12.22.2014

Update: Looking Forward!


Hello!  As this will be my last post of the year (I'm taking the next two weeks off), I thought I would do a short post to talk about the changes for 2015.

  • First of all, since this month has been packed with talking about classics, I kind of forgot about doing my top books of this year, etc.  So, I will be kicking off the new year talking about my favorite books, movies, and music from 2014.  I'm a little behind, but oh well.  
  • Next, I am planning to make a few changes to posting in 2015.  I noticed I was having a hard time finding pins for my bi-weekly "This Girl Pins" posts, so I will be removing those posts and just doing "This Girl Likes" posts since I always have stuff for those and they are more fun to write.  I will also be doing one post a month on a Friday where I showcase some entertaining grammar mistake I find and trying to explain why it's wrong and how to fix it.  Sorry for you people who think grammar is awful.  Because I love it.  I also decided to make Friday posting more flexible.  I might or might not be able to post every Friday, depending on my week, and I just want to give myself leeway on what I have to write about.  But this is all kind of tentative – I may find it doesn't work and go back to how it was.  Who knows.    
  • And finally, I have made it a goal, or to use the dreaded word, a resolution, for 2015 to read Leo Tolstoy's War & Peace.  I know, quite the goal.  But I'm planning to make out a schedule and push through so many pages a week.  Every Saturday, or sometime during the weekends, I will write a real short post summarizing what I read that week.  Hopefully, this will help me remember more of what I read and I won't be able to just rush through the reading knowing I will have to write about it.  

And that's the last post for 2014!  I have really enjoyed this blog – it feels like I've finally found my niche in the blogging world.  Reading books and talking about them will always be something I'm passionate about, so blogging about that just seems like a really good fit for me.  Thanks to those of you who follow this little corner of the internet – it means a lot!  I'm very happy with This Girl Writes in the five months it has existed and I'm excited to keep blogging in 2015!  I hope you all have a fantastic Christmas filled with family, yummy food, (hopefully snow), all the feelings of the season and I hope your new year is awesome!  Thanks for reading – I'll be back next year!  xo, Ella

12.20.2014

Good Adaptations of Classic Books

Phew, I have had one crazy week.  Mostly due to spending a day shopping and attempting to bang out a long research paper.  So yeah.  I'm glad it's the weekend.  Today I'm here to share some of the classic adaptations I think are worth watching if you're a fan of any of the books I've talked about this week.
Up first, Lord of the Rings.  Obviously, these are my favorite movies of all time and I doubt that will ever change.  You have heard me rave about them plenty of times, so I will just say that they are amazing and you have to watch them and they are totally a 10.  I will have a little space at the end of each summary/review of sorts where I will post good reviews/posts either from here or other blogs/sites.  Blog posts: 1, 2, 3, 4. (1 of my posts if you missed it, and 3 other very in-depth reviews of the movies) My rating: 10

And next, the Hobbit trilogy.  Now I confess, I have not read the Hobbit.  What?  I know.  I have listened to a good part of the audiobook, and my brother's basically given me a summary of the plot.  But I love anything Peter Jackson does and any story about Middle-Earth for that matter.  Therefore, while I definitely appreciated the way the LOTR movies stayed close to the books, I honestly didn't really care when it came to the Hobbit movies.  So while not having any emotional investment in the Hobbit movies didn't endear me to them like the LOTR movies did, I could simply enjoy them for the incredible acting and aesthetic.  And let me say, they did not disappoint.  The sets and shots in the Hobbit were out of this world.  I am hoping to see the final installment, "Battle of the Five Armies" in the next week or so, and I am so excited, but also kind of nervous.  Blog posts: 1, 2, 3 (good reviews of all three) My rating: 9.5

Then there are the Narnia films.  The first one was awesome in my opinion.  I think the characters were great and the writers managed to stay pretty close to the book.  It is by far my favorite.  The second also stayed pretty close to the book, and I really enjoyed seeing Peter all grown up.  The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was a miss for me.  Yes, Caspian is very good-looking, and I liked Lucy's subplot, but they strayed from the books to much for me.  The movie had darker undertones which I don't remember from the book, and I didn't really get on with that.  My rating: 9

And finally, the adaptations of Sherlock Holmes.  Okay, so I kind of have a lot to say about these.  Surprise, surprise!  In my opinion, Sherlock Holmes is one of those classic literary heroes who is so classic that anyone can do anything to him and he will still be Sherlock Holmes – within bounds, of course.  Now I think that the BBC Sherlock TV show is closer to Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes than the movies with RDJ despite the modern setting.  The episodes are based on actual cases Sherlock had in the book, and the show just hits the detective's personality out of the ball park.  Like wow.  Benedict Cumberbatch basically IS Sherlock Holmes.  He's just weird, his deducing powers are great, and I love how the show really highlights that.  I also think Martin Freeman makes the perfect Watson, though I didn't appreciate the brief mention of his "being gay" in some of the episodes.  That just wasn't necessary in my opinion.  Oh and when Sherlock faked his death?  Holy cow.  That was amazing.  My rating for the tv series is 9.5.

