January 2018 Reads

Thanks to the bitterly cold and snowy first two weeks of January and more free time than usual before I started a new job, I finished six books in January that were all downloaded onto my Kindle. I’ve recently found that I can get through a book much quicker by reading it on my e-reader — maybe it has to do with seeing a smaller amount of text on the screen than on a single page?

Seeing as I’m out of school  now and working on my computer all day, I think I’ve felt more drawn to reading during downtime, so I’m very excited to see if I read a similar number of books in February. So, for the first time on my blog, I’m sharing my thoughts about the books I read this month!

51osibl6uil-_sx324_bo1204203200_Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes, by Elizabeth Bard (★★★☆☆)

This is a travel memoir capturing the author’s budding relationship with a Frenchman and her transition to full-time life in France when their connection turns serious. It includes French recipes that Bard tried out while adjusting to the stylistic and cultural differences of an European kitchen.

I skimmed through the recipes included in the book and enjoyed the author’s personal story, but I’ve definitely read similar books, so Lunch in Paris wasn’t particularly special in the end.

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January 2018 Watch: ‘Moonstruck’

Each month, in an attempt to keep up an active feature on the blog, I’m going to highlight a film I watched for the first time and, well, talk about it. Did it resonate with me? Was it over-hyped? Was it worth a watch? I’ve also kept a list of movies I watch in a year since 2011, so I thought this would be a fun way to highlight films that may have stuck out to me in a special way.

Moonstruck has been on my watchlist since it became available on both Hulu and Amazon Prime a short while ago. It wasn’t until the movie started that I recognized how familiar the characters and their cultural quirks were to me. Three of my grandparents were born and raised in New York City boroughs as the children and grandchildren of immigrants, and the fourth, from upstate New York, went to nursing school in Brooklyn. I’m half Italian, and my Italian grandfather grew up in Brooklyn, where the 1987 movie Moonstruck takes place.

In addition to that familial connection, growing up on Long Island exposes you to plenty of older people who grew up in Brooklyn or Queens apartments, watching their fathers renovate their homes on their own and one day becoming frequent DIY patrons of the Home Depot near their suburban homes. I’ve had an understandable fascination with mid-to-late 20th century New York for a long time, and this movie was the perfect dose of familiarity and discovery for me. Several weeks after I watched it, John Mahoney, whose character Perry I couldn’t help but grow fond of, died, which made this viewing feel even more coincidental.

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Top Eight Bookish People I’d Like To Meet

I snatched up this great-sounding topic from The Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday subject list! That is my good-to source for inspiration when I’m stuck on what to write about, and this particular idea takes the concept of what authors I’d like to meet (which I wrote about ages ago) to the next level. I took “bookish” to mean writers of any kind, whether they’re journalists, authors or general creators. These are people who inspire me, create escapist worlds, and remind me that pursuing the written word in a career is far from being silly.

Here we go!

1) J.K. Rowling

I mean, duh.

2) Heidi Thomas

Not only is Heidi the creator and main writer of one of my favorite shows, Call the Midwife (and married to Stephen McGann / Dr. Turner, which I’m low-key jealous of), she’s also the mind behind the recent adaptations of Ballet Shoes, the musical Gigi, and the upcoming (in the U.S.) version of Little Women. Call the Midwife is such an underrated show, but it celebrates women, their strength, and good men who support them so well. I admire Heidi so much, and I love how she works with mostly female directors on the show. She also uses her platform to share so many unique birth stories and highlight reproductive and general health issues women faced in the mid-twentieth century.

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Even More “If These Books Were Movies…”

Dream-casting characters in books I’ve recently read has become my favorite kind of blog post to make. It’s so funny how within just a few pages of some books, an actor’s face will permanently slap across one of the characters for me. For today’s post, I picked books that I’ve read within the last two months or so, thus these “portrayals” are still very vivid in my mind!

For my previous “If These Books Were Movies” posts, check out the category’s tag!

1) Zachary Levi as Joshua Templeman (The Hating Game, by Sally Thorne)

BeFunky Collage

“Shyness takes so many different forms. Some people are shy and soft. Some, shy and hard. Or in Josh’s case, shy, and wrapped in military-grade armor.”

