months later, I still find myself thinking of the story and the characters and the music at random intervals (like when I was reading Lynn Austin’s While We’re Far Apart and one of the characters referenced the quote “He who saves one life, saves the world entire”).  I doubt I’ll ever watch it again, simply because it was so gripping and disturbing, but I’m glad I got the chance to see it once.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) – This is one of my dad’s favorite movies, so I’ve seen it before, but I was so young that I only remembered bits and pieces.  Time for a re-watch, and the re-watch didn’t disappoint.  All those iconic lines and scenes came back to me and even though I knew how it was all going to end, I still found myself gripped by Dobbs’ spiral into insanity.  Humphrey Bogart is an great actor and I remember watching TTOTSM long ago and not believing Mom when she told me that Bogart usually played the good guy in his other films. (Just how I didn’t believe it when I was watching Yankee Doodle Dandy and my grandfather told me that James Cagney often played gangsters.)

The Martian (2015) Matt Damon!  Sebastian Stan!  Need I say more?  Well, I don’t, but I will.  An excellent film with a great cast, solid acting, and a gripping storyline.  Also, from what I’ve seen of The Revenant, Matt Damon deserved that Oscar.  Just saying.

Bridge of Spies (2015) The third Tom Hanks movie I’ve seen and definitely my favorite role of his, to date.  A good, solid film.

Megamind (2010) This animated movie has soooo taken a place on my top ten list, though I’m not sure which one in the top ten I’ll be willing to bump off to make room for it (top fifteen, here we come).  I love a good villain and since the protagonist of Megamind is a great villain who revels in his evilness in hilarious ways (though I still like his change for the better) chances were good that I’d really enjoy this movie.  And I did.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) – Yes, it’s old sci-fi, but Bernard Hermann’s haunting score, great performances by all the cast members, and the film’s sobering message make this movie more than just a campy flick about a man and his robot.

Brooklyn (2015) – GAH.  This movie was all sorts of gorgeous and heartbreaking and adorableness and it was even better than I expected (and I expected a lot).  Ireland and its people have always been close to my heart, so it was a given that I’d find Brooklyn interesting, but it really reached down deep and tugged at my heartstrings.  Saoirse Ronan is an amazing actress and the ending of the movie has to be one of the sweetest, most hopeful I’ve ever seen.  I loved every minute of the film, but especially the last few.

Minority Report (2002) – And THIS movie.  I’m not into sci-fi, but frankly, it blew me away.  Even to the point where I’m now a Tom Cruise fan. (Never thought I’d say that because I tend to rebel against liking books, movies, or actors that everyone else is obsessed with.)  It’s definitely a sci-fi/action movie first and foremost, but there was enough characterization and emotional depth to put this movie on the list of favorites (before long, I’ll have to do a ‘one hundred favorite movies’ list).  It’s chilling and thought-provoking and Steven Spielberg directed it, so it’s very well-made.  (Obviously.)  I want to review the film but I’ll have to see it again because my mind still can’t wrap itself around some of the plot twists.  Overall, it was a super movie.

Well, there it is.  I actually left out some new movies I’ve seen (like Shane and Mockingjay Part 2 and Finding Nemo) because I didn’t want this post to be outrageously long.  Even though it kind of already is.  Anyway, I’m signing off now.  Have you seen any of these movies or read any of these books?  Let me know in the comments!


P.S.  Happy April Fool’s Day. 🙂  I wasn’t clever enough to come up with any kind of prank to pull today, but I applaud those who are.


17 thoughts on “january, february, march 2016: what I’ve been reading & watching

  1. “Shane” is my absolute favorite western book. Like you I read it all in one day, I was riveted to the amazing story! I think it is the very best western book ever written, no other even come close in my opinion! 🙂 I think I’ve read it close to ten times now and I love it better with each reading, I like the movie as well, but the book FAR surpasses it.

    The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is a good movie~keep watching John Wayne’s westerns!

    Casablanca is one of my all time favorite films, I’m going to check out those books, they sound like great fun…


  2. Wow! I wish I had read 31 books this year. I did much better on reading last year, but this year I launched my Etsy shop and haven’t had time to read as much. I won’t even tell you how many books I’ve read. 😛 I do have a reading list made up of some books I want to read this year though. Hopefully I can get more reading in soon!

    Movies are a little different though. 😛 I recently recovered from the flu and I did a lot of watching then! Mostly old TV shows. My Mom got us The Rat Patrol last Christmas, and my sisters and I have been thoroughly enjoying that. Only problem is, my Dad really likes it too, so we have to wait for the whole family to be in one place so we can watch it. 😀

    I just recently discovered your blog via Pinterest, and I’m always excited to find someone else who loves retro TV and movies as much as I do! 🙂

    But to answer your real question (sorry!) no, I actually haven’t seen or read any of the above mentioned books or movies, but I’ve heard of almost all of them. 🙂


    • Ooooh, Rat Patrol! I adore that show. 🙂 It’s cheesy, but in a good way, and I love all the characters. Even Dietrich.

      Always happy to have new readers – I’m glad you’re enjoying my blog. 🙂


  3. How do you keep track of all the movies you’ve seen on IMDb? I’ve been wanting to do that, but haven’t thought of anything besides a Goodreads for movies. : P


  4. I haven’t seen/read any of these! I’m trying to decide if I want to watch Brooklyn–what do you think? Should I? 🙂


    • Definitely! It’s not suspenseful at all (I know you don’t like those kind of movies). Very gentle, sweet, and heartwarming (though not without its sad parts). I’m sure you’d enjoy it. 🙂


      • No, you’re right, I don’t really like suspenseful stuff 🙂 Thank you! Maybe I’ll give it a try this summer!


  5. Being a Tom Cruise fan is no longer very cool, so you’re okay. Minority Report is brilliant!

    I loved The Martian too. Wow, such a thrilling, funny movie. Have you seen Apollo 13? This reminded me a lot of that.

    I keep a record of every book I read and movie I watch in my daily journals. Paging back through that at the end of the year can be a chore, though. Online is smart!


    • Speaking of Tom Cruise, I’m watching Mission Impossible right now and LOVING it. When I was ten or eleven, my family owned Season 4 of the original TV show and my siblings and I watched it until the DVDs literally wouldn’t play anymore. So the movie is nostalgic (I love how the soundtrack re-uses more of the original music than just the main theme) and fresh at the same time.

      No, I haven’t seen Apollo 13.


  6. You’ve only seen two John Wayne movies?! You must watch some more if you want to be an honest-to-goodness Western fan. 🙂 Say Stagecoach or Hondo or my all-time favorite, Rio Grande.

    (By the way, remember we were once discussing where the episode titles of Combat! came from? I stumbled across the source of one by chance yesterday: “What are the bugles blowin’ for?” is from the first line of a poem by Rudyard Kipling.)


    • There are tons of John Wayne westerns that Hamlette has heartily recommended to me (and I think all the ones you mentioned are on her list). Thankfully, my library has a great collection of old movies, so I should be able to pick up quite a few of them.

      (Cool! I think I may have read that somewhere before.)


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