My Top 10 Movies

Monday, August 14, 2017

I know this blog makes it obvious that I love books, but what might be less obvious is that I also love movies. I grew up in a family of movie fiends, with parents who had a mission to introduce me to all of the best classics that were out there. 80s movies are my jam, even as a 90s baby, I'm currently trying to watch all of the "best movies of all time," and I will always love a good thriller, action comedy, or rom com. 

10. Bridesmaids
Why it made the list: In my opinion, it's the best comedy of the past 10 years or so, probably because it was written by and stars mainly women. This is 100% the go-to movie for any friend gathering I've ever had. It's funny as hell every single time.

9. Speed
Why it made the list: Though this movie is supremely unrealistic at times, it's also supremely entertaining. The action and suspense just literally never stops. Plus, young Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock are fine as hell, and her character has the same name as me.
8. The Usual Suspects
Why it made the list: This has one of the best classic twist endings of all time. Blew me away, and continues to on every re-watch. The acting and story line in this movie is just fantastic.

7. Home Alone
Why it made the list: This is a lifelong classic and tradition for me. From the beginning of my childhood, every Thanksgiving was spent at my grandparent's house watching this movie with my cousins. It's so funny and pure and nostalgic. I love this movie endlessly.

6. The Shawshank Redemption
Why it made the list: This is a favorite for many, and it's not hard to see why. It's an amazing, dark, impactful, brilliantly-acted, award-winning movie for a reason. 

5. Pride and Prejudice
Why it made the list: I fell in love with this movie within the first 15 minutes. The cinematography, costumes, and scenery are absolutely stunning. Plus, Kiera Knightley as one of the best literary heroines of all time works so well. This is one of my favorite books of all time as well. 

4. In Your Eyes
Why it made the list: The most underrated movie on this list for sure. It's original, creative, and somehow just completely captivated the romantic in me the entire time. And no matter what my roommates say, the end is perfect.
3. Baby Driver
Why it made the list: This is the most recent addition to my list, but it was an instant favorite. If you need to understand why, just watch it. This may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it was almost the perfect movie for me. Excellent cast, incredible soundtrack and cinematography, gripping plot, dark humor. It is fantastic.

2. When Harry Met Sally...
Why it made the list: This is the most quotable movie of all time, hands down. I will not be convinced otherwise. Every time I watch this movie I love it even more. Best romantic comedy of all time. 
1. Rain Man
Why it made the list: This is and probably always will be my favorite movie of all time. It is incredible and funny and heartbreaking. Dustin Hoffman deserves every award ever for this role. 

Other honorable mentions:
  • Little Miss Sunshine (funny as hell and so backwardly charming)
  • Back to the Future (the ultimate classic)
  • Sixteen Candles (also super quotable, and a childhood favorite)
  • The Edge of Seventeen (shockingly good. Plus Woody Harrelson)
  • The Village (still gets me. so underrated)
  • Super 8 (the first movie that I enjoyed being scared by)
  • La La Land (the soundtrack makes me cry some days)
  • Midnight in Paris (Europe, the 20s, flappers, famous writers)
  • Easy A (Emma Stone's masterpiece. no question)
  • Arrival (linguistics + aliens = somehow incredibly adsorbing)
  • 10 Things I Hate About You (Heath Ledger could take me out any day of the week)
  • X-Men series (Loved every single one, no matter how cheesy those originals were)
  • Beauty and the Beast (the original!)

Guest Post: The Three Best Books About Habits

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Guest post by: Marla Leigh

Three books you should read to create routines, break bad habits and start good ones
In my last post, I talked about a book called The Miracle Morning. I credit that book for helping to convert me from a lifelong night owl into an early bird. The magic of the book is not a particular time of day but rather the intersection of determination and consistency, which creates habits.  Habits are the micro-decisions that you make all day, every day that determine the overall picture of who you are. Aligning your habits with your desires could be the single most important tool to help you meet all your goals.

I have three book suggestions to help you smash your goals and turn your wishes into reality.

1. 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam
What it’s about: it discusses how to properly prioritize your day so you can find time for the things you want to do and need to do.

Why you should read it: because it will challenge how you spend your time. Time and money are the two assets that people do not believe they have enough of. We are not all on a level playing field when it comes to money, but we all have the same 168 hours in a week. The difference between success and failure is in how we choose to spend our time.

2. What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast by Laura Vanderkam
What it’s about: This book highlights successful people and finds a common thread...that people who are successful have a strong, productive morning routine.

Why you should read it: because whatever your goals are, you can accomplish them if you put in the time and energy. The start of your day sets the direction for the rest of your day. Starting your day out goal-driven ensures you will end your day with success.

3. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
What it’s about: the research behind how and why we develop habits. It also contains case studies that help illustrate the points the book is trying to make.