Now, if you just want to watch an awesome movie that will make you laugh and where you will just thoroughly enjoy yourself, take the two movies starring Robert Downey Jr. as the detective.  He is basically just perfect.  Now this is a case of messing with the character of Sherlock Holmes and it still works.  Like, Conan Doyle's Sherlock didn't beat guys up.  He wasn't particularly funny or devilishly handsome I don't think.  Still, I will watch these movies anytime, anywhere.  I watched the sequel last week (I'm wrapping up the first one tonight) and I had not laughed that hard in a long time.  Jude Law was a great Watson – I appreciated a Dr. Watson who was nearly Sherlock's intellectual equal.  That was a refreshing change from Martin Freeman's Watson who was always asking the dumb questions.  And I love the introduction of Irene Adler and how she played a more frontal role in the movies.  Basically, I think the truer adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's classic Sherlock Holmes was probably the BBC series, but I might love the RDJ movies a little more just because they are so amazingly fun.   And I think I liked the fake death in the series a little more than in the movies?  The series built up to it a little more and I think that worked a little better for me in the end. My rating: 9.5.
First up, Emma.  I've barely started this – it has four seasons that total up to about 4 hours.  I'm not sure if I'll finish it or not.  I probably will, but it's not something I could marathon or something.  Personally, four hours is just too long to drag out a story that I don't absolutely love.  But if you're an Austen enthusiast, I am sure you would love it.

Then we have Pride & Prejudice.  I certainly enjoyed the movie more than the book, but it's still not a movie I will need to rematch every year or something.  That said, the acting is very good, I love all the characters, and the atmosphere is just really nice.  Mr. Darcy is not the best-looking guy ever and Mr. Wickham is more handsome, but Keira Knightley killed it as Lizzie Bennet and her family was perfect.  Highly recommend if you enjoy Jane Austen!  Blog post: 1 My rating: 8 - 8.5

Now I have a thing with the Anne of Green Gables films.  I will forever cherish the story, so the movies had better be spot on.  The first one is great – extremely close to the book, which I really appreciate.  I haven't seen it in a long time, but the second one is pretty good too, and the third one is just awful.  I watched it once and I will never have to see it again.  Ugh.  Pretty much nothing in common with the books.  My rating: 8 (the movies are no where close to the books)

I have already sung my love of Agatha Christie from the rooftops, so it will come as no surprise that I love me some BBC adaptations of her beloved investigators.  I barely started an episode of Miss Marple – they are long episodes, but from what I watched, it stays very close to Agatha Christie's character and books.  I will hopefully get started with that show this winter.  So that's more of an honorable mention, but the next one, Hercules Poirot really is a favorite.  Ugh, this guy is so good.  David Suchet plays Christie's Belgian detective with the great mustache.  And he is perfect.  I read the A.B.C. Murders a few weeks ago, and so the first episode I watched was that one, and it was identical to the book.  Needless to say, that made me really happy.  I love this show and will hopefully get time to watch it this winter.  My rating: 9.5.

And that wraps up this long rant about some of the classic adaptations I have discovered and enjoyed!  I hope you enjoyed this and maybe found some new shows to watch.  I will be back on Monday to talk about some updates.  Thanks for reading!  xo, Ella

12.17.2014

Roundup of Not-So-Loved Classics

As much as I love classics, there are a few I've read that I don't love, unfortunately, mostly because I didn't like the plot or appreciate the worldview.  Just because I didn't appreciate the worldview, though, does not mean that I did not learn from it.  Nor does my dislike of the book mean that it was not a good one or that you won't like it.  Just as a disclaimer.

Wuthering Heights – Some of the reasons I don't like these classics are probably kind of dumb.  I didn't really like this one because it was just really depressing and dark and kind of creepy.  I don't like reading books about men that show their love to women in really strange, creepy ways.  I just didn't enjoy this one.

The Great Gatsby – I know, I know.  It's a really classic classic.  And while I think the writing is great, it's just one of those books you finish and you're like, "Okay, great.  We're all born ceaselessly into the past and the 20's was awful.  Have a great day!"  Now I'm not trying to say that I hate all depressing, sad books.  That's not true.  But I would rather read a depressing nonfiction book than a depressing fiction book.  I don't know.  Am I weird?

Treasure Island – With this book, it's a simple problem of the story for me.  I don't particularly like stories about pirates.  Period.  I guess for me, this is more of a book for boys (though I like a lot of books written for boys, mind you) and I didn't really love it.

Call of the Wild –  Now here I have an issue with the worldview.  I had to read this book for school a couple months ago, and I was alerted to the evolutionist, survival-of-the-fittest worldview, and yeah, it was just so full of that belief system that it was completely ruined for me.  I know that every book I read has a worldview, but here it was just really obvious and dystopian.  And I don't really like stories about dogs.  So yeah.

The Scarlet Letter – I can't really make up my mind about this one.  I don't love it, but I don't loathe it, either.  I think the worldview here is a distinctly Puritanical, God-only-loves-you-if-you-are-perfect-or-pretty-close-to-it kind of worldview.  So while I don't agree with that, that's not my main beef.  It was just not fun to read at all.  I actually went through a study guide when I read it, and it was a really fascinating book, the way all the characters were symbolic, but when I read a book, I want to enjoy what I'm reading, classic or not.

The Red Badge of Courage – Again, worldview issue.  And Stephen Crane was apparently never in a battle, ever!  It was such a ridiculous portrayal of a soldier in a battle, and life and death, that had I not had to write papers on it for Lit class, I would have thrown it out the window, figuratively.  It was a humanist worldview, where what you do doesn't matter in the end, there is no God, nature is cruel and evil, and basically there is nothing redeeming about anything – there is no Redeemer.  The issues I have with worldviews in books does not mean that I am narrow-minded and refuse to look at other beliefs, far from it.  Reading books helps me understand other belief systems, but that doesn't mean I like reading books with overwhelming worldviews I don't agree with.

