11.28.2014

This Girl Likes #5

You had better believe that Christmas is in full gear over here now that Thanksgiving has passed.  It is officially a reasonable time to start listening to Christmas music and do some shopping for ugly Christmas sweaters.  I don't think I could have said Christmas more in those last three sentences if I tried.  Anyway, I'm excited to share some of the things I've been enjoying lately.

  • I came across this blog a couple weeks ago, and found this great post.  Such amazing truth and an awesome writer.  I love this quote.
  • In the last few months, I've gotten on the podcast boat, and now whenever I have some time where I'm doing something mindless, like cleaning, I'll listen to them.  Some of my favorites are Back to Work by 5by5, the Relevant Podcast, and as of this week, the internet sensation that is Serial, an ongoing true story about a murder case that was never truly backed up by solid evidence.  I had heard about Serial a few times, and just this week decided to try it out.  I'm not totally hooked yet, but I really enjoyed the two episodes I got through, and I have a feeling it's gonna get really addicting.  
  • As a rule, I don't listen to Christmas music, start decorating or burn festive candles until after Thanksgiving, so I am super excited to start listening to Rend Collective's new Christmas album!  Eeeek!  I have a feeling it's gonna be on repeat the whole month of December (and the last three days of this month).
  • I have a couple of favorite photo/word editing apps, but my favorite one for the iPhone has to be WordSwag.  It's such a great app if you like making awesome quotes into awesome images like the one above.  It's a piece of cake to use and the fonts and backgrounds are myriad and very cool.   

And that's it!  I hope you had an awesome Thanksgiving and have a great weekend.  Thanks for reading!  xo, Ella

11.26.2014

Update: The Month of Classics

photo source
Hello and happy Thanksgiving Eve!  As promised, I'm here today to give a little update on what's in store for December.  A few weeks ago when I was having a little brainstorming session for post ideas, I had the idea to do a "classics week" where I only talk about classics for a week.  Then, the more I thought about it, I decided there were way too many classics I have read and love to fit them all in one week.  Thus, I decided to set aside a whole month in which I only talk about classics.  And since December is a special month, what with being the last month of the year and having Christmas in it, I thought it would be the perfect month to do something different with.

Here's a little taste of what it will involve.  I plan to do full reviews of four of my all-time favorite classics as well as a roundup of others I really like, and a roundup of some I don't like so much.  Instead of my usual Friday posts, I'll share favorite quotes from the classics I review each week and maybe throw in some classics-rendered-as-movies that I like and think are close enough to the book to be worthwhile.

I'll talk about some authors I love, probably go on and on about Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia, and basically celebrate all the wonderful old books everyone should read.  I hope you're as excited as I am!  Thanks for reading and have an awesome Thanksgiving!  xo, Ella

11.24.2014

Book Review: The Brothers of Baker Street

Today I'm reviewing the final book for this month, "The Brothers of Baker Street" by Michael Robertson.  I have to laugh because I've read this series almost completely backward.  I started with the third book, then read this one, the second, and read the first one a couple weeks ago.  I have not read the most recent one, "Moriarty Returns a Letter," but I really want to.  Alright, let's get into the review.


Title: The Brothers of Baker Street

Author: Michael Robertson

Publisher/Price: Minotaur Books / $14.06 here

Type: Fiction

Genre: Mystery

Number of pages: 288

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Overview: This book is the second of the Baker Street Series, which chronicles the Heath brothers, Reggie and Nigel as they attempt to answer letters that come to their law attorney office at 221 B Baker Street in London addressed to Sherlock Holmes who had allegedly lived there.  When they receive a letter from someone who claims to be a descendant of James Moriarty, Sherlock's old arch nemesis, the brothers discover that it links to a client Reggie received who had been convicted of two murders – he was a Black Cab driver.  Reggie's sometime girlfriend, Laura Rankin, is spending time with Lord Buxton, a media mogul.  Before the book ends, Reggie gets thrown in jail for murder, gets back with Laura (maybe?), manages to solve the case and everything ties up with a car chase and stormy night at a farmhouse in the country.