Why you should read it: because it goes beyond telling you that you need to change your habits, and helps you develop tactics to actually get there.

I hope you will give one of these books a try. Tell us in the comments: what time management or goal setting books do you love?

Author Bio: My name is Marla Leigh from It is my pleasure to be here and share my great love of books with you. I love books of all kinds, but in particular nonfiction and juvenile fiction. I guess they appeal to the part of me that never grew up. I believe that books enrich every area of our lives, so I encourage you to read more. It is good for your brain, mental health, and overall health. I look forward to sharing some of my favorite reads with you and hope to hear about some of yours as well

Book Review: My Sister's Bones

My Sister's Bones by Nuala Ellwood

From the publisher:
In the vein of Fiona Barton’s The Widow and RenĂ©e Knight’s Disclaimer, a psychological thriller about a war reporter who returns to her childhood home after her mother’s death but becomes convinced that all is not well in the house next door—but is what she’s seeing real or a symptom of the trauma she suffered in Syria?
The One Person You Should Trust Is Lying to You…
Kate has spent fifteen years bringing global injustice home: as a decorated war reporter, she’s always in a place of conflict, writing about ordinary people in unimaginable situations. When her mother dies, Kate returns home from Syria for the funeral. But an incident with a young Syrian boy haunts her dreams, and when Kate sees a boy in the garden of the house next door—a house inhabited by an Iraqi refugee who claims her husband is away and she has no children—Kate becomes convinced that something is very wrong.
As she struggles to separate her memories of Syria from the quiet town in which she grew up—and also to reconcile her memories of a traumatic childhood with her sister’s insistence that all was not as Kate remembers—she begins to wonder what is actually true…and what is just in her mind.
In this gripping, timely debut, Nuala Ellwood brings us an unforgettable damaged character, a haunting , humanizing look at the Syrian conflict, and a deeply harrowing psychological thriller that readers won’t be able to put down.
Page count: 416
Published by: William Morrow Paperbacks
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 
This is a great suspenseful novel based in real-life emotional turmoil. It does a great job of combining the trauma of experiencing war and death with the psychological suspense you expect in a thriller. This is a dark and gripping book. It doesn't hold back. 
It has a bit of a slow start, and some portions were lacking in full-bodied emotion or suspense, as both were being included, often to the detriment of one or the other. However, this kept interest and is a good one to pick up for anyone interested in suspenseful novels that also deal with PTSD or related issues. 
See the rest of the book tour here. Add it to your TBR shelf on Goodreads. Buy it on Amazon
This book was provided to me by TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins in exchange for my review. 

July Wrap-Up

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

I read a lot in July! And I'll probably read even more in August! I've been reading a lot of amazing stuff lately, and a wider variety of topics and genres than ever before. All of these were great. My favorite of the month? Six Stories for sure. It blew me away. I'll be posting a full review of it pretty soon.
From this month...
Most likely to reread: Six Stories (I actually think I'll reread this pretty soon to see how my perspective changes knowing the ending)
Funniest: Shrill
Kept me up at night: Six Stories
Most impactful: Tell Me How it Ends

1. Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski
Page count: 225
Genre: thriller, mystery
Unique feature: told as a transcribed podcast, with an epic twist ending

2. What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler
Page count: 336
Genre: mystery, drama
Unique feature: by a debut author, based on true events

3. Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
Page count: 260
Genre: memoir, humor, feminism
Unique feature: you'll learn and laugh your ass off at the same time

4. Tell Me How It Ends by Valeria Luiselli
Page count: 128
Genre: essay, social justice
Unique feature: this is an essay based on the 40 questions asked of immigrant children entering the US

5. The Wendy Project by Melissa Jane Osborne
Page count: 96
Genre: graphic novel, fantasy, drama
Unique feature: the illustrations are stunning, and it's a modern take on Peter Pan

6. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Page count: 160 (though I listened to the audiobook)
Genre: mystery, fantasy, gothic
Unique feature: This involves a multiple-homicide via arsenic, a cat named Jonas and a narrator named Merricat

7. The One That Got Away by Leigh Himes
Page count: 384
Genre: lit. fiction, women's fiction
Unique feature: features a pretty epic life swap

8. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Page count: 460
Genre: drama, mystery
Unique feature: recently adapted into a well-reviewed TV series

9. Six-Word Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak by various authors
Page count: 144
Genre: memoir, collaboration project
Unique feature: This is literally a book made up of hundreds of memoirs at exactly six words each

10. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
Page count: 130
Genre: essays, feminism
Unique feature: it's so important

Guest Post: Suggestions For Reading Three Times Per Day

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

[this is the first guest post by one of my wonderful new guest bloggers!]

If you are familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, you know that humans have certain needs that must be met in order to survive and thrive. Reading might not be on the original list, but it is on mine as an essential daily task.