Well, that wraps up my roundups for the week!  I will return on Friday to talk about some movies/shows about classics.  Thanks for reading!  xo, Ella

12.16.2014

Favorite Christmas Music 2014

As you probably know if you've followed this blog in the last month or so, I kind of love Christmas music, just a little.  But seriously, I love it so much that I decided to share some of my favorite albums and songs for this most glorious time of the year.  So if you still need to get into the spirit, or are looking for something nice to have on during the gift-opening, here are some picks for the Christmas music-lover who likes the traditional songs and lyrics, but appreciates the not-so-traditional melody sometimes.  Here are my favorites!
Christmas Lights – Rebecca Roubion: I adore this album.  There are four original songs and four traditional Christmas songs, and usually that would annoy me, (I love my traditional Xmas songs) but  I really love all the original songs on here.  Stay the Holiday and Yahweh are my favorites of those.  And I love her rendition of Joy to the World – it's beautiful!  She doesn't mess with the lyrics, but the melody is different and fresh.  Silent Night has never been my favorite Christmas song, but I have to say, I fell in love with it here.  She just does it so well.  This is definitely my favorite Christmas album this year.  It is on-point.

When Christmas Comes – Kim Walker-Smith: This album is just one of those that everyone needs to own.  It's got all the basics, with a mix of secular and Christian and all the traditional words and melodies.  It's just a good one.  Kim's voice is the right one for Christmas songs – deep and a little husky, with the vibrato to sing O Holy Night and send shivers down your spine.

Pentatonix:  Now I'm not just talking about this album, – I actually don't own it – I'm talking about a variety of the Christmas songs Pentatonix has done.  Some of them on this album are a little too jazzy /different for me, but their version of Mary, Did You Know? is perfect.  I also love Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy and It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.  My favorite Christmas songs by them, though, are on their first Christmas album: Carol of the Bells and Little Drummer Boy.  Those are perfection and I highly recommend.

Campfire Christmas, Vol. 1 – Rend Collective: So far this season, I have been more drawn towards quiet, serious Christmas music, so I haven't bought this album yet, but if you are into folksy, foot-tapping music right now, then this one is right up your alley.  Four of the eleven songs are original, and the others are tastefully tweaked lyrically in some way.  I have probably previewed all of them at least half a dozen times, and I cannot express how happy Ding Dong Merrily on High makes me.  I also like their original song: Merry Christmas Everyone and For All That You Have Done.  I don't know why I haven't bought this album already – writing this makes me want to.

Those are my favorite albums/artists for Christmas music this year, but I also have some favorite songs that have come up on Spotify, or I've just discovered.

The Twelve Days of Christmas is a nostalgic Christmas song for me, and I found two hilarious versions this year (here, here) and they make me laugh out loud.  I love this rendition of Baby, It's Cold Outside, from She & Him.

I hope that little guide was helpful if you still need to find some festive music for this season or just want to listen to some new songs.  Thanks for reading!  xo, Ella

12.15.2014

Roundup of Other Beloved Classics

Today begins the last week of me going on and on about old books, and because I have only managed to write about four of my favorite classics, and because I'm not made out of time, reviewing every classic I've ever read and loved is not going to happen.  You know how much I love a good roundup, so I'm here today to give a brief review/explanation of several more classics I love too much not to mention.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer/The Adventures of Huck Finn – I love both the Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for their general fun-ness – books about two boys (who are actually good friends) getting into scrapes and causing trouble make for very entertaining reads.  I enjoy these books every time I read them.

Emma – I am not the biggest fan of Jane Austen you'll ever come across.  Pride & Prejudice didn't make make me fall in love with Mr. Darcy or make me want to read every book Austen's ever written.  But for some reason, I loved Emma a lot.  The heroine captured my heart in a way Elizabeth Bennet never did (I usually wanted to slap Lizzie), and I loved all the plot twists.  She's snarky like Lizzie, and her self-assumed immunity to men's love makes her an entertaining victim to Mr. Knightley's charms.

A.B.C. Murders – I have loved everything I've read by Agatha Christie, and the ABC Murders was my most recent favorite.  I consider anything by Christie a classic, since she is the queen of murder mysteries, and I had to include her in this list.  I really like her Hercules Poirot series, but I also enjoy the Miss Marple ones and Tommy and Tuppence mysteries.

Animal Farm/1984 – Not that I particularly enjoy depressing books that make you think, but I really appreciate (though don't necessarily enjoy) the two books by George Orwell – Animal Farm and 1984.  Both are thought-provoking, somewhat depressing dystopian books about how the world could be in the future.  Animal Farm is more of an allegorical book using animals on a farm (obvs) to demonstrate the politics of Communism.  It's a very sobering look at the demise of good intentions into totalitarianism.  In my opinion, though, 1984 is a far more depressing book because it is not difficult to see how the government could begin drifting in that direction.  The things expressed in that book are more relevant to today, and it really inspired me to pray for our president and politicians in their incredibly serious and important roles and also to be aware of what's going on in our government.

To Kill A Mockingbird – To Kill a Mockingbird is a very raw, genuine examination of racism in our country.  By illustrating a tragic incident in a small town in Alabama, Harper Lee not only shows the historical atrocities of racism, she also explains through a little girl how we can help end prejudice every day in little ways.  I love the characters in this book and the lesson at the heart of it.

Anne of Green Gables – Anne of Green Gables is one of my favorite literary heroines of all time – you can't help but love her.  I love the entire series (I believe there are six books), which begins with her arrival to Avonlea, and ends when Anne's family is still young.  I've reread the series numerous times, and I just love it.

Silas Marner – Silas Marner is a really classic classic.  It's a book about what love can do in a cold heart, and I love it for that.  Silas Marner is a greedy scrooge with a broken heart, and Eppie is a little ray of sunshine left out in the snow.  One outcast takes in another, and she repays him by giving him a desire to live.  It's a beautiful story about brokenness and healing and will forever be a favorite.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Ahh, Sherlock Holmes.  The investigating, detecting, deducing love of my life.  I love everything about this literary hero – I will never tire of reading books about him, watching shows featuring him, and will never stop believing in his existence.  His eccentrics endear him to me all the more, and the possibility of him looking similar to either Benedict Cumberbatch or Robert Downey Jr. gives me heart palpitations.  Oops, I forgot I was talking about the book, not the man.  I really like the classic Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle he's great – I mean the book's great!