My thoughts: I enjoyed this book.  While I can't say I loved it, or would have to reread it, it was definitely a fun read and had enough going on to keep me entertained and interested.  The whole series makes a lot more sense if you start at the beginning, as there are quite a few references to the first book.

My favorite thing about this series is the writing.  It's just really good.  I also enjoy the plot of all of Robertson's books – it's fast paced and complex, which makes you want to read the whole book in one sitting.  I enjoy the characters as well, though I feel at times Reggie is hard to relate to, but is overall fairly likeable.

I really loved that Nigel, Reggie's brother who you don't get to know in the other books plays a more major role in this one.  He's funny: scatterbrained and a little high-strung, which adds a more lighthearted personality to Reggie's usually serious nature.  I am getting pretty tired of Reggie's relationship with Laura Rankin, the heartthrob of his life, but who seems kind of wishy-washy herself.  One book she's all for Reggie, the next, all about her other admirer, Lord Buxton and detached toward Reggie.  That relationship can feel a little old a couple books in, but I generally like Laura's character – she's smart, a bit of a sleuth herself, and moves the story along nicely.

Overall, I enjoyed "The Brothers of Baker Street."  The story was fun and fast-paced, and I liked the characters for the most part.  I probably won't read it again, but would definitely recommend the series if you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes and whodunits.

And that finishes up this month's book reviews!  Thanks for reading and I will be back with an update post about what's going to happen in December.  xo, Ella

11.21.2014

This Girl Pins #4

Hello, and happy Friday!  I am honestly experiencing all the Christmas-y festive holiday feels over here, thinking about gifts, mooning over the snow that surprised us last week, and looking for some time to bake all the amazing recipes I've been seeing everywhere.  I totally had to turn back the amount of Christmas vibes in this collage – I mean, we haven't even had Thanksgiving yet!

1.) I've always been a fan of the Laura Ingalls Wilder series, ever since my mom read the books to me when I was younger.  This quote is really good.
2.) Yes, yes, yes.  This has been going on for a couple months now.  Sweaters + jeans = best thing ever.
3.) I've never really been much of a cold weather hat wearer, but I think I'm going to change that this year.  I love the idea of wearing a beanie with one of those fluffy pom poms on top.
4.) I know that food doesn't really have a place on a blog about books, but I couldn't resist.  These amazing little beauties are candied cinnamon-sugar nuts.  They would be perfect for snacking around the holidays.  And they're paleo and gluten free, which should make us feel better about eating too many, right?
5.) I had to include something about Thanksgiving because that comes before Christmas.  I need this reminder to be thankful.  Sometimes it's so easy to dwell on things I don't like instead of remembering everything I have.  (sorry, no link)
6.) A picture of snowy trees, just because.  Snow's my favorite.
7.) I'm so obsessed with socks right now.  Well, okay, I'm always obsessed with socks, but I just got some Christmas-y ones, and I've basically been living in them.  And I think I need to trade out my typical herbal teas for some spicy, holiday ones.

Hope you enjoyed those!  I don't care to count how many times I said Christmas-y or festive there – it was a lot.  Anyway, I'm super pumped for Christmas and Thanksgiving dinner (hello!) and I will be back next week with my final review and an exciting little update post.  Thanks for reading!  xo, Ella

11.19.2014

Book Review: Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy

Title: Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War

Author: Karen Abbott

Publisher/Price: Harper / $17.70 here

Type: Nonfiction

Genre: American History, Civil War

Number of pages: 528

My rating: 5 1/2 out of 5 stars

Overview: In this book, Karen Abbott explores a side of the Civil War that is mostly unknown, or at least, unnoticed.  She lays out the lives of four women who became spies in the Civil War: two Confederate women and two Northern women.  One a farm girl dressed up as a man to escape a forced marriage, another a socialite who used her charm to seduce men into telling her what she needed, a third an abolitionist who was the head of a huge underground pro-Union movement in Richmond, and finally, a mother and widow who fights for her cause until she gives her life for it.  Abbott tells the extraordinary story of these four women in such a way that the passion of these women cannot help but affect the reader.

