april, may, june 2016: what I’ve been reading & watching

Me throughout The Scorch Trials.:

So far this year, I’ve watched 109 movies and read 64 books.  The biggest problem I’m facing these days with my movie watching and book reading is that I haven’t found a WIN in the longest time.  You know what I mean?  The kind of book that makes you want to recommend it to everyone you meet, the kind of movie that you obsessively rewatch.  And that hasn’t been happening.  Almost every book and movie I’ve read/watched lately has been either good, okay, or meh.  Or just plain bad.  Definitely not great.  Soooo…does anyone have any recommendations?  While you’re thinking those over, let me share with you some of the stuff I’ve been perusing over the past three months…


Tartarus: Kingdom Wars II by Jack CavanaughWoot!  A Jack Cavanaugh book that I’d never read before, sitting right there on the thrift store bookshelf, just waiting for me to come along and grab it up.  Seriously awesome.  I don’t know what I was expecting from Tartarus since I don’t really like Christian supernatural fiction, but this was an epic read. (Unfortunately, it’s a sequel, so there were several tantalizing hints of what happened in the first book and it both intrigued and frustrated me.)  The main character is half fallen angel, half human and this presents several unique problems, challenges, and questions along the way.  All in all, a spellbinding, faith-filled read that I already feel like revisiting.


Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica HesseThis was a book that I picked up on a whim at the library (because of the WWII connection) and it was an excellent read, all told, though it didn’t quite grip me the way other books in its genre (Code Name Verity, The Book Thief) have.  The plot took several twists, ones that I didn’t see coming, and I think I’d have to re-read the book to truly understand everything that happened and all the reasoning behind it.  Any book about WWII and/or the Holocaust will probably have me at least tearing up in a few places and Girl in the Blue Coat was no exception.  It’s a good, solid read.

Dearest Ones by Rosemary Norwalk One of the few nonfiction books I’ve read this year, Dearest Ones is an entertaining memoir of an American nurse’s adventures and adversities during WWII.  It was a bit hard to get into, simply because I dislike reading books that are epistolary in nature, but Rosemary is a good writer and her letters were never boring.  And the things she did!  It’s been a couple months since I last read the book, so a good many things are getting fuzzy, but I do remember that she got to meet the British royal family (Princess Elizabeth, she said, was very pretty but her dress was awful).  Which was so, so amazing to read about.  Dearest Ones almost reads like a novel with its coherent story line, brave heroine, cheerful best friend, handsome hero, and plenty of anecdotes sprinkled throughout.  Anyone who likes reading memoirs, books about WWII, or books about nurses will certainly love Dearest Ones.



Witness (1985) Harrison Ford is awesome.  I liked him in The Fugitive, Age of Adaline, and Ender’s Games.  I loved him in the Indiana Jones series.  And he was great in Witness.  When my dad first told me the basic premise of the film, I knew I had to watch it as soon as possible.  Because Harrison Ford, of course, but also because of the Amish element…I used to devour Amish fiction when I was a young teen *blushes* and I guess my interest has never completely worn off.  It was a good movie, overall.  Nerve-wracking at times, heart-warming at others.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Mission: Impossible (1996) – When my siblings and I were little, we’d watch the old Mission: Impossible TV show all the time, sometimes every day.  We only owned the fourth season, but we must have memorized each episode, the way we watched them all over and over again.  I loved all the characters, the music, the intricate (albeit sometimes ridiculous) plots, and to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from the movie.  Boy, was I wrong.  I think I had a grin on my face through most of it because it was so crazy and nostalgic and my liking for Tom Cruise is firmly established now.  It was such a fun ride.