If reading is so important. How can you prioritize it in your schedule to ensure that you are reading every day? I have three suggestions for how to fit reading in three times a day.

There are two stereotypes people have about mornings. One is the hurried, rushed person getting dressed as they run out the door. The other image is the lethargic person who can barely function and needs a caffeine I.V. drip to even get out the door.

What if I told you there is a better way? A better way that includes books.

I read a book called Miracle Morning that changed my life and how I view mornings.

The premise of the book is to start your morning out with intention. You complete a list of tasks each morning, and one of them is reading. For some people it’s five minutes, for others maybe you have an entire hour to read in the morning.

The point is to make time to read first thing at the start of the day. Our willpower is the greatest then, and a good book could give you the focus and direction you need for the rest of the day.

Maybe you’re not convinced about getting up to read. How about audiobooks on the way to work or while you are getting ready? Audiobooks are an amazing way to get your reading in on the go. You can listen while at the gym, in your car, or in your closet.

In the middle of day, you could carry your Kindle in your bag and find a few minutes to read. I see people in the grocery store all the time staring at their phone, which as a non-phone addict I find irritating. However, if you had to stare at a phone, why not make it a book. Kindle and Audible have mobile apps. It is possible to squeeze in a few minutes anywhere.

Finally, at the end of the day, I make it part of my routine to close out the day with a book. When my kids were younger, it was about reading to them. Now, I send myself off to bed with the treat of a good book.

I am a die hard paperback fan. So, I use this time to catch on library books. If my day ran late, I lay down with my headphone and audiobook, and let the narrator take me to dreamland.

This is only the beginning of all the ways you can fit reading into your day. Are you going to try one of the methods I suggested or do you have your own proven ways to get reading in? Either way, give a shout-out in the comments and let us know how you get your daily reading done.

Author Bio: My name is Marla Leigh from It is my pleasure to be here and share my great love of books with you. I love books of all kinds, but in particular nonfiction and juvenile fiction. I guess they appeal to the part of me that never grew up. I believe that books enrich every area of our lives, so I encourage you to read more. It is good for your brain, mental health, and overall health. I look forward to sharing some of my favorite reads with you and hope to hear about some of yours as well.

Edited by: Annie

50 Small Ways to Live More Intentionally and Thoughtfully

Monday, July 24, 2017

  1. Inscribe every book you give as a gift
  2. Send postcards when you go on a trip
  3. Do yoga every morning or every night before bed
  4. Write letters to your friends and family
  5. Listen to instrumental music while you work
  6. Carefully make playlists for every mood
  7. Send friends songs that remind you of them
  8. Send small gifts when it isn’t their birthday or a holiday--they mean more
  9. Donate things you no longer want
  10. Write slowly in your best handwriting sometimes
  11. Eat slowly and enjoy the food you eat
  12. Only watch shows that make you genuinely happy
  13. Go on spontaneous adventures
  14. Try the food you normally wouldn’t
  15. Teach someone one of your skills
  16. Recommend a movie or book to someone
  17. Donate blood
  18. Go outside every day
  19. Study early
  20. When you love someone, tell them
  21. Do the things you’ll regret missing out on
  22. Go to the museum
  23. See a movie in the theaters once in awhile, even though it costs more
  24. Buy something small and beautiful that you don’t really need
  25. Save your coins in a jar for something special
  26. Don’t dedicate time to things you hate
  27. Tell someone the truth
  28. Just enjoy the things that make you happy, not the things you think you’re supposed to enjoy
  29. Watch old movies and musicals
  30. Go see live music
  31. Walk outside after it rains
  32. Write about your life, write about the best things that happen to you.
  33. Text friends you haven’t seen in awhile
  34. Take a friend out for their birthday and pay for their lunch or coffee
  35. Take a weekend trip
  36. Make a playlist specifically for someone you care about
  37. Think before you say something that might be hurtful
  38. Enjoy being alone sometimes
  39. Invite your friends to do everyday things with you
  40. Tell someone when you miss them
  41. Get to know the friends of your friends
  42. Write down the best thing that happens to you every day
  43. Call people on the phone
  44. Write down your goals and work toward them
  45. Learn about other cultures through friends of other cultures
  46. Visit people who live far away
  47. Hang meaningful items on your walls
  48. Live simply, get rid of things you don’t need
  49. Keep a journal, or many
  50. Tell people why you love them, not just that you do

Quick-Review Collection

Sometimes it takes too much time and effort to write a long review. I don't review every book I read, often because of this. However, I want to share everything I read, and a bit of what I think. So, here is a quick review of all of the books I've read recently that don't have their own full review on my blog. (This idea is inspired by Janna at Literary Quicksand, and personalized for my own style)

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
A book that is complicated and action packed and hard to describe. It makes complicated science fascinating and comprehensible and will keep you on the edge of your seat. 5 stars because, though it wasn't flawless, I never wanted to put it down, and I kept gasping in surprise. 