My thoughts: Honestly, I'm not real sure where to begin with this one.  I'm not being melodramatic when I say that this is the best book I've read all year – definitely one of my top 10 ever.  Maybe even top 5.  I was blown away.  I read it in a Saturday on my bed all sprawled out, in a completely different world.  A world where normal people, average women, gave up their average, normal lives to make a lasting difference on the outcome of a war, to change the world.

If you were to ask me what I'm inspired by right now, my answer would be bravery.  Brave people doing incredibly hard things.  That started several months ago, with another book "Let's All Be Brave" and it hit me again when I read LTSS.  Here are the true stories of women who gave up everything for a cause they believed in with their whole beings.  They had such a passion and a conviction for their cause, they were willing to give their lives – that level of devotion has never been foreign to me, but somehow, it struck me so powerfully this time.  Emma Edmonds, the farm girl who became Frank Thompson and ran from home to escape a forced marriage felt called by God to enlist in the army and fight for the North.  She could have argued that she was a woman, had no place in an army of men where death was a very realistic danger.  I can't imagine having that level of commitment to a calling to give up every bit of everything I know.

Even when the women didn't have the same beliefs as I did, even when they were fighting for the wrong side, that in no way lessened my incredible respect for them – they believed just as strongly and fought just as fiercely for their cause as the women on the other side.  All four of the women in this book made a significant impact on the course of the war – their actions often shaped battles, courses of action, etc.

I don't have much else to say except that this book was/is incredibly inspiring.  I get so blown away by brave people doing hard things, whether I agree with those things or not.  I have endless respect for those who are willing to give everything for what they believe.  Like Emma Edmonds, I hope that someday I have a calling I am so passionate about, everything is worth it to follow whatever that calling is.

To finish up, I'll quickly comment on the more superficial aspects of LTSS.  It's one of those amazing historical nonfiction books that reads like a novel – except everything's true – which makes it so much better.  Karen Abbott is an amazing writer, the kind of writer whose writing doesn't sound like writing – the best kind in the opinion of Roy Peter Clark – the kind of writing that allows you to focus on the story, the people instead of sorting out what she's trying to say.  She switches flawlessly between the stories of each of the four women, often leaving you hanging at the end of each part.  Never once did I get bored with the book, or even want to put it down.  I thoroughly enjoyed every little bit, and this is making me want to go read it all over again.

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy amazed me in the best way.  I was left feeling like I wanted to do something big, make a difference, change the world.  Each woman's story completely blew me away and I have so much respect for each of them.  They made a huge impact on the Civil War, and at least for this girl, they're still making an impact today.  I would recommend this book to everyone.  Everyone needs to read it.  Period.

I hope you enjoyed that review.  Up next is another round of "This Girl Pins" on Friday.  Thanks for reading!  xo, Ella

11.18.2014

Book Review: The Secret Rooms

So after last week's very Marvel-heavy posts, I'm excited to get back to writing about books.  Today, I'm here to share the first of the three book reviews I have lined up for the next two weeks.  I realize I'm a day late, but that's because I was called into work at the last minute yesterday, and so didn't have the daylight to take a picture of the book when I got home.  I have a good excuse.

Okay, let's get into the review.


Title: The Secret Rooms: A True Story of a Haunted Castle, A Plotting Duchess, and a Family Secret

Author: Catherine Bailey

Publisher/Price: Penguin Books/$13.50 here

Type: Nonfiction

Genre: History

Number of pages: 512

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Format: There are 60 chapters in this book, each only a few pages long.  These are further divided into 8 parts – each covering a different part of the story.  The author switches back and forth between the past and present.

My thoughts: I loved this book.  An endorsement from the back of the book recommends "The Secret Rooms" to fans of Downton Abbey, and I would agree with that.  I think it is a great read for anyone who enjoys history or period dramas.

When I picked up this book, I wasn't sure if I would like it or not.  But I decided to check it out at the last minute, and I couldn't be more glad I did.  It took me a couple chapters to get into it, but once I was in, I was hooked.  My favorite books of all time are nonfiction books about history that read like novels.  "The Secret Rooms" was definitely one of those.  The story is a true mystery that centers around the 9th Duke of Rutland and World War I.  The author is the first person to go into the "secret rooms" or more formally known as the Muniment Rooms of the duke's castle, of which there were five.  They had been locked up by the duke's son and had stayed that way for over 60 years.  It was in these rooms that the elder duke remained for the last two years of his life, working feverishly on a project only a select few knew of.  He died in those rooms, leaving his project unfinished.