Citizen Kane (1941) – So, I finally got around to watching this.  For some reason, I thought it was four hours long, or something, so when I discovered it was only two hours in length, I decided to give it a go.  My verdict?  It was a good movie, but I really don’t see why everyone makes such a fuss over it. (Am I just being an illiterate millennial?)  There are tons of movies – most of them classics in their own right – that I like much better than Citizen Kane and, well, I just don’t get why it’s a big deal.  I know lots and lots of scholars have given their opinion of this film and I probably won’t have anything to add, so I’ll just share with you my initial thoughts after I watched it (uninfluenced by anyone else’s analysis or opinion): I think the story of Citizen Kane is a tragedy.  As the Bible so aptly puts it, For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Mark 8:36)  Kane may have gained much in material possessions, but he lost his family, his friends and, ultimately, his life.  And Rosebud represents everything that he lost.

Ernest Borgnine, Janet Leigh, Tony Curtis, and Kirk Douglas. The Vikings (1958).  1 200×956 пикс:

Definitely not a scene from the movie, but I love this promo picture.

The Vikings (1958) – I’ve seen this before, at least a dozen times, but I felt like talking about.  Because, GUYS, it’s so good.  Cheesy in places and lots of bloody battles and all that, but it really is good.  I watched The Vikings all the time as a kid and it’s stuck with me through the years.  It has everything: a love triangle (Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, and Janet Leigh), brothers at odds with each other (while not knowing they’re brothers), a sweet romance, glorious cinematography, spectacular music, everything.  Now, granted, you may not enjoy this movie much if swashbucklers and action films aren’t your thing, but if they are, give The Vikings a try.  It’s tons of fun.

A lot of animated movies (most of them really good, but not fantastic like Big Hero 6 or Tangled or HTTYD) – Sleeping Beauty (1959), The Peanuts Movie (2015), Cars (2006), Rise of the Guardians (2012), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), The Good Dinosaur (2015), Hercules (1997), Lady and the Tramp (1955), and The Croods (2013).  If you want to discuss any of these with me in the comments (to get more of my opinion/thoughts on them or whatever) that would be great, but it would take too much time to talk about them all right now.

Well, that’s about it.  If you want to check out my IMDB movie list and my Goodreads list, feel free to do so and see a full run-down of all the movies I’ve seen/books I’ve read…not just the ones I talked about in this post.  The comments are always open if you want to ask me something or share some of your favorites.  I hope you do!




top five favorite books & movies: my family’s picks

After recently posting my top ten lists of favorite books and movies, I asked my family members to list their top five favorite books and movies (it was originally going to be ten, but that proved to be too much to come up with on the spur of the moment).  I didn’t get answers from the three youngest children – Micah (8), Ethan (5), and Jonah (3) – because they’re too young, but everyone else (including Dad and Mom!) contributed.  These are their answers.

// Dad //


  • The Vanishing Word by Arthur W. Hunt
  • Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  • Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
  • Satan’s Masterpiece: The New ASV by Peter Ruckman
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville


  • Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
  • The Bourne Legacy (2012)
  • Shining Through (1992)
  • The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (1965)
  • The Man Who Never Was (1956)

// Mom //


  • The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer
  • Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls-Wilder
  • The Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  • Persuasion by Jane Austen
  • The Great Impersonation by E. Phillips Oppenheim


  • Penny Serenade (1941)
  • Up (2009)
  • The Fugitive (1993)
  • Call Northside 777 (1948)
  • Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

// Noah (16) //


  • The Assault by Brian Faulkner
  • Gregor and the Code of Claw by Suzanne Collins
  • The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card


  • Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
  • How To Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
  • Saving Private Ryan (1998)
  • Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

// Ezra (14) //


  • Rule of Three: Fight For Power by Eric Walters
  • The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Proud Ages by George E. Tait
  • Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins
  • Small Arms Visual Encyclopedia


  • Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
  • How To Train Your Dragon (2010)
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
  • Meet the Robinsons (2007)
  • Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

// Elisabeth (12) //


  • The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
  • Violins of Autumn by Amy McAuley
  • Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy
  • The Victors by Jack Cavanaugh


  • Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
  • To Catch a Thief (1955)
  • Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
  • White Christmas (1954)
  • Meet the Robinsons (2007)