After seeing other bloggers rave about this book, I had such high hopes for it, but it fell a little flat for me. The “romance” stories I gravitate towards are usually more innocent books written by authors like Sophie Kinsella, and they have a well-rounded narrator with an entertaining personality and plenty of fun friends and family around her. This narrator was…fine. The book was just a little dull because I didn’t feel like I knew the main character Lucy very well, and it didn’t help that she lost her only close friend through work drama before the story started and her parents were only seen via Skype.

However, the highlight of the book was seeing Lucy chip away at the tough exterior of her work rival and eventual love interest Joshua. Joshua is a sarcastic guy who plays tough but proves to be a caring softie when Lucy grows more attracted to him. I almost instantly saw Zachary Levi as Josh. I totally fell in love with him after watching him in the live broadcast of She Loves Me last year, and his character in that musical is similar to Josh in that he loves to rile up the people he clashes with. From what I’ve seen, Zach is a genuinely charming and friendly guy, and I think he could pull off Josh’s icy exterior and his succeeding kindness.

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My Favorite Books of 2017

I graduated college this year, and in the past, books I read in my English classes have often appeared on my yearly favorites list (check out my picks for 2014, 2015, and 2016).  Having taken only one literature class my last semester, where I skimmed rather than read, that wasn’t the case this year. Although I ended up adoring most of the books from my college English classes (I took the majority of them with the same professor, whose reading picks I knew I usually enjoyed), I went a little lighter with my reading choices this year.

As 2017 progressed, I turned to a lot of fun chick lit to clear my mind and fast-paced historical fiction to busy it. As a result, my favorites list this year is comprised of just that. It looks quite different from past years’ lists, but more importantly, I found stories that captured me, and managed to read 52 books this year as of Dec. 22!

As always, a disclaimer: these are just books I read for the first time in 2017, not necessarily books that were published this year.

1) The French War Bride, by Robin Wells

We made each other feel loved and accepted and treasured. I think that is all one can ask for in this life. 

I gushed about this book here, and it remains my favorite read of the year. There are a ton of books set in France during World War II, and I’ve read a good number of them, but The French War Bride is the most captivating, comprehensive story about this pocket of time that I’ve ever read. It’s a long one, but it wouldn’t let go of me until I finished two days in, so it can speed by! If you’re treating yourself to a few lazy days after Christmas this year, pick it up from your library or ebook store!
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My Favorite Movies of 2017

This year, I found myself flying through books but struggling to sit down and watch movies, particularly after I graduated in May. I had even more strange aversion to watching new movies, and I feel like many of the films I watched in 2017 were repeats of old favorites. I mean, I’m not the only one who just gets in the mood to binge Nora Ephron movies, right?

That being said, I definitely didn’t watch as many movies this year as I normally do. I even took a full year of film studies classes my senior year, but I managed to get away with not watching some of them in full (I know, I’m awful). If anything, I’m proud of the amount of reading I finished in 2017, and while my favorite films weren’t necessarily standouts, I always need to remind myself that it’s fine to just be indulgent with my book and movie choices and not get too wrapped up with the high-brow picks everyone’s talking about!

After checking out my favorite movies from this year, read about my favorite picks from 2014, 2015, and 2016! And just a reminder: these are films I watched for the first time this year and not necessarily ones that debuted in 2017.

1) Hidden Figures (2016) – Seen January 10, 2017

I saw this so long ago that I genuinely forgot that the viewing was still this year. After seeing Manchester by the Sea, which was nothing like our usual movie picks, earlier last Christmas break with my grandma and sister, we needed to revert to our typical selections of girl-power, historical movies. Hidden Figures was the perfect solution, telling the true story of the African-American women who worked through a major chunk of calculations on NASA projects in the 1960s.

I was so blown away by the performances of the three main actresses, and I’m still shocked that Taraji P. Henson didn’t really get award recognition for her role. If you need any further proof that women played key roles in some of history’s greatest events, Hidden Figures is for you. With it being an Oscar-nominated film, I also love how it didn’t have to rely on nudity or gore to be noticed—the story as is was more than enough.