The author, Ms. Bailey, originally goes into the Muniment Rooms to study the family archives they housed while researching a totally different book.  However, as she travels deeper and deeper into the family's personal records: letters, diary entries, documents, she makes a puzzling discovery.  There are three gaps in the archives, each spanning a couple years.  The duke had tediously removed all traces of what happened during these three gaps.  The author decides to leave her original mission and throws herself into uncovering the reasons for the duke's painstaking erasion of family documents during three periods of his life.  Her journey to solving the mystery is the book she ends up writing.

Okay, so after that very long plot summary, let me share why I liked this book so much.  Now as you probably know if you've been following this blog for any amount of time, I am a huge history lover, and I'm proud to say that.  While this book doesn't focus on a part of history I am particularly interested in or one I would like to learn more about, what really got me was the fact that there was a mystery involved.  I love mysteries about anything, about any time period, and the fact that this one is true really made me love it.  Also, I love the writing style.  The author is a fantastic storyteller, seamlessly weaving her search for answers with what was taking place back in the early 20th century.  She is able to move back and forth between her actual discoveries in the present and what was taking place in the duke's life.  The novel-ness of the book was really what kept me reading it (which I did very quickly).

There were a few parts where I found myself skipping down the pages a little, parts where the author was writing about what was going on during the duke's life, but that is to be expected in a nonfiction book.  Overall, I think this is a book for someone who loves mysteries, is a fan of period novels/dramas, or is a complete history nerd.  You won't come away from it knowing a ton of information you will ever use again, but it was an intriguing story, and the author's style was enough to make me want to read it over.

I hope you enjoyed that!  Next up is the second review for this month.  xo, Ella

11.15.2014

Quoted: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. & The Winter Soldier

I'm here today to share some of my favorite quotes from the show and movie I shared this week.  There was one quote from Agents of Shield that is my favorite, but I couldn't remember it completely, and I've skipped through several episodes trying to find it, so if I do remember it, I'll share it.  'Cause it's good.  

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Maria Hill: What does S.H.I.E.L.D. stand for, Agent Ward?
Grant Ward: Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division.
Maria: And what does that mean to you?
Ward: It means someone really wanted our initials to spell out "shield." [Hill gives him a look] ...It means we're the line between the world and the much weirder world.  We protect people from news they aren't ready to hear.  And when we can't do that, we keep them safe.

Fitz: Are you mental?  I did explain what I meant using the Queen's bloody English!
Ward: I use normal English.  Words like "duck" and "run" and "might blow us to pieces."
Fitz: Congratulations, Agent Ward, you managed to string three words together in a sentence.

Ward: ...I call, and raise a hundred.
Fitz: Do you know how I'm gonna beat you?
Ward: By losing?
Fitz: You have a tell.  A psychological tick that lets me know you're bluffing.  If I watch you carefully... [Louder, into his earpiece] If I watch you carefully...
Skye: Oh, sorry.  One minute. [Grabs the eye-spy x-ray glasses] You know that if I do this, I'll not only see Ward's cards, I'll see you without any clothes on?
Fitz: ...I fold, you win [Leaves]

Skye: Did you just give me a compliment?
Ward: I - no, I made a comment.
Skye: A kind one.  Did it physically hurt to do that?  Do you need an ice pack? [Ward smiles]
Skye: Wow!  A compliment and a smile.

Coulson: I can't think of a single time when anything alien in human hands ended well.
Skye: Wouldn't mind getting my human hands on Thor.  He's so dreamy...
Coulson: Sure, he's handsome, but –
May: No.  He's dreamy.  [Walks on.  The other two stare after her, somewhat surprised.]



The Winter Soldier


[about to fight a squadron of black ops]
Steve Rogers: Before we get started, does anyone want to get out?

Natasha Romanoff: Hey, fellas. Either one of you know where the Smithsonian is? I'm here to pick up a fossil. 
Steve Rogers: That's hilarious.

Natasha Romanoff: Where did Captain America learn to steal a car? 
Steve Rogers: Nazi Germany. And we're borrowing. Get your feet off the dash.