Men Explain Things To Me by Rebecca Solnit

A tiny, impactful book. As is often the case, some of the essays were better than others. I loved the ones at the beginning of the book, and several later on weren't quite as interesting to me, though still worth reading. A great part of the current feminist canon. Sarcastic, sharp witted, eye opening. 

Grayson by Lynne Cox

5 stars for the story itself. An absolutely amazing true experience of humans and nature interacting in a beautiful way. Informative and eye opening to some things I never knew about ocean life and sea creatures, topics that already strongly interest me. Lynne's experience is incredible and I loved reading about Grayson's interactions and movements with her. Never realized how adorable and fascinating a baby whale could be.

2.5 stars for the writing. Her writing style really isn't my favorite. Her sentences are very short and choppy. She overuses rhetorical questions at times. The many passages about communicating to animals via her thoughts were a bit cheesy and overdone. Some of the details seemed too specific to be remembered that clearly after decades (lengths of animals, specific numbers, etc). Other passages describing the beauty of nature and the sights around her were beautifully written.

However, I absolutely read this for the story of a baby whale and a swimmer interacting together in the ocean. It was uplifting and sweet and beautiful. It's a short book and worth the day of reading it'll require.

Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell

Such a sweet story with an adorable ending. Probably even more appealing for fans of Star Wars who would relate to the references as well as the writing. Only 4/5 because 50 pages isn't enough Rainbow to satisfy me, and because it just made me want to read Attachments (one of my favorite books ever) for the 5th time.

Sex Object by Jessica Valenti
I loved this. Hard hitting, powerful, entertaining, easy to read, funny, horrifying, personal, thought-provoking, important, and relatable. I could add more adjectives if anyone needs convincing. A fast and impressive book to read if you have any interest in feminist essays. 

Six-Word Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak by many writers

Some of these managed to be incredibly poignant, touching or funny in just 6 words. Some didn't. You can read this in about half an hour and it's worth that time. This is pretty darn cute and feels like a great connection of so much humanity. Most of the time I wanted and needed more from each "memoir" to actually feel satisfied. 
Also, one of my past professors has one in here, which I discovered while reading.

The Blue Fox by Sjon

Tough one to rate. Super fast read, such a short little book. The prose and wording are absolutely beautiful. There were many lines that amazed me. This isn't a book about intriguing plot though. There is a small story here, about a few different characters. But it's really about the writing itself and how it depicts animals, nature, humanity, and death combining. It's quite beautiful, and also strange and bizarre and mysterious and moving.

Into the Light and Away From the Dark by Aleatha Romig

4.5/5 and 5/5
This book and sequel are fantastic and hard to describe without giving much away. A woman wakes up, without sight, in a strange place, with no recollection of the stories she's told are the truth. Sounds cliche, but everything is completely insane and unexpected from there on out. It's quite a ride. 

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Something this incredible, impactful, striking, simple and true should be read by everyone in the world. If this was global required reading I guarantee we would live in a better world. 
I was just discussing so many of these topics yesterday, and last week, and last year. Adichie amazingly describes exactly what I often think or talk about, and the things I know thousands of other women think and experience every day. 
This put a tear in my eye and resonated so deeply. Amazing. And worth the thirty minutes or an hour or two of reading for anyone.

We Have Always Lived In the Castle by Shirley Jackson

4/5 [audiobook]
I didn't love the narrator for the audiobook, but that didn't impact my enjoyment of the story itself. This wasn't as good as the other Shirley Jackson books/stories I've read, but it was still really great. Merricat is an awesome and bizarre voice for the story, the plot is engaging, and the ending is unexpected. It's not scary or horrific, but it's very dark and macabre. 

The Wendy Project by Melissa Jane Osborne

This graphic novel has some of the most beautiful illustrations I've seen. The story is a sweet and emotional take on the classic tale of Peter Pan. It could have been much longer, in my opinion. Anyone who likes reading graphic novels and likes Peter Pan will love this new release. 

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
An amazing take on the feminist essays/memoirs I've been loving so much lately. Lindy's perspective as a fat woman, as a comedian, as a feminist, is so bold, hilarious and raw. I couldn't put this down, I never wanted it to end. I would read probably anything she ever wrote down, grocery lists and diary entries included. Her voice is amazing. She also doesn't give a shit about anything, which is fantastic.

Tell Me How It Ends by Valeria Luiselli

I haven't read anything quite like this, or anything on this topic. And I have no idea why! This is so important; anyone with a political opinion or thoughts on social issues should read this tiny book about immigration and children.  An amazing and important book. This taught me so many things, and reinforced the beliefs I already had with more facts and more real stories.