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2024 Bookish Books Reading Challenge (Hosted by Yours Truly)

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My Progress:

12 / 30 books. 40% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

- Alabama (1)
- Alaska
- Arizona (1)
- Arkansas
- California (3)
- Colorado (1)
- Connecticut
- Delaware
- Florida
- Georgia (1)
- Hawaii
- Idaho (2)
- Illinois (2)
- Indiana (1)
- Iowa
- Kansas
- Kentucky (1)
- Louisiana (1)
- Maine (1)
- Maryland
- Massachusetts (2)
- Michigan
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- Nebraska (1)
- Nevada (1)
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
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- New York (4)
- North Carolina (4)
- North Dakota
- Ohio (1)
- Oklahoma (1)
- Oregon (2)
- Pennsylvania (1)
- Rhode Island (1)
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- Tennessee (1)
- Texas (3)
- Utah
- Vermont (2)
- Virginia (2)
- Washington (2)
- West Virginia
- Wisconsin (1)
- Wyoming
- Washington, D.C.* (1)

- Australia (1)
- Canada (1)
- England (10)
- France (1)
- Indonesia (1)
- Ireland (4)
- Italy (1)
- Scotland (2)
- The Netherlands (1)

My Progress:

28 / 51 states. 55% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:

23 / 50 books. 46% done!

2024 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

23 / 50 books. 46% done!

Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

My Progress:

48 / 50 books. 96% done!

2024 52 Club Reading Challenge

My Progress:

40 / 52 books. 77% done!

2024 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

My Progress:

27 / 40 books. 68% done!

2024 Pioneer Book Reading Challenge

15 / 40 books. 38% done!

2024 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

My Progress:

10 / 25 books. 40% done!

2024 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge

2024 Mystery Marathon Reading Challenge

My Progress

12 / 26.2 miles. 46% done!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

My Progress

26 / 100 books. 26% done!

2024 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

My Progress:

64 / 104 books. 62% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

My Progress

43 / 52 books. 83% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

My Progress

69 / 165 books. 42% done!
Monday, January 27, 2014

Books and Movies and 88-Year-Old Entertainers, Oh My!

Okay, so, I'm STILL catching up on book reviews, but at least I've written TWO for books I've read THIS year.  Go, me!  In the rush to get all my reviews completed, though, I almost forgot that I wanted to take a little break and talk about movies.  I'm no movie critic—seriously, I go to the movies about three times a year on average and only watch maybe twice that at home.  It's not that I don't love movies—I do—it's just that I've usually got better things to do (like read).  However, in the last few months, I've actually seen several bookish movies.  Two of them were even in a real, live theater!  I'm going to save my non-theater film for another day so I can review it when I talk about the book it's based on, so that leaves these two:


My husband and I were walking around downtown Chicago one night in early December.  We were near Millennium Park when we saw an ad for some movie and decided, hey, we're footloose and fancy-free in the Windy City, why not catch a flick?  We'd taken the el from the airport to our hotel, so we didn't have a rental car.  Since it was a lovely night, we decided to walk to the nearest theater, which was down by Navy Pier—about two miles away!  I'd been wanting to see The Book Thief, so after our little urban hike, that's what we did.

And ...

I liked it.  Didn't love, love, love it, but enjoyed it nonetheless.  The script stayed pretty close to the book and when it did veer off, I could understand why.  What it did stay very true to was the theme and the feel of the novel.  I knew the film wouldn't get it exactly right, but it did a decent job.  My husband and I were both touched by it.  It gave us a lot to talk about on our 2-mile trek back to our hotel :)


I realize Saving Mr. Banks isn't based on a book, but it does follow the story of a movie producer (Walt Disney) trying to get the film rights to a book series/character (Mary Poppins) from its author, P.L. Travers.  If you haven't seen the movie, may I suggest that you do?  And soon.  It's one of those warm, endearing films that just makes you want to cheer.  Or sob.  Or both.  Since it deals with some mature subject matter (alcoholism, death, etc.), it's rated PG-13, but I would still label it family friendly.  Truly, it's a wonderful movie.  Even though I sniffled my way through most of it, I fell in love with it.  So much.  I don't know how much of the film's story is absolutely historically accurate and how much has been "Disneyfied," but I don't care.  I adored it.

Whether Walt Disney actually said this or not, I love what his character tells Mrs. Travers:  "That's what we storytellers do.  We restore order with imagination.  We instill hope—again and again and again."  Lovely, right?

Speaking of Mary Poppins, the other night my husband and I went to see one of its stars, Dick Van Dyke.  He and his a capella group, the Vantastix, performed in our area to a packed house.  Most were senior citizens, but that was okay, we had a great time.  The show was excellent—funny, upbeat, very entertaining.  At 88 years old, Dick Van Dyke's still got it going on.  He can sing, he can dance, he can banter with his crazy white-haired groupies ... he's pretty darn spry (maybe it has something to do with his 42-year-old wife?).  As much as I loved hearing him sing Mary Poppins songs, this sweet song was my favorite of all that he and the Vantastix performed (the video's a couple years old, but you get the idea ...):

It was better in person, of course.  And just so, so sweet.  Made me think of all my babies who aren't babies anymore (*sniff, sniff*).

So, have you seen either of these movies?  What did you think?  What other bookish flicks have you seen lately?  Which do you recommend?

Middle Grade Diary Novel Explores History and Mystery of Grand Duchess Anastasia

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

One of my most favorite animated movies of all time is the 1997 Fox film Anastasia.  I love everything about it—the characters, the music, the voice talents, and, of course, the story.  It's full of mystery, romance, humor, courage, redemption, all of it!  I just wish the movie's happy ending echoed what really happened to the grand duchess.  But, the truth is, Anastasia Nicholaievna, youngest daughter of Russia's Tsar Nicholas II, was killed along with the rest of her family in 1918.  Probably.  

Many books have been written about Anastasia, including Carolyn Meyer's middle grade version, which she published in 2000.  Part of Scholastic's Royal Diaries series (a spin-off of its popular Dear America series), the novel explores the life of Anastasia through fictional diary entries.  Recently re-printed with lovely new cover art, the book begins in January of 1914, when Anastasia is just 12.  Through the observations she shares with her journal, readers learn what her day-to-day life must have been like.  Although her father worries about his kingdom, his daughter's more interested in ice skating and performing skits with her sisters—anything to escape her boring studies!  She's feisty, mischievous and, as the year wears on, terrified.  Her country's in trouble, the imperial family at risk of being ousted from their palace home.  As Anastasia's privileged life crumbles quickly and irrevocably, she must learn to be strong even in the worst of times.  Because, for Nicholas II and his family, these are very bad times indeed.  

The diary ends in May of 1918, a couple months before Anastasia's death.  Although the Epilogue gives "the rest of the story," the book's open-ended conclusion leaves room for the reader's imagination to create her own ending.  I choose to believe it happened like it does in the cartoon—with triumph, love, and a whole lot of happily ever after!

While Meyer's Anastasia may not be the greatest historical fiction ever written, I found it to be a quick, intriguing read that taught me some new facts about Russia, royal life and, of course, the mysterious Grand Duchess Anastasia.  

(Readalikes:  Other books in the Royal Diaries series as well as books in the Dear America series)


If this were a movie, it would be rated: 

for violence and intense situations/scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Anastasia from the generous folks at Scholastic.  Thank you!
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