And we're done!  Thanks for reading, guys!  I will be back tomorrow to talk about my favorite Christmas music.  Cuz, ya know, I super love it.

12.12.2014

Quoted: The Chronicles of Narnia & The Lord of the Rings


The Chronicles of Narnia:

Lucy: "Is he—quite safe?"

"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver [...] "Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."

– Lucy and Mr. Beaver, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

“But courage, child: we are all between the paws of the true Aslan.” 
― C.S. LewisThe Last Battle


“I am [in your world].’ said Aslan. ‘But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.” 
― C.S. LewisThe Chronicles of Narnia


“Once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen of Narnia.” 
― C.S. LewisThe Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe


“Girls aren't very good at keeping maps in their brains", said Edmund, "That's because we've got something in them", replied Lucy.” 
― C.S. LewisThe Chronicles of Narnia


"But what does it all mean?" asked Susan when they were somewhat calmer.
"It means," said Aslan, "that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of Time.
 But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards."

– Lucy and Aslan, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

"Your father and mother and all of you are - as you used to call it in the Shadowlands - dead.  The term is over: the holidays have begun.  The dream is ended: this is the morning."  And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion;...
– Aslan, The Last Battle

The Lord of the Rings

“That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.”
– Sam


“Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”
– Galadriel

"I would rather share one lifetime with you than face all the Ages of this world alone."
– Arwen

“A day may come when the courage of men fails… but it is not THIS day.”
– Aragorn

“I’m glad to be with you, Samwise Gamgee…here at the end of all things.”
– Frodo

“Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men, doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.” 
― J.R.R. TolkienThe Lord of the Rings

“Moonlight drowns out all but the brightest stars.” 
― J.R.R. TolkienThe Lord of the Rings

“Do not scorn pity that is the gift of a gentle heart, Éowyn!” 
― J.R.R. TolkienThe Lord of the Rings

“We are truth-speakers, we men of Gondor. We boast seldom, and then perform, or die in the attempt. "Not if I found it on the highway would I take it," I said. Even if I were such a man as to desire this thing, and even though I knew not clearly what this thing was when I spoke, still I should take those words as a vow, and be held by them.” 
― J.R.R. TolkienThe Lord of the Rings

It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo.  The ones that really mattered, full of darkness and danger they were.  Sometimes you didn't want to know the end, because how could the end be happy?  How could the world go back to the way it was when there's so much bad that had happened?  But in the end it's only a passing thing, this shadow; even darkness must pass.  
– Samwise Gamgee

All that is gold does not glitter, 
Not all those who wander are lost; 
The old that is strong does not wither, 
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.  
From the ashes a fire shall be woken, 
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken, 
The crownless again shall be king.
– J.R.R Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

“I am Aragorn son of Arathorn; and if by life or death I can save you, I will.” 
― J.R.R. TolkienThe Lord of the Rings

“Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” 
― J.R.R. TolkienThe Lord of the Rings

Aragorn: "What do you fear, lady?"
Eowyn: "A cage.  To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire."

I could share lots more quotes from Lord of the Rings, but as this is already fairly long, I'm going to wrap it up.  And that finishes up this week!  Thanks for reading!  xo, Ella

12.11.2014

Bravery and The Lord of the Rings

As I said yesterday, I got into a bit of a long-winded bravery rant when I sat down to write a review of LOTR, so I decided to do the shortened version for the review, and share that bravery bit today.


I read the books before I watched the movies, but the movies stole my heart.  When I finished them, I wrote this post about what made me love the story so much.  That is still the basic reason for my infinite adoration of the Lord of the Rings, but in this post I'm going to talk about bravery in LOTR.

 As I've said before, the definition of bravery I love most is ordinary people doing big, beautiful, sometimes scary things because they believe those things are right and need to be done.  In Lord of the Rings, the hobbits are arguably the most ordinary in Middle Earth – they stay in the Shire, are generally afraid of the outside world, and know little accurate information about it.  And yet it is a hobbit who saves the world from Sauron – who saves all the big, brave men like Aragorn, the kingdoms of men like Theoden, the women like Eowyn.  Ordinary people doing big, scary things because they need to be done.

One could say that the Lord of the Rings is a story about bravery.  And yet, Frodo Baggins wasn't brave in the beginning, or even by the end.  He wasn't brave when he first met the Black Riders, or first slipped the ring on his finger, or had to be carried up Mount Doom by Sam.  At least, he wasn't brave like Captain America brave.  He was the quiet sort of brave, the kind that you usually can't see until you look back.  Until the mission's all done and you understand what just happened.  One kind of bravery isn't more brave than another.  Bravery is the courage to do the right thing, even when you're scared to death.  For some people, that looks like bravery.  For others, it looks like scared-to-death.

Then there are others, like Aragorn, who just exude bravery.  Aragorn makes others around him feel brave.  For him, doing what needs to be done means leading an army up to the Black Gate in order to create a diversion for Frodo and Sam and getting surrounded in a matter of minutes.  Bravery for Aragorn meant accepting the sword of his ancestors and becoming a part of the group that would help in destroying the ring forever.  Bravery for him meant going up against things that looked impossible and inspiring those around him to do the same.

Bravery for Sam meant being brave for Frodo when courage was a distant memory.  It meant fighting for Frodo when Frodo wouldn't.  For Sam, bravery meant killing a spider, carrying Frodo up Mount Doom, staying with him from the beginning to the end, and never giving up.  Sam's sort of bravery was the behind-the-scenes kind, but the bravery that won the war.

Theoden's bravery looked like sacrifice, but it also looked like caution.  Caution because he wouldn't risk the lives of his people.  Sacrifice when he gave his life trying to protect theirs.