Natasha Romanoff: Kiss me.
Steve Rogers: What?
Natasha Romanoff: Public displays of affection make people very uncomfortable.
Steve Rogers: Yes, they do.
[Natasha grabs and kisses Rogers, causing a passing Rumlow to look away uncomfortably]
Natasha Romanoff: [uncomfortable herself] You still uncomfortable?
Steve Rogers: [even more uncomfortable] That's not exactly the word I would use.

Steve Rogers: Attention all S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, this is Steve Rogers. You're heard a lot about me over the last few days. Some of you were even ordered to hunt me down. But I think it's time to tell the truth. S.H.I.E.L.D. is not what we thought it was. It's been taken over by HYDRA. Alexander Pierce is their leader. The S.T.R.I.K.E. and Insight crew are HYDRA as well. I don't know how many more, but I know they're in the building. They could be standing right next to you. They almost have what they want. Absolute control. They shot Nick Fury. And it won't end there. If you launch those helicarriers today, HYDRA will be able to kill anyone that stands in their way. Unless we stop them. I know I'm asking a lot. But the price of freedom is high. It always has been. And it's a price I'm willing to pay. And if I'm the only one, then so be it. But I'm willing to bet I'm not. 

I hope you enjoyed reading some of these quotes.  Come Monday, I'll begin reviewing the books for this month!  Thanks for reading!  Ella

11.13.2014

Movie Review // Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Hello there!  So I'm here a day late to talk about what is possibly my favorite movie of this year – The Winter Soldier.

To give a little background, I had seen Captain America: The Fist Avenger previously, before the Avengers, and while I really liked Cap in it, I wasn't blown away.  Nonetheless, I thought he was awesome in the Avengers, and he quickly became my favorite.  But this.  This was. so. good.  The plot just worked so well for me, the characters all felt well-developed, and I thought the message was very timely.  The Winter Soldier is one of those movies that works really well.

First, the plot.  (And sorry, not sparing spoilers)  Discovering that Shield had been infested by Hydra was crazy.  Honestly though, after watching Agents of Shield and listening to a podcast, I think that was a really good move on Marvel's part.  It was brilliant.  You get to see Cap and Natasha kind of have to reevaluate who they are outside of Shield, and I can't wait to see where Marvel goes with this.

Second, let's talk about the cast/characters.  I loved seeing Black Widow and Captain America together in a movie that was focused on them/Shield/Nick Fury.  I also really enjoyed the introduction of Falcon – Anthony Mackie is good.  Black Widow has always really intrigued me – even in the Avengers, she was a favorite.  But here, you get a closer look at her.  She's still got her reservation and her secrets – even Cap's not sure he can trust her.  But then, it's hard to know who to trust in this movie.  Even Nick Fury arouses questions from those around him.

And to move onto part three, that's one of the prevailing themes in the Winter Soldier.  Trust.  With the discovery of Hydra within Shield, Cap, Natasha, even Nick are unsure of who is with them.  Natasha, who has relied on Shield and Nick to give her a future brighter than her past, suddenly finds herself back to square one – unsure of where to go, who to be.  Cap, who was suspicious of Nick's use of Shield at the beginning of the movie, looks like he's on a mission of his own – to find the Winter Soldier, enhanced brainwashed supersoldier Bucky, his best friend from 70 years ago (it's a long story).  And Nick is off in Europe somewhere tracking down any remaining any agents still true to Shield.

The other main theme of this movie is freedom and what that means both for citizens and for huge operations like Shield.  On the one hand, you have Hydra, which believes that the answer to humanity's problems is complete domination.  It acts on the assumption that man cannot be trusted with their own freedom.  Shield is the answer to Hydra – to protect the freedoms of humanity.  Fury's actions in the Winter Soldier lead Cap to question the methods Shield is using to protect those freedoms.

Finally, there are just some really fun parts in this movie.  The part in the beginning where Cap's running around the reflecting pond with Sam Wilson is so funny and I love the running joke with Natasha about finding a girlfriend.  Then take the elevator scene.  Best. scene. ever.  And the kiss?  Yes, apparently the Cap doesn't appreciate PDA's that much.

