Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Mini Book Reviews (January 2019)

This is a weird post because I usually only post about books that I love or at least really like. But this is just a random post of a few books I wrote a short review of, and it just so happens, I didn't really care for any of them very much...

CoralineCoraline by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I keep really wanting to like Neil Gaiman's books, and so I keep reading them, and then I don't like them very much. When will I learn my lesson? My favorite book of his that I have read was The Graveyard Book. But Coraline is much creepier and more disturbing somehow. It is classified as a "dark fantasy", some even label it as "horror", and I already know that is not my thing. But it's also categorized as a children's novella? This would have terrified me as a child! I still find it disturbing! Sewing on button eyes??? Disappearing parents? Other kidnapped kids who have had their souls stolen???

I suppose it's not that much stranger than Alice's Adventures in Wonderland... but still.

I do always enjoy stories that play with the ideas of parallel worlds or alternate realities, so there's that. Plus the other world has toys that fly and a sarcastic talking cat, so that's fun.

Other thought I had: The way the Other Mother is unable to actually create, but can only copy, twist and change things from the real world, reminds me of something the evil witch says in The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis. (Where she is trying to convince the protagonists that the land they speak of with the sun in the sky is only a projection/copy of what they have in the underworld, and their image of Aslan in their minds is something they made up from thinking about a very big cat.) I wonder if that served as inspiration at all for this part.


The Fairy-Tale Detectives (The Sisters Grimm, #1)The Fairy-Tale Detectives by Michael Buckley
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Two stars because "it was ok" pretty much sums up my feelings about this book. I really thought I would enjoy it more than I did. I love the premise, that fairy tales are true. The stories written down by The Brothers Grimm were real accounts. I like that the fairy tale creatures are called "Everafters". There were several things that reminded me of the TV show, "Once Upon a Time", which I also loved (at least for the first few seasons). I even like that Buckley pulls in other fictional characters from The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland.

So if my lack of enjoyment is due to the fact that it's really written (down) to younger audiences or what. Another reviewer commented that the first chapter reminded her of The Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, which I really didn't like, so maybe that has something to do with it. And Sabrina, the older sister, was a really annoying character for at least the first half of the book.

I might have enjoyed this series when I was in elementary school. But since I'm not, I don't know if I will read the next book in the series. I know there are several more of them that are also available on audio through my library (which is how I read this one). So we shall see. It's certainly not a high priority though.


The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle, #1)The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I don't give many 1 star ratings, but I really didn't like this, at all. I know a lot of people love this series, that's why I gave it a try. Plus it was available on audio from my library. But it was PAINFULLY slow and boring, and way too dark for my taste. I think I don’t like urban fantasy as a general rule. I didn’t care for the writing style either. So I do not plan on reading any of the other books in this series.

Also, why does this have 4.06 average rating on Goodreads??? I really don’t get it. I would have DNF’ed this one if I could ever bring myself to do that…

*****

So have you read any of these? Did you like them more than I did? Why?

View all my reviews

Sunday, January 06, 2019

2018 Movies

I watched A LOT more movies in 2018 than ever before! Assuming I logged them all on letterboxd, 135 movies, to be exact. And of those 135 movies, 54 of them were new releases from 2018. Most of these movie titles below are linked to my very short mini-reviews on letterboxd.com. Feel free to add me on there if you are on there. (I highly recommend it if you like to watch a lot of movies. It's like Goodreads for movies.)

Favorite Movies of 2018 (definitely want to re-watch)

1. Avengers: Infinity War and Black Panther (I'm sorry, I can't choose so they tie for first place!)
3. Ant-Man and the Wasp
4. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
5. Mary Poppins Returns
6. Aquaman
7. Crazy Rich Asians
8. Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!
9. Incredibles 2 (better than the first one!)
10. Christopher Robin
11. Life of the Party
12. Love, Simon
13. Solo: A Star Wars Story
14. Ready Player One
15. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Good Movies of 2018 (would probably re-watch):
16. Ocean’s 8
17. First Man
18. Ralph Breaks the Internet
19. Dumplin'
20. A Star Is Born*
21. Mission: Impossible - Fallout
22. A Wrinkle in Time
23. Colette
24. Bohemian Rhapsody
25. Hearts Beat Loud
26. The Miseducation of Cameron Post
27. Deadpool 2