Eowyn's bravery was loud.  Her sort of brave spat words in the face of Wormtongue.  Her bravery thundered across the plain in a sea of men, to fight where she had no place, but where she knew she had to be.  Her bravery stood before the Nazgul, daring him to challenge her.  Her bravery won the heart of an equally brave man.

The Lord of the Rings is about many things: right and wrong, good conquering evil, heroes, ordinary people, bravery.  It's about fear and courage, weakness and strength, justice and mercy, love and hatred.  It's about sacrifice, wisdom, strength, quiet courage, beauty, true love.  Bravery is only one very small facet of Tolkien's web of lessons woven throughout the Lord of the Rings.  It's one that inspires me, though, and hopefully inspired you.  There are countless more examples of the bravery displayed in Middle Earth – I haven't attempted to cover them all.

There are so many themes worth exploring in Lord of the Rings; bravery is just one that I'm inspired by right now.  Lord of the Rings is one of those series you can read/watch many times and each time something else stands out.  I love that about classics – they're so timeless.

And that wraps up my book reviews/book talks for this month!  Next week I'll be sharing some roundups, Christmas music and favorite movies/shows.  I hope been enjoying classics month as much as I have!  Thanks for reading!  xo, Ella          

12.10.2014

Book Review: Lord of the Rings

As promised, I'm back this week for the final review of the month, Lord of the Rings.  Now this isn't technically a review – it's more of a why-I-love-this-story-so-much rant.  I'm going to be looking at the story of LOTR as a whole, sharing what it means to me and the reason I fell in love with it.  (And no, that's not just thanks to Aragorn)


Title: Lord of the Rings

Author: J.R.R. Tolkien

Publisher/Price: Del Ray / $21.58 (w/ the Hobbit) here

Type: Fiction

Genre: Fantasy

Number of pages: 1,728 w/ the Hobbit

My rating: 5 1/2 out of 5 stars (favorite!)

My thoughts: When I started writing this review this past Sunday night, I wanted to talk about bravery in LOTR and got a little carried away.  It ended up being more of a rant about Lord of the Rings and not a review of Lord of the Rings.  So I'll be sharing that tomorrow and giving you the shorter, more concise review today.  But first, disclaimer...

*Disclaimer:  I have to admit that while I really enjoyed the books, the LOTR movies are really what hooked me and made me a fan.  I know, SHAME!  How can a book lover/blogger say that?  Yes, it's true.  I love Tolkien and all he is and does, but the books just got a little... shall we say... long?  *Gasp*  Anyway, I will be making references to the movies as well throughout this post.  So basically this is a post about the story.  Phew, that's out...

The Lord of the Rings is my second favorite fiction story ever (Little Women is ahead by only a little) and the movies are definitely my favorites.  I'll share a lot more tomorrow about why the story's inspiring me right now, but my fundamental reason I love the story so much is probably Aragor– I mean, how the story so starkly contrasts good and evil.

When I first watched the movies, the question came to my mind: "Why do I love this story so much?  What makes it so gripping?"  It dawned on me that it is because as humans, we intrinsically want a good ending to a story.  It is wired into us.  To me, that is amazing evidence for the fact that we were created by a God who wants good endings too – who is the good ending.  I'm not going to go into a whole rant – I'll save that for tomorrow, but that is the basic reason for my love of Lord of the Rings – it's a good-ending story.  And yet it's not a fluffy, feel-good story.  It's hard to read sometimes – sad even.  But you see the incredible contrast between the filthy, ugly evil of Sauron and his armies and the innocence and courage of the hobbits, of Aragorn, Gandalf, and all the free people of Middle Earth.  And the good wins.  Because in the real story of our earth, there's a good ending for the people of God.  Good wins. Love wins.  God wins.  Light will reign over the darkness.  Love will conquer evil.  Death will die.  When I read a book that parallels our good ending as followers of Christ (whether intentionally or not), that makes me excited.  That earns it a place in my heart.

There are other reasons I love Lord of the Rings.  Like how there are so many layers to the story – like the layers of an onion.  You peel one back and another appears underneath.  There are so many layers of complexity that regardless of how many times you read it, there are always things you didn't notice before.  I really love that about a book.

Then there's the chemistry between the characters that I absolutely love.  The Fellowship is basically the best thing ever – even when they're split up.  Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli doing things together will always make me happy.  Merry and Pippin make me laugh, and for me, Sam and Frodo will always be the best example of friendship in fiction, ever.

There's a lot more I could talk about, but I'm going to wrap this up – tomorrow I'll be back to go on some more about this series.  Thanks for reading!  xo, Ella

12.09.2014

Gift Guide for Book Nerds 2014

Hello, and happy Tuesday!  As we draw nearer to Christmas, I thought I'd better hurry up and write about some gift ideas that would be perfect for the book lovers on your list.  You might even find something here you can't live without!  Nothing here is over $70; there are some things that would make nice stocking stuffers and others that are pricier.  Hope you enjoy it!