Overall, I loved this movie probably way more than I should.  My admiration of Captain America gained new heights, and I cannot wait to see what is next for him.  Tomorrow or Saturday I'll be sharing some of my favorite quotes from this movie.  Thanks for reading!  Ella

11.10.2014

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. // Recommendation, Fangirling, Etc.


Okay, so just to warn you, this week is going to basically be me screaming, "I love Marvel!!" at the top of my lungs.  I'm sorry if that's not your thing.  Really sorry.  You poor person...

Furthermore, today in particular, I am going to be talking about a new TV show I've been obsessed with of late.  I have become a big fan of all things Marvel this year, ever since being introduced to the amazing franchise through the Avengers and Captain America (mwah!) several months ago.  So when my brother discovered that Marvel was doing a show for ABC, and it turned out to be really good, I knew what I would be watching for the next few months. 

For those of you who don't know about the show or what it's about, Agents of Shield basically follows Agent Phil Coulson's team shortly after the Avengers saved the world in New York City.  And if you didn't know that Coulson actually didn't die after New York, well, then... now you know.  You'll share Agent Ward's surprise in the Pilot.  But, yes, Coulson is alive and well, though he was dead for a number of days.  It's still unclear as of my 19 episodes in, but his being brought back to life involved some very sketchy actions on Fury's part.  He's tried his hardest to keep Coulson completely in the dark about the agent's death and coming-back-to-life, for reasons that are unknown to anyone but Fury, who is conveniently off-the-grid when Coulson starts looking for answers.  There are a lot of bad guys, mostly linked to some guy "the Clairvoyant" and Hydra of course.  Mostly, they're super frustrating.  Now let's get into the nitty-gritty.

First of all, the details.  I'm about 20 episodes into the first season – they're up to 9 episodes or so into the second season, and I've heard it gets way better in the sophomore run, though I'm not real sure how that's even possible.  If you actually watch TV, the show's on Tuesday nights, but since we don't, I stream it through Amazon Prime and the experience is greatly enhanced by buffering (#firstworldproblems), which stretches the usually 40-45 minute long episodes to several hours (yes, I'm being sarcastic and possibly exaggerating).  Anyway, ranting aside, I have thoroughly enjoyed the show so far: I love the cast, the plot, the fighting (which is amazeballs), and kind of don't love the really mean plot twists.  But we won't go to far into that last subject, because I'm trying to keep the spoilers to a minimum.

Second, the main characters are those in Coulson's team, and short descriptions are to follow.  Agent Melinda May is an expert pilot (who Coulson needs to fly the supercool plane he got from Fury), she's crazy good at martial arts, and her backstory's enough to make a feature length film.  Agent Grant Ward is like May in a lot of ways – he's all in, is crazy good with his fists, and is very buff for a non-superhero.  He is technically the specialist of the team (whatever that means).  And he is extremely good-looking.  But of course that has nothing to do with being my favorite.  Then there's Skye, the newcomer who seriously shakes things up.  She's a lot of fun and adds a much-needed levity and lightheartedness to the team.  She's an outsider – she never went through the Academy, so she forces the team to think outside the box.  FitzSimmons or (Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons) are two people, a guy and a girl, they are best friends, and halfway through the show, you've decided that they are pretty much the smartest people ever – or at least they act like it.  The two of them are crazy good scientists, and are a lot of fun.  Finally, there's Coulson, who you get to know really well.  He has aviator sunglasses and an old car named "Lola," and he's just so cool.  They are all just terrific.  I think Skye (Chloe Bennett) and Ward (Brett Dalton) are my favorites so far, but I really enjoy everyone.  And yes, I still like Ward even after what happens later in the first season (#standwithward).  My favorite thing about the characters in this show is their interaction.  It's so good.  The show has Joss Whedon's amazing dialogue going on (I'll share some fave quotes from the show on Friday), the fight sequences are some of the best ever, and I just love the way the team is like a family.  How did that get so long?