// Rebekah (10) //


  • Benjamin West And His Cat Grimalkin by Marguerite Henry
  • Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
  • The Tanglewood’s Secret by Patricia St. John
  • Henry and Ribsy by Beverly Cleary
  • Smuggler Ben by Enid Blyton


  • Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
  • Roman Holiday (1953)
  • White Christmas (1954)
  • Tangled (2010)
  • Cinderella (2015)

Let them know what you think of their lists in the comments!


my top ten favorite movies of all time


Writing this post was a lot harder than I expected it would be, simply because it was difficult to find ten movies that all spoke to me on the same level – passionate adoration or something similar to that, at least.  There are movies I hate, movies I dislike, movies I like, movies I love, and then movies that I could watch every day.  Those are the movies that make me grin just because, movies I literally hug, movies that instantly take me to my happy place, even if they aren’t particularly happy themselves.  And the problem is, I couldn’t really find ten that fit that category.  So I had to put in a couple ones that I just really, really like (which is fine – it really is) so a couple of films on this list could be switched out for others, depending on my mood.  But, for the most part, these are my top ten favorite movies of all time.

// The Magnificent Seven (1960) //


I recently re-watched Mag7 (for about the seventh or eighth time) and yes, it’s been confirmed as my favorite movie EVER. (Sometimes I think it a bit odd that my #1 movie is a western, because I used to dislike the genre, but that’s how it is.)  I’m sure you’re tired of hearing me rave about how much I love this movie, but please allow me a little more time to do so.  Because I LOVE THIS MOVIE SO INCREDIBLY MUCH.  There isn’t a single thing I’d change about it (not even Chico) because every element – cast, music, screenplay, characters, setting, dialogue, plot – works together in harmony to make what I consider a perfect film.  Words fail me right now, actually, (my fingers have been hovering over the keyboard for several minutes now) because the depth and breadth of my admiration and adoration for The Magnificent Seven is so great. (I’m not going to say ‘magnificent’ – the humor in that play on words died out a long time ago.)  All I can say is, even if you don’t like westerns, I encourage you to give this movie a shot because it truly transcends the genre.

// Casablanca (1942) //


Another perfect cast, another perfect movie.  Casablanca almost made it to the position of ‘my favorite movie of all time’ and there’s a reason why it’s called one of the greatest films ever made: it’s that good.  Casablanca is the movie that convinced me that not all old black & white movies are boring and Not Very Good In General, so I have that to thank it for.  There are plenty of historical inaccuracies sprinkled throughout (including the whole premise), but you know what?  I couldn’t care less.  Not when one of the most heartbreaking romances ever put to screen is playing out in front of me.  Not when Humphrey Bogart and Claude Rains verbally spar with some of the most sparkling and witty movie dialogue in the history of Hollywood.  Not when ‘As Time Goes By’ swells and goosebumps run up and down my arms.  There’s a timeless magic surrounding Casablanca that will never be taken away, and I never fail to get caught up in it whenever I watch the film.

// Stalag 17 (1953) //


This is going to sound weird, but Stalag 17 is one of the movies that I associate with my childhood.  Yes, that’s right.  While other kids grew up with Disney & Co., Dad had my siblings and I entranced with war movies like Stalag 17, serious (and rather dark) classics like Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and gory action films like The Vikings.  No chick-flicks or talking animals, but I didn’t mind.  In fact, I’m glad that my parents introduced me to ‘grown up movies’ early in life, because I believe that it’s shaped my taste in both movies and books to this day.  Anyway…  I really, really, really enjoy this film.  It’s funny, it’s dramatic, it’s tragic (in parts), it’s a spell-binding story even when you know how everything will turn out, and the cast is perfect (I know I say that for all my favorite movies, but it IS).  Stalag 17 is one of those films that I have a special bond with, one that’s unexplainable (though it probably has something to do with my watching it when I was six or seven – NOSTALGIA WINS), and, yeah, it’s great. (Plus, it’s just as much a Christmas movie as, say, Die Hard – perhaps even more so.)

// Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) //


SQUEEP.  The Indiana Jones film franchise is one of my favoritest things ever (I’ll even suffer through Temple of Doom because, hello, Harrison Ford) which is actually kind of odd because I’m really not the action-movie type (and throw in some weird stuff, like people’s faces melting or exploding, and I’m so not into that).  And to tell the truth, some of the big chase scenes in the films bore me a little, but it’s HARRISON FORD and John Williams’ thrilling score and the movies are just plain fun.  What’s not love?  The fact that Last Crusade is my favorite of the four films isn’t surprising because there’s a depth to it that the other three films lack (though there’s just something about Raiders that has me coming back to it over and over again).  Harrison Ford and Sean Connery perfectly capture the relationship between Indy and his dad which is, of course, at the very heart of the film.  I love watching the two of them together and I believe that that’s the biggest reason for my love of The Last Crusade.

// Singin’ in the Rain (1952) //


Such a fun movie!  I remember the day my mom borrowed this from the library (I think I was about ten) – my siblings and I watched it and loved it, and then a few hours later we watched it again.  And I was hooked.  We all ended up singing the songs and repeating the dialogue so much that Mom banned us from watching the film again for years and years. (In fact, I think it was about five years before I saw it again.)  Now we own it and I still have a love affair with both the movie itself and my memories of it. (Singin’ in the Rain sparked my crush on Gene Kelly, by the way – I think he was my first crush ever.)  There’s just so much to love about this movie – songs, characters, dialogue – but one thing that has always stood out to me in a big way is the costumes…and I’m not even a fashionista like my sister.  All the outfits, particularly Lina’s, are spectacular.  I’ve always loved the styles of the 20s, and I’m sure Singin’ in the Rain had a lot to do with that.  So, girls, watch it for the costumes if nothing else.

// Laura (1944) //


Laura is such a swoonable movie.  Dreamy, mysterious, entrancing…  There are some great characters, amazing plot twists, and an ending that still has me on the edge of my seat to this day.  I picked Laura up because of Dana Andrews (I was watching all of his films when I first saw this one) and Mark McPherson is my favorite role of his, so it’s a no-brainer that I’d enjoy watching this movie.  But Dana Andrews aside, the rest of the cast is wonderful (I’ve read the book, too, so I can judge that better) and there’s an alluring, haunting air to this film noir (though it definitely isn’t as noir-ish as some) that makes it a fascinating movie to watch and re-watch.  Plus, there’s so many good quotes.

// Notorious (1946) //


While Notorious is undeniably my favorite Hitchcock, I have yet to decipher just why that is so.  I like it.  I really, really like it.  But I wouldn’t say it’s any better, in an definable way at least, than some of my other favorite Hitchcock films like Strangers on a Train, The Lady Vanishes, or Dial M For Murder.  And, as you probably know by now, I don’t even like Cary Grant.  But there’s just something about Notorious that puts it above all other movies that Hitchcock made in his career (though I haven’t watched all of his work, so that could change).  Ingrid Bergman is one of my favorite actresses – there’s a luminescent quality to her, particularly in this film, that I find intriguing.  So that could be it.  Or the fact that I actually kind of really like Cary Grant in this movie (though goodness knows why, as he plays a jerk for most of it).  Or maybe it’s the richness of the mystery, the romance, and the relationships that all the characters are involved in.  Of course, there are several Hitchcock movies that could fit that description, but…Notorious is special.

// State Fair (1945) //


I recently wrote a post detailing all the reasons for my love of this movie, so go check it out!