1.)  First up is this awesome mug, which would be perfect for a best friend or significant other.  It would make any reader or writer smile each morning when they had their tea/coffee.  $12.99 here

2.) I recently came across a really neat shop that sells prints inspired by Scripture, and I love the watercolor look of this one and the swoopy (has to be a word, right?) white letters.  I think any mom/aunt/grandma/niece would be happy to hang this on her wall.  from $14.00 here

3.)  I have already raved about how much I love this set, and it would be an awesome addition to a bookworm's shelves or a great way to introduce the girl on your list to these wonderful classics.
$64 here

4.) This clothespin book light is such an awesome idea.  Small and great for traveling, it helps keep your page too!  $16.21 here

5.) An iPhone dock made from a book – what a great idea.  This shop has made a wide variety of classics into docks from this one, Pride & Prejudice to Sherlock Holmes.  I think it would make a fantastic gift for a book lover and iPhone user.  $55.09 here

6.) I have loved/wanted one of these letters for so long!  They are just the coolest thing.  Carved from some really beautiful books, they would look so pretty on a bookshelf, spelling out a name or just the initial.  Each one is handmade, so no two are alike!  $20.00 here

7.) Oh. My. Goodness.  I was looking around for some things booklovers would like, and I stumbled across this!  Novel teas!  Each of the 25 tea bags has a quote on the tag from a well-known author about books/reading and being the tea-crazy I am, I love it!  I think anyone who enjoys a big, steaming cup of tea with their current read would love this in their stocking.  $12.50 here

8.) I can be found haunting my local library as often as I can get a ride there, and as I always find an outrageous number of books to check out, I usually leave attempting to balance a tower in my arms (tell me I'm not the only one).  It's about time I get a bag to house all my finds so I don't look like a complete dork who looks like she never gets to go to the library.  And needless to say, I really love that this one is Little Women-themed.  Would be a much-appreciated gift for anyone who frequents the library (and is forced to balance towers).  $19.99 here

9.) This shop on Etsy makes adorable, quirky bookmarks.  They have tons of different ones, from Christmas-y elf shoes to bare feet.  They would make fun gifts for any book-reader!  $21.90 here

10.) Because the New Year happens right after Christmas pretty much, I think it's an excellent time to give calendars!  I love this one by 1canoe2 with the silhouette of an American writer each month.  $25.00 here

11.) Now I know this isn't book related, but I have wanted headphones for along time, and I think this color is so pretty.  Besides, especially if I'm traveling, I love to listen to music while I read.  (Is this just me?  Is that weird?)  $59.90 here

12.) This book looks really good.  It's a book full of "hilariously imagined text conversations...from classic and modern literary figures" (from the Amazon description) and it seriously sounds like so much fun.  Once in a while I love a book that is just lighthearted and fun and easy.  This is definitely on my wishlist!  $14.13 here

13.) I know I've talked about these candles before, but I think they would make a seriously awesome present/stocking stuffer for any candle or book lover. This shop has tons of options – from Doctor Who-themed scents to candles that supposedly smell of old books (heart-eyed emoji).  I've not tried any of them yet, but they all sound amazing.  $15.32 here

14.) For any Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. fans on your list who are still rooting for Grant Ward
(#standwithward), I recommend this shirt.  I seriously want it so bad.  $23.40 here

15.) Here's another book I've been working through that's just good fun.  A book about the lost words of English arranged according to the time of day you need them, it's one of those books full of things you'll never need to know, but it won't fail to make you laugh.  Anyone who enjoys the English language and is obsessed with words and their history is sure to get a laugh out of Mark Forsyth's excellent revel through the forgotten words of English.  $14.28 here

16.) I already mentioned this in my review of the Chronicles of Narnia yesterday, but I think this audio drama of said series would be an awesome gift for cousins/nieces/nephews/grandkids.  My siblings and I really enjoy the set we own!  $55.49 here (on sale right now!)

I hope you enjoyed that gift guide and found a few things to help with people on your Christmas list.  Maybe you even found things to add to your wishlist!  I will be back to talk about Lord of the Rings tomorrow – I'm excited!  Thanks for reading!  xo, Ella  

12.08.2014

Book Review: The Chronicles of Narnia

Today I'm actually talking about a series of books – The Chronicles of Narnia.  This series is written by one of my favorite people of all time – C.S. Lewis; and has been a favorite of mine for a long time.  I'm looking forward to talking about it!

How could I not get lights in the background, right?  Did I mention I'm excited for Christmas?
Title: The Chronicles of Narnia

Author: C.S. Lewis

Publisher/Price: HarperCollins (box set) $31.49 here; HarperCollins (Narnia treasury) $21.70 here
Either option would make an awesome Christmas gift!

Type: Fiction

Genre: Religious Allegory; fantasy

Number of pages: 784 (treasury)

My rating: 5 1/2 out of 5 stars

My thoughts: I'm not a huge lover of fantasy.  I love LOTR and the world of Narnia, but I won't go searching my library or the bookstore for the fantasy section.  It's just not my thing.  That said, I love those two fantasy mentions because they have a deeper meaning, a hidden meaning.  I'll get more into that when I speak about LOTR this week.

The Chronicles of Narnia was originally intended to be a series for children – and it still is.  I firmly believe, however, like C.S. Lewis, that a good fairy tale (or fantasy) can be read and enjoyed by all ages.  At least for me, this is certainly true when it comes to the Chronicles of Narnia.  I love the stories that are purely allegorical, like the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and the Last Battle, but I enjoy all the books because they all have the same Christian Worldview and story of redemption running throughout.  Probably one of my very favorite books in the series is A Horse and His Boy, which you don't hear spoken about very often.  It is the story of Aslan working in the life of one boy, Shasta, to bring him to his home.  The only of the series to be exclusively set in Narnia and about Narnian characters, I love the close-up look at how Aslan (read: God) works out his perfect plan.

C.S. Lewis in the Chronicles of Narnia accomplishes something really beautiful in presenting the Gospel message (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) and the Christian worldview in such a way that most kids (maybe with a little explanation) can grasp it, but adults can also glean from the deeper insights in the stories.  I think that's really amazing when a book/books pull that off.  The series is one that you can read many many times and still seems new because you notice new things each time.