Finally, the most awesome thing about this show is its seamless conjunction with the rest of the Marvel films (which is not really surprising).  Episode 18 or 19 covers the overthrowing of Shield by Hydra which takes place in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" and offers an inside look at the mass betrayal of Shield agents – including a few pretty close to Coulson and the crew.  You also see how the news of Fury's death (and the news of his not-death) affects the team and how Shield's sudden demise leaves Coulson and his agents feeling very alone and out-of-place.

Wow, sorry that turned out to be so long.  I did warn you.  But seriously, I love this show, and if you're a fan of anything Marvel, I bet you will love it too.  And my review of Winter Soldier may come a day late this week and happen on Thursday, because I need to watch to watch it again before I review it.  Thanks for reading!  xo, Ella

11.07.2014

This Girl Likes #4

Happy Friday!  I'm here to share some awesome things I've been liking from around the internet.  Hope you enjoy!

  • Tim Keller's new book about prayer came out this week and I am so so so excited about it.  The Gospel Coalition did a great job of reviewing it and here's a link to purchase.  So many books to read...

  • Speaking of books, another one I want to read is "Miracles" by Eric Metaxas.  He's one of my favorite people (and no, that does not primarily have to do with his cool glasses and hair), and his new book looks super good.  Here's a link to purchase.

  • Love this quote: 

You see, books contain the thoughts and dreams of men, their hopes and strivings and all their immortal parts. It’s in books that most of us learn how splendidly worth-while life is.
Christopher Morley – The Haunted Bookshop
  • Just as a side note, Starbucks has busted out their red cups for the holiday season and I'm so excited!  I'm still trying to hold onto my Pumpkin Spice Latte until it's gone, but I can't wait for all the Christmas stuff.  I love winter and snow and Christmas and Christmas music – it just makes me all warm and fuzzy inside!  
I hope you enjoyed these favorites this week!  Next week is going to be a celebration of all things Marvel as I plan to review a couple shows I'm obsessed with.  I'm super excited.  Thanks for reading!  xo, Ella

11.05.2014

Series Spotlight: Royal Spyness Mysteries by Rhys Bowen

Hello, and happy Wednesday!  Today I'm here to talk about a series I've recently discovered and one I like a lot.

If you read this post, you'll know I've been reading lots of mysteries lately.  Consequently, I discovered a new author, Rhys Bowen.  She's written three series; I've read about five books in her Molly Murphy Mysteries series, and now am head over heels in love with her Royal Spyness Mysteries.
 Where the MM Series lacked in polish and high-quality prose, Bowen makes up for it in the Royal Spyness Series.  Somehow, the series just feels more expensive, for lack of a better word.  The prose is more refined and elegant, the characters deeper and more complex, and the plot more lighthearted and faster-paced.  I'm into it.

Now in all honesty, I've only read these two books from the series (#6 and #9, respectively), but I liked them enough to recommend the series and get the itch to wipe my library out of the rest of them.

Georgie, the royal spyness, is just a shedload of fun with as much character and personality as Molly from Bowen's other series.  Her full title is Lady Georgiana Rannoch, and technically, she is the thirty-fifth in line for the throne of England.  Despite being in the royal line, Georgie is a very relatable character: she's always low on funds, tends to be a little clutsy, and never knows what her beau, or family, for that matter, is up to.  Her mother is a British actress who thinks too much of herself and lives an independent life among the upper class of society.  Her sometimes awkward relations with her daughter and extravagant tastes lend the books comic relief, and due to her flightiness can never be relied on to remain constant throughout the story.

Georgie's beau, Darcy, reminds me a lot of Daniel, Molly's beau, fiancĂ©, and then husband in the MM Series.  Supposedly, Darcy is some kind of spy, meaning he can never tell Georgie just what he's up to.  This leads to his turning up rather unexpectedly in the stories.  Their relationship brings an enjoyable amount of romance to the plot, without it overwhelming the story or feeling forced.

Georgie herself is unlike Molly in more ways than one.  She's very independent, but due to the constraints of being a part of royalty, often can't exercise her want of freedom.  Whereas Molly ran a detective agency, Georgie has a quick mind, and whenever she encounters a murder (which seem to follow her), her sharp wit and quick thinking often lead the case to a close.  Because she doesn't have to solve mysteries to make a living, the stories tend to be more balanced between her personal life the search for clues, necessary spying, and deducing.  Also, the stories are told in first person by Georgie, which adds a level of personality and fun.