Decent Movies of 2018 (might re-watch):
28. Book Club
29. The Christmas Chronicles
30. I Can Only Imagine
31. Juliet, Naked
32. A Simple Favor 
33. Overboard
34. Every Day
35. Forever My Girl
36. The Kissing Booth
37. I Feel Pretty
38. A Kid Like Jake

Meh (Probably won't re-watch):
39. The Spy Who Dumped Me
40. Dog Days
41. Sierra Burgess Is a Loser
42. The Miracle Season
43. Tomb Raider
44. Tag
45. Peter Rabbit

Nah (Definitely won't re-watch)
46. Searching
47. Black Mirror: Bandersnatch
48. Upgrade
49. Game Night
50. Midnight Sun
51. Cruise
52. Eighth Grade
53. The Favourite
54. Life Itself

And here is this list on letterboxd.com

***

Movies I definitely want to see:
  • Fahrenheit 451 (5/19 on HBO)
  • Won't You Be My Neighbor? (6/22)
  • Boy Erased (11/2)
  • Green Book (11/21)
Movies I might want to see: 
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Netflix)
  • Adrift (6/1)
  • Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind (7/13)
  • The Bookshop (8/24) 
  • Little Women (9/28)
  • The Hate U Give (10/19)
  • Can You Ever Forgive Me? (10/19)
  • The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (11/2)
  • The Grinch (11/9)
  • Instant Family (11/16)
  • The Front Runner (11/21)
  • Mortal Engines (12/14)
  • Bumblebee (12/21)

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

2018 Reading Recap (Book stats, and graphs, and charts, oh my!)

Image of my book tracking spreadsheet from 2018 


Goodreads Reading Challenge
Number of books read: 130
Number of pages read: 30,006
Average Length: 230 pages

(From my Goodreads year-end info-graphic)


I had a very good reading year. As far as the number of books read, it's my 2nd highest. Somehow I managed to read 142 in 2016. 



My average rating is slightly higher than last year's 3.5. Here's the breakdown:
Mode of reading:
Audiobook (88), Ebook (24), Print (18)
 - According to Audible, I listened to 337 hours of audiobooks in 2018.


Book Genres:
Fiction vs. Nonfiction is almost 50-50.

More specific genres I track:
C. S. Lewis Studies: 3
Inklings: 1
Seminary: 15
Theology: 15
Spiritual Memoir: 8 
Science Fiction: 20
Fantasy: 34
Fiction: 14
Nonfiction: 20

(Goals for 2019 include reading a lot more in my C. S. Lewis Studies category. I plan to re-read Till We Have Faces and the Space Trilogy, and probably The Chronicles of Narnia. And that's just the tip of the iceberg, I hope.)

For this chart I grouped Seminary, Theology, and Spiritual Memoir together as "Theology", and I put the Inklings in with C. S. Lewis.
Male/Female Authorship:
Female: 58 (compared to last year's 17)
Male: 72 (compared to last year's 67)

I'm really glad I evened this percentage out this year. Last year 80% of the books I read were written by men. This year it was 55% men and 45% women.
Books Read Per Month:


Read vs. Re-reads:
First time read: 104
Re-read: 26


2017 Reading Recap and Book Stats
2016 Reading Recap and Book Stats
2015 Reading Recap

What I read in 2017 (83 books)
What I read in 2016 (142 books)
What I read in 2015 (120 books)
What I read in 2014 (111 books)
What I read in 2013 (100 books)
What I read in 2012 (56 books)

Friday, December 21, 2018

Movie Review: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse


I thought I didn't need another Spider-Man movie. I was wrong. This was so much fun!

Here are some of the reasons I loved it:

- I tend to enjoy anything that plays with the ideas of the multiverse/parallel worlds.

- It was very funny at times.

- The animation was stunning! They made it feel like you were watching an actual comic book come to life!

- really fun soundtrack

- Spider-Gwen!!!

- Looney Tunes inspired Peter Porker/Spider-Ham! ("That's all folks!" / "Can he say that? You know, legally?")

- Stan Lee cameo

- Spider-Man Noir, the Peter Parker from a black and white universe in 1933. He is a private detective, of course. And he is voiced by Nicholas Cage.

- During the first origin story recap by Peter Parker, we see all of these flashback type clips referring to scenes we've seen in previous Spider-man movies, including the iconic upside-down kiss in the rain from the first one with Tobey Maguire and the train rescue.