// Saving Mr. Banks (2013) //


*bawls*  This movie does something to me.  I don’t understand it, I can’t explain it, but it’s reached into my heart and settled there and it makes me cry – actual tears, not just a lump in my throat – every. single. time.  I tear up just thinking about it because, yes, there are several lighthearted moments, but all the flashbacks are achingly sad and the ending…goodness.  I’m going to start crying again.  Basically, it’s a brilliant film.  The cast is perfectly perfect and WHY they didn’t all get Oscars is beyond me. (Particularly Emma Thompson and Colin Farrell.)  I love the Sherman brothers, the songs, all the little references to Mary Poppins, the fact the Pamela Travers is a writer (so I can kind of relate to her) and so many other things.  So, even though it gives me all the feels (and most of them are of the tragic kind, not the happy kind – and I still haven’t figured out if the ending is supposed to be sad, happy, or just plain bittersweet) I still adore this movie.  Very much.

// Meet the Robinsons (2007) //


Choosing between Disney’s Robin Hood and Meet the Robinsons for the one animated film to put on this list was tough, but I do love time travel stories and this movie touches me in a special way with all the great themes and characters so this eventually won out (though Robin Hood had the #nostalgialove factor going for it).  I watched MtR just a couple days ago with some good friends and I was reminded once again of how perfect this movie is.  It’s just…I really, literally cannot put into words how special MtR is for me – it just IS.  I might attempt to write a review one day, but suffice to say that the plot twists (similar, in a way, to the ones in Back to the Future, especially when Marty meets his parents as their younger selves) are unexpected and tons of fun, the music/songs really work well with the story, and Bowler Hat Guy is one of my favorite movie villains everrrr.  Plus, that ending is one of the best movie endings of all time, in my opinion.  “Keep Moving Forward.”  YES.

Spot any favorites on this list?  What are your top ten favorite movies?  Let me know in the comments!


more random life stuff

Aren’t they ADORBS?

Hello, my lovelies!

Life is crazy busy right now, what with the missionary house guests my family is entertaining for the next few days, but I thought I’d take some time out (being an introvert, time outs are especially important) to update you with some stuff that’s going on in my life.  Life update posts are always tons of fun for me (I even feel in the mood for a vlog…we’ll see) so grab some lemonade and settle in!

Well, for starters, the family who’s staying with us is great.  It’s their third time being our house guests and even though they can’t stay for very long this time, we’re all thankful for the time we can spend together.  We watched Meet the Robinsons last night – one of my favorite movies – (and stayed up ’til 11:30!) so that was seriously awesome, and we’re just generally having a good time.  The only downside is that my sisters and I have been temporarily evicted from our bedroom (as it’s ideal for people coming to stay with us) so I didn’t get much rest last night, since I don’t do well with new sleeping arrangements.  Sooooo, around 3:30 in the morning, Elisabeth and I both woke up and she played games on her iPod (it’s a very versatile device) while I watched some more Emma Approved.

Emma Approved:

Because, YES, I’m re-watching the series and it’s amazing. (In fact, I’m starting to pick up Emma’s quirks a little, so if this post seems overly enthusiastic, that’s the reason.)  All the cast is Perfect, which I love…the last episode I watched was the post-Boxx party one. *feeeels*  I can’t wait to see Emma and Alex (and Harriet and Martin) get their happy ending.  “Everyone gets a better liiiiife!”

I’ve got a couple of blog posts in drafts right now and I’m working the most on ‘my top ten favorite movies of all time’ so that should be out in the next week or two.  Can’t wait for you all to read it + share your thoughts.  On the other side of the writing spectrum, I’ve been buckling down and revising The Bounty Hunter.  It’s far (far, far, far) from perfect, but I do love the story lots, so I’m persevering. *fist-pump*


On the movie/TV show-watching front, I’ve been immersing myself in lots of Hogan’s Heroes (I never thought I’d like it as much as I do) and pining for old favorites (basically any old Hollywood movie I’ve gushed about in the past year) which I can’t really watch right now – because of our house guests – but I’m dying too.  I’m also anxious to see Captain America: Civil War, Love & Friendship, The Little Prince, and some other movies that have come out recently…curse you, dvd-release-dates-that-are-sixteen-months-away! (They’re not really that long.  But it feels like it.)

Anyway, that’s about it for news (oh, and I can ride my bike perfectly now).  What’s going on in your life?  I can’t wait to hear about it. 🙂