I really really enjoyed the two books I've read from the series – they were just a lot of fun and very entertaining.  They aren't the sort of books that will enlighten and teach you, but sometimes I just want to read something that is easy and enjoyable.  If you're a fan of mysteries or are looking for a new series to get into, I'd recommend you check this one out – it's awesome.   And yes, the library will be ransacked again in the near future as I've only gotten my hands on two books so far.  ;)  Thanks for reading!  xo, Ella

11.03.2014

On the Stack // November

I think this month is going to turn out to be my favorite one this far regarding the books.  Honestly so excited about these.  Two of them are nonfiction, but they are so intriguing and pretty much read like novels.  The one fiction pick this month is the second book in the Baker Street Letters series from Michael Robertson I talked about a couple weeks ago.  I had some other nonfiction books I could have done, but since I haven't reviewed a fiction book on here yet (fail), I decided to go with the more fun option.  And I really liked it.  So without further ado, here are the three books that made the cut for this month!  Drumroll please...
link to purchase
I picked this book up from the library at the last minute in September and I really wasn't sure about it.  But.  Sooo good.  It's a nonfiction story about a forgotten bit in English history that was shrouded in mystery and secrecy for almost a century.  You won't come away from this book with knowledge you'll ever use again, but I am so glad I read it and being the history nerd I am, I loved it.  Amazon description ahead.

After the Ninth Duke of Rutland, one of the wealthiest men in Britain, died alone in a cramped room in the servants’ quarters of Belvoir Castle on April 21, 1940, his son and heir ordered the room, which contained the Rutland family archives, sealed. Sixty years later, Catherine Bailey became the first historian given access. What she discovered was a mystery: The Duke had painstakingly erased three periods of his life from all family records—but why? As Bailey uncovers the answers, she also provides an intimate portrait of the very top of British society in the turbulent days leading up to World War I.


link to purchase
Ugh, this book.  I can't even.  Definitely the best book I've read this year.  I get a weird lump in my throat when I think about it.  (#bookwormproblem)  I was in Barnes & Noble last month (I could live there) and I desperately wanted to get a book, but was running out of time, so I grabbed this one at the last minute and I'm so glad I did.  This book blew me away not only with the quality of the writing and the huge amount of research the author put into it, but also with the intensity and conviction of the women she investigates.

Karen Abbott, the New York Times bestselling author of Sin in the Second City and “pioneer of sizzle history” (USA Today), tells the spellbinding true story of four women who risked everything to become spies during the Civil War.
Karen Abbott illuminates one of the most fascinating yet little known aspects of the Civil War: the stories of four courageous women—a socialite, a farmgirl, an abolitionist, and a widow—who were spies.

Using a wealth of primary source material and interviews with the spies’ descendants, Abbott seamlessly weaves the adventures of these four heroines throughout the tumultuous years of the war. With a cast of real-life characters including Walt Whitman, Nathaniel Hawthorne, General Stonewall Jackson, detective Allan Pinkerton, Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, and Emperor Napoleon III, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy draws you into the war as these daring women lived it.
  
link to purchase
Now this last book is a fun one, although if you're anything like me, any of these are fun to read.  Set in modern day, in the rooms once inhabited by the famed Sherlock Holmes, Reggie Heath is a barrister afflicted with a particular strait of bad luck when the novel opens.  Being a mystery, the book centers around a mystery, but has enough supporting characters to keep it fast-paced and lighthearted.  

When brothers Reggie and Nigel Heath choose 221B Baker Street as the location for their law office, they don’t realize that their new office space comes with one huge stipulation; namely, they must answer the letters sent to Sherlock Holmes, the most famous resident of that address. While Reggie is working on a new case involving one of London’s Black Cab drivers, the letters to Sherlock Holmes are piling up. There's even one from someone who claims to be the descendent of Professor James Moriarty. With a case that would have puzzled even Sherlock himself, The Brothers of Baker Street is sure to please mystery fans, whatever their address.

I'm excited to review these this month!  Look for reviews starting the later half of November.  Next up this week – a new series I've discovered.  Thanks for reading!  xo, Ella