Personally, my favorite way to "read" the series is to listen to the audiobook version.  The one I have is by Focus on the Family Radio Drama.  It's a dramatized version of the entire series, and runs over 22 hours.  The approximate running time of each book, however, ranges from anywhere between 150" and 200."  (You can get it here, and it is also available on iTunes) The set is so well done, the voice casting is seriously on-point, and the dramatization is perfect and never overdone.  Overall, I would highly, highly recommend the set – it would be an awesome Christmas gift for someone who is already a Narnia fan, or for someone who needs to be introduced.  I basically marathoned the entire set a over a summer of mowing a couple years ago.  The only thing I don't like about winter is that I can't mow.  Boo.

Anyway, I absolutely love the Chronicles of Narnia!  For me, the series is truly classic because it never gets old, and I always take away something new from it.  I just basically super duper love it.  The end.

Thanks for reading.  LOTR's up next!  xo, Ella

12.05.2014

Quoted: Little Women & Tale of Two Cities

image source
Little Women

“I like good strong words that mean something…” 
― 
Louisa May AlcottLittle Women

“You are the gull, Jo, strong and wild, fond of the storm and the wind, flying far out to sea, and happy all alone.” 
― 
Louisa May AlcottLittle Women

"Then it was that Margaret, sitting alone with tears dropping often on her work, felt how rich she had been in things more precious than any luxuries money could buy – in love, protection, peace, and health, the real blessings of life."
– Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

“Be worthy love, and love will come.” 
― Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

“life and love are very precious when both are in full bloom.” 
― Louisa May AlcottLittle Women

“…she was one of those happily created beings who please without effort, make friends everywhere, and take life so gracefully and easily that less fortunate souls are tempted to believe that such are born under a lucky star.” 
― Louisa May AlcottLittle Women

"I want my daughters to be beautiful, accomplished, and good.  To be admired, loved, and respected.  To have a happy youth, to be well and wisely married, and to lead useful, pleasant lives, with as little care and sorrow to try them as God sees fit to send.  To be loved and chosen by a good man is the best and sweetest thing which can happen to a woman, and I sincerely hope my girls may know this beautiful experience.  It is natural to think of it, Meg, right to hope and wait for it, and wise to prepare for it, so that when the happy time comes, you may feel ready for the duties and worthy of the joy."

– Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

A Tale of Two Cities

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” 
― Charles DickensA Tale of Two Cities


“I wish you to know that you have been the last dream of my soul.” 
― Charles DickensA Tale of Two Cities


“Think now and then that there is a man who would give his life, to keep a life you love beside you.” 
― Charles DickensA Tale of Two Cities

And that wraps up this week!  I hope you've enjoyed this first week of reviews as much as I have.  Thanks for reading! xo, Ella

12.03.2014

Book Review: A Tale of Two Cities

Happy Wednesday!  Today I'm here with my second review of the month: A Tale of Two Cities.  Any book written by Charles Dickens is pretty much an instant classic, and this one a favorite of mine.  Set in the French Revolution, it is a tale of sacrifice and courage.


Title: A Tale of Two Cities

Author: Charles Dickens

Publisher/Price: Penguin: $13.12 (pretty version) here / Dover Publications: $2.88 here

Type: Fiction

Genre: Historical Fiction; Classic

Number of pages: 304

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

My thoughts: Set against the backdrop of one of the darkest times in France's history, A Tale of Two Cities is a book about love and courage in the midst of the French Revolution.  Two men love a woman, Lucie Manette.  Ironically, the two men, Sydney Carton and Charles Darney look very similar, though Darnay has made something of himself, while Carton feels his life is worthless and wasted.  Lucie marries Darnay, and they move to England.  A year later, when Darnay returns to France to try and get a friend out of prison, he is arrested by the revolutionaries as an emigrant.  Lucie's father, who spent many years in the Bastille prison by order of the French government, tries to work with the rebels to free Darnay, using his mistreatment by the royalty to inspire empathy between them.  After over a year of imprisonment, Darnay is released, only to be arrested again the same night.  This time, there is not much hope, and because Carton still loves Lucie, he goes into the prison and tricks Darnay into trading clothes.  Then he drugs Darnay and has him taken out of the prison, disguised as himself.  Carton is later executed in Darnay's place and at last, he feels like his life has meaning.

In plot, this book is a lot like The Last of the Mohicans, which I haven't finished but know the plot of.  A man sacrificing his life so the woman he loves could have the man she loves, even if it wasn't him.    A Tale of Two Cities isn't a romance, nor is it just about Darnay and the Manettes, it is more of a broad look at the French Revolution, and looks at both a peasant family and the Manette family, which is more well-to-do.  Dickens doesn't offer a pleasant view of the Revolution, depicting the cruelty of both the rebels and the royalty.  It's a favorite both because of the historical accuracy (#historynerd) and the theme of sacrifice and courage.  It is one of Dickens' better books in my opinion (disclaimer: I have only read three – Daniel Copperfield, this one and Nicholas Nickelby), and it doesn't get too boring.  It's not the book for everyone – I would recommend it to history buffs and classics-lovers, and to those who appreciate good writing.

And that wraps up my second review of this month!  Thanks for reading!  xo, Ella

12.02.2014

Author Focus: Louisa May Alcott

Since I'm talking about Little Women this week, and the literary genius who wrote it, I thought I'd do a post focusing on Louisa May Alcott.  And since I wasn't feeling creative, this is all I could come up with for a title.  I'll share a brief summary of the author's life, some of the books she wrote (that I've read) with a short explanation/review, and a few quotes.
Bio

Louisa May Alcott was born in Pennsylvania on November 29, 1832.  She and her three sisters were taught at home by their parents – philosopher Bronson Alcott and practical-Christianity mother.  Louisa's interest in writing began young.  She had a rampant imagination and she and her sisters often acted out stories she wrote as little melodramas for their friends.  At age 15, frustrated with her family's poverty, she decided that no matter what it was, she would find a way to help her family and in her words, "be rich and famous and happy before I die."  In the following years, she picked up a variety of jobs including seamstress, governess, teacher, and household servant.  She got her start in writing by doing some work for magazines and publishing short stories.  One of her literary milestones was her book describing her nursing experiences during the Civil War.  When she was 35, her publisher asked her to write a book for girls.  Little Women was born.  This classic gave Louisa financial independence and a demand for more books.  Over the last years of her life, she wrote many more books and short stories including: Little Men, Eight Cousins, Rose in Bloom, An Old-Fashioned Girl, and many others.  She died on March 6, 1888, two days after her father.