- The post-credits scene...

2018 movie rankings
2017 movie rankings
2016 movie rankings
2015 movie rankings
2014 movie rankings
2013 movie rankings
2012 movie rankings
2011 movie rankings
2010 movie rankings
2009 movie rankings
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2005 movie rankings
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1992 movie rankings
1991-1990 movie rankings
1989 movie rankings
1988-1987 movie rankings
1986-1985 movie rankings
1984-1983 movie rankings
1982, 1981, 1980 movie rankings
1970s movie rankings
1960s-1950s movie rankings

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Book Review: Becoming Mrs. Lewis: The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis by Patti Callahan


Becoming Mrs. Lewis: The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis by Patti Callahan
Paperback, 416 pages
Published October 2, 2018 by Thomas Nelson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Historical fiction is not usually my jam. But C. S. Lewis always is. So I was a little unsure about how I would feel about this book, which uses the facts that we know about Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis to weave a fictional story about Joy's life before she encountered Lewis (Jack) in his writing, began corresponding with him, met him in Oxford, etc. But I absolutely loved it. I kept forgetting I was reading a fictional telling and not an actual autobiography from Joy Davidman herself! It was one of my favorite books that I read in 2018. I will definitely be reading it again. And reading it now also renews my desire to read Joy's own writings, especially Smoke on the Mountain.

There is an interview with Patti Callahan on the Christianity Today website, published on October 23 of this year: Joy Davidman: The Woman Who Wanted Something More; Interview by Rachel McMillan.

Callahan also shares a note to the reader on her website:


Official blurb:

"In a most improbable friendship, she found love. In a world where women were silenced, she found her voice. 

From New York Times bestselling author Patti Callahan comes an exquisite novel of Joy Davidman, the woman C. S. Lewis called “my whole world.” When poet and writer Joy Davidman began writing letters to C. S. Lewis—known as Jack—she was looking for spiritual answers, not love. Love, after all, wasn’t holding together her crumbling marriage. Everything about New Yorker Joy seemed ill-matched for an Oxford don and the beloved writer of Narnia, yet their minds bonded over their letters. Embarking on the adventure of her life, Joy traveled from America to England and back again, facing heartbreak and poverty, discovering friendship and faith, and against all odds, finding a love that even the threat of death couldn’t destroy. 

In this masterful exploration of one of the greatest love stories of modern times, we meet a brilliant writer, a fiercely independent mother, and a passionate woman who changed the life of this respected author and inspired books that still enchant us and change us. Joy lived at a time when women weren’t meant to have a voice—and yet her love for Jack gave them both voices they didn’t know they had. 

At once a fascinating historical novel and a glimpse into a writer’s life, Becoming Mrs. Lewis is above all a love story—a love of literature and ideas and a love between a husband and wife that, in the end, was not impossible at all."

“Patti Callahan seems to have found the story she was born to tell in this tale of unlikely friendship turned true love between Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis, that tests the bounds of faith and radically alters both of their lives. Their connection comes to life in Callahan’s expert hands, revealing a connection so persuasive and affecting, we wonder if there’s another like it in history. Luminous and penetrating.” —Paula McLain, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Wife

“Patti Callahan Henry breathes wondrous fresh life into one of the greatest literary love stories of all time . . . The result is a deeply moving story about love and loss that is transformative and magical.” —Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Orphan’s Tale

 “I was swept along, filled with hope, and entirely beguiled, not only by the life lived behind the veil of C. S. Lewis’s books but also by the woman who won his heart. A literary treasure from first page to last.” —Lisa Wingate, New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours

 “Profoundly evocative, revealing an intimate view of a woman whose love and story had never been fully told . . . until now . . . Becoming Mrs. Lewis is a tour de force and the must-read of the season!” —Mary Alice Monroe, New York Times bestselling author of Beach House Reunion


 “Patti Callahan somehow inhabits Davidman, taking her readers inside the writer’s hungry mind and heart.  We keenly feel Davidman’s struggle to become her own person at a time (the 1950s) when women had few options . . . An astonishing work of biographical fiction." —Lynn Cullen, bestselling author of Mrs. Poe



Becoming Mrs. Lewis Purchase Links: PaperbackKindle Edition, Audible Audiobook

View all my book reviews

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Top Ten Cozy, Wintry (Christmas) Reads

Top Ten Tuesday: Wintry (or Christmas) Reads


1. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
(okay, really, I mean the whole series and any time of year is perfect for adventures in Narnia. But LWW does feature snow and Father Christmas, so it definitely belongs on this list!)

2. Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien

3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter #1) by J.K. Rowling
(again, I actually mean the whole series, and it's great year-round, but I always seem to want to re-read it in winter-time... it's like comfort food but in book form.)

4. The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore

671160560717495. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

6. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Barbara Shook Hazen (Adaptor),  Robert Lewis May
(I'm pretty sure this is the book my brother memorized when he was 3 or 4 and tried to say he was reading it. I'm pretty sure I argued with him about this a lot.)

7. The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen

8. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss

9. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

10. Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman



Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (The Chronicles of Narnia, #1)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
The Night Before Christmas
The Snow Queen
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Little Golden Book)
Letters from Father Christmas
Odd and the Frost Giants
A Christmas Carol
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever



















Connect with me on Goodreads to see what I am currently reading and keep track of the books you are reading, have read, and want to read: Jennifer's Goodreads Profile


Friday, October 12, 2018

Doctor Who: The Woman Who Fell to Earth


Calling all Doctor Who fans! The Doctor is back! And she is a woman! And she is awesome!

Aaron Earls (@WardrobeDoor) has been writing fun review type posts on new episodes of Doctor Who for a while now, and earlier this year on Twitter he mentioned that he was looking for some new people to join the discussion. So Hannah Long (@HannahGraceLong), Jenna DeWitt (@Jenna_DeWitt), and I are joining the fun! 

Here is a preview of my contributions to the first post, but click on over to The Wardrobe Door to read the full post!

(And yes, there are spoilers ahead, so be sure to watch the episode first!)

*****

It’s early days yet, but what do we think of the new Doctor?

Jennifer: I already absolutely love Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor! She seems to be a fun mix of 10 (David Tennant) and 11 (Matt Smith), with her own spin of course. And I do think it is important that we are able to see those connections to previous Doctors in order to believe that we are still watching the same character in a new body.

I’ve always enjoyed watching the newly regenerated Doctor trying to acclimate to his (and now her!) new body! It really is a clever little writing convention! As the audience is trying to adjust to this new version of this character, so is the Doctor!

And when she finally remembered who she was and announced it I got goosebumps: “Bit of adrenaline, dash of outrage, and a hint of panic knitted my brain back together. I know exactly who I am … I’m the Doctor.”

This is the largest cast of characters the new show has thrown at us as a regular TARDIS team – how does that change the dynamics we’ve seen before?

Jennifer: This was a concern I had when I saw the teaser that showed us they would be introducing that many new characters. Some of us are predisposed to root for this new Doctor, we want to like her, but she’s still new.

Obviously, we need a new companion, maybe even two, but three? That seems like it might be pushing it. It was a little hard for me to get into the first episode, despite my enthusiasm for this new Doctor, and part of that was the pacing.

It just seemed like it was moving too slowly at first and taking too long to see the Doctor on the screen. And I’m sure the writers were trying to build suspense, but they also needed to tell us something about four brand new characters, which slowed things down.

That said, I really loved the dynamic between Amy Pond and Rory and the Doctor in seasons 5-7, so if this series can give us something like that again, I could definitely get on board!

We’ve had a death in the first episode. (Spoilers, sweetie) How do you feel like the change of showrunners impacted how this plot twist was handled?

Jennifer: I was very upset that they killed Grace! She was the one I liked best! I can see how her death will make Graham and Ryan feel freer to travel with the Doctor, but I’m still not happy about it! Honestly, I’d be okay if they decide to bring her back later somehow. I know some people don’t like it when the writers do that, but if I like the character enough, I don’t mind.

Part of what makes Doctor Who are the villains and monsters. What did you make of the Stenza warrior dubbed “Tim Shaw” by the Doctor?

Jennifer: Eww! No! Gross! I never like the episodes that lean towards creepy/scary. Basically, if it borders on horror at times, I don’t like those parts, and like Hannah mentioned, there was a definite horror element here. Beyond that, I don’t find this guy very interesting.

*****

Be sure to click over to The Wardrobe Door to read the full post!