The actor who played John Glenn was also briefly a contestant on one of my favorite childhood showsEndurance, and he grew up good. 

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The Christmas Pop Culture Blog Survey

I love getting to roll out the Christmas movies and specials every year. After seeing other bloggers’ end-of-the-year book surveys, I was inspired to create my own Christmas pop culture survey focused on the TV episodes, movies, and specials associated with this time of year. If you’re compelled to try out the survey on your own blog, please feel free to do so! I’d love to see your answers, so link back to this post so I’m in the know!

1) What is your favorite Christmas TV episode?

The most memorable one for me has always been Full House‘s “A Very Tanner Christmas,” which I basically grew up watching every year. Something about the holidays in the ’90s just makes me feel so warm and fuzzy inside, no matter how cheesy the episode is. Also, watching that clip, I’m reminded of one of my favorite sitcom tropes – where do all of the guests at main characters’ house parties comes from? Suddenly they all have great friends outside of the recurring cast? These are the little details that haunt me, guys. 

In recent years, I’ve loved the Season 3 Christmas special of Call the Midwife (although all of its specials are just delicious) and, being another show that does great holiday episodes, The Middle‘s “Not So Silent Night” from two years ago. While it’s not distinctly a Christmas episode, How I Met Your Mother‘s “False Positive” also gets a special shout-out.

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10 Favorite Pop Culture Moments of 2017

2017 was a bit of a mess politically and socially. Trump’s tirades, several terrorist attacks, and an onslaught of sexual assault allegations were just some of the difficult moments we faced on a global scale this year. Although it’s important to find a balance between caring enough for the world’s struggles and taking note of your own self care, I’ve always loved entertainment and pop culture because of the relief they provide from sad or negative things.

Despite all of its negativeness, 2017 had plenty of moments that made me happy. I wanted to share my favorite pop culture moments of the year, so get ready to go down memory lane!

1) Prince Harry and Meghan Markle get engaged

Guys, this love story is a made-for-TV movie come to life! But, seriously, I’m hoping for another perfectly cheesy Lifetime flick about them a la William and Kate. Until recent months, I never knew much about Meghan Markle, but I definitely liked the sound of her and her relationship with Harry. After watching their adorable engagement interview, it’s clear that they’re truly in love and that Meghan has already begun a seamless-looking transition into royal life. Try not to smile watching that interview.

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5 Movie Scenes That Always Make Me Cry

I’m a crier. I can usually hold it together in real life, but put me in front of certain movies or TV shows and I’m a mess. I’ve even written about the shows you should stream when you need a good cry.

There are specific cinematic moments that never fail to make me misty-eyed and sniffling. Perhaps I’ll soon talk about TV moments that made me ugly cry to the extreme, but for now, I want to focus on the more low-key, tender moments in film that either made me upset even as a child or have only struck a chord in recent years.

There will definitely be mentions of spoilers for these movies, so proceed with caution!

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A Reaction to Broadway’s ‘Waitress’

I had the pleasure of seeing Waitress on Broadway back in October as a belated birthday present. My mom, sister, and I took advantage of the show’s “Buy One, Get One for $10” deal to grab discounted tickets for a Sunday matinee, and as much as I’ve gotten used to the post-evening show hustle through Times Square to make my train home, it was nice to drive in with people and leave the theater a little more relaxed than usual.

Waitress has been on my list of must-see Broadways show for awhile, and at this point, it was really the only new musical that I was interested in seeing. Even now, I’m more looking forward to next season’s revivals than its new shows. The cast recording became essay-writing music for me in my last semester of school, and I figured that, if anything, seeing the show would be a fun, girly afternoon with my mom and sister.

Based on the 2007 indie film, Waitress tells the story of Jenna, a diner waitress in a small southern town who finds herself pregnant by her abusive husband. In addition to feeling ambivalent about becoming a mother, she has a talent for baking unique pies, and schemes to raise enough money to enter a pie-making contest that could allow her to leave her husband and start anew. Things become complicated when Jenna starts falling for her married OB/GYN, and the plot also explores her coworkers’ experiences with finding love.

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