Books

Little Women – I already reviewed this book earlier in the week, but I'll just say that it's awesome and my favorite of all her books and my favorite fiction book ever.  I love the characters and the story, everything is just perfect.  It was the first of her books to make her famous and launched her into a prolific writing career.  My rating: 5 1/2 out of 5 stars (favorite!)

Eight Cousins – I love this book so much.  If I had to describe the book in one word, it'd be heartwarming.  It's about Rose, a girl who is orphaned and comes to live with her aunts at the "Aunt-hill" house.  She has quite a few of them, and they are all determined to make her into a proper young lady, elegant and mannerly.  And Rose is very willing to let them – she has become a shadow since her parents died.  When her uncle Alex shows up to the Aunt-hill, though, he quickly turns the aunts' plans and Rose's normal life upside down.  Prescribing a lifestyle of exercise, wholesome food, hands-on learning and rambunctious activity that terrifies the dainty Rose, her uncle quickly transforms the pale flower into a hale, hearty young woman who runs around without a corset, very much for the better.  The young Rose also meets her seven boy cousins and comes to know and love them with all the sisterly affection her heart has to offer.  The book covers the years of her childhood and her ascent into adulthood with a healthy dose of cousinly comradeship and fun in a big family.  I've reread Eight Cousins many times and it's fun and heartwarming without fail.  My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Rose in Bloom – This is the sequel to and closure of the story began in Eight Cousins.  Rose grows up and has her choice of many eager suitors, several of her cousins included.  Rose in Bloom centers much more around her love interests and her decisions than her interactions with her cousins, and those are no longer so innocent and playful as in Eight Cousins.  Rose continues to learn of and exert the feminine influence she has over her cousins for their good, often nudging them back onto the right path.  I didn't love this book quite as much as Eight Cousins, simply because of the much more mature look at the cousins as they grow older.  I prefer to read about the earlier years of their friendship, when they have fun and nothing is very complicated.  But this is probably for fairly sentimental reasons because I wish it could have stayed that way with my own cousins.  :)  I do really like this book, though, the little romance bits are well-done and enjoyable and the ending is pretty perfect.  My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

An Old-Fashioned Girl – When I was younger, I fell in love with this book because it was about an old-fashioned girl from the country who comes to live with her cousin in the city.  She stays with them for many years, but she never truly loses her old-fashioned, quaint Christian ways taught by her parents.  Her conservative principles and dose of pure, healthy femininity are a breath of fresh air to everyone she meets, and her aunt and uncle's home is greatly improved by her presence.  Just a really sweet book that made a big impression on me when I was younger.  My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

These are a few of my favorites from Alcott's works.  I would highly recommend all of these for young girls and Alcott aficionados.  For the last part of this post, I will share a few of my favorite quotes from Louisa and her books.

Quotes

"I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship."
– Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

"The power of finding beauty in the humblest things makes home happy and life lovely."
– Louisa May Alcott

"Keep good company, read good books, love good things and cultivate soul and body as faithfully as you can."
– Louisa May Alcott, Rose in Bloom

"A real gentleman is as polite to a little girl as to a woman."
– Louisa May Alcott, An Old-Fashioned Girl

"Some books are so familiar that reading them is like being home again."
 – Louisa May Alcott

And that wraps up this post!  I hope you enjoyed learning about one of my favorite authors, Louisa May Alcott.  If you are a fan of Little Women, be sure to check out some of her other books – you're sure to enjoy them.  Thanks for reading!  xo, Ella

12.01.2014

Book Review: Little Women

To kick off classics month, today I'm reviewing my favorite fiction book ever.  Little Women.  It's followed closely by Lord of the Rings, but the girl in me just loves it.  And this edition designed by Anna Bond of Rifle Paper Co is just. so. pretty.  


Title: Little Women

Author: Louisa May Alcott

Publisher/Price: Puffin/Bantam Classics (paperback) / $12.00 here and $3.95 here (respectively)

Type: Fiction

Genre: Coming-of-Age; Classic

Number of pages: 560

My rating: 5 1/2 out of 5 stars

My thoughts: To me, Little Women is the quintessential book for girls.  About four sisters as different as they are relatable, it's one of those books you can reread countless times and yet always feels new.  Each time I read it, I am able to identify with another of the girls (Meg, Jo, Beth, & Amy).  Personally, my favorite of the four is Jo.  She's a tomboy, loves to read and write, is impulsive and gets passionate about things, and her name is great.  I enjoy her more and more each time I read Little Women.

I love the time period Little Women is written in; I love the March family and all their friends; I revel in all the scrapes they get into; I sympathize with each one in their little struggles.  I love the little romances, love seeing each of the girls follow their path and grow into young women.  Little Women to me feels like coming home, feels like coming back to a familiar and well-loved place, like a favorite worn-out chair that holds too many memories to forget.  It feels like fresh girlhood, like innocence, like old-fashioned life where being a woman means so much more than looking like one. For me, it will always be an integral part of my girlhood – a classic in the truest sense.

And because I can't resist, how about a couple more pictures of that cover...


If you are a girl and have never read Little Women, I strongly encourage you to – even if you're not a little woman anymore. :)  Thanks for reading!  xo, Ella