Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Book Thief.

I read The Book Thief several years ago and really enjoyed it. Well, if "enjoyed" is the correct word to use when you're talking about a haunting story set in Nazi Germany. It's a book that sticks with you...between the lyrical writing style and the fact that the narrator is Death, it's a pretty memorable book. I was excited to hear that there was a film adaptation coming, and I reread the book back in December in anticipation of the film. But then it turned out that the movie didn't come to our theater, so I added it to my Netflix list, and I finally got to see it this week.


It was a really beautiful film. I was worried from the trailer that the tone of it might be a little too light, considering how dark the book can be. But they actually did a really good job of balancing humor and lighter moments with the more dramatic ones. This is a good book-to-film adaptation...I noticed a few things that were left out or changed, but overall it stuck pretty closely to the book and all of the important things are still there.

The cinematography is really gorgeous, and the costumes and sets were great. (The book burning scene was visually stunning, though as a book lover, it made me cringe. I also loved all of the snowy scenes.) The outside of the house and the street weren't exactly how I had imagined them, but the inside of the house was. The music was also amazing.


The casting was one of the best parts of the movie...it was seriously perfect. Sophie Nelisse, the girl who played the main character Liesel, was amazing. Not only was she adorable (those curls!), but she's also a really good actress. I loved the transformation from the silent girl at the beginning to the confident girl she became later on, telling stories in the bomb shelter during air raids. (And have I mentioned how adorable she was??) And they really couldn't have found anyone better than Geoffrey Rush to play her foster father, Hans. Oh my goodness, he was perfect and exactly what I was imagining when I read the book. I loved it when he played the accordion. I was also really impressed with Emily Watson as Rosa, the foster mother. They toned back Rosa's nastiness big time for the film, and I'm glad because while she's still grumpy, she's so much more likable. :)


I've read quite a few WWII stories, especially ones involving the Holocaust. But this is the first story I've ever read that takes place from the viewpoint of ordinary German people living under Hitler. I think most of us tend to be really judgmental towards them and wonder how they could have let those terrible things happen. But The Book Thief does a good job of showing the fear that they lived under, worrying what awful things would happen to them if they dared speak out against the Fuhrer.

My favorite scene was probably the one where Liesel and Rudy were out in the woods shouting "I hate Hitler!" As children, they probably didn't understand the extent of Hitler's evil...they just know that he's done things that have taken away people they love and changed their lives. I also love basically any scene with Liesel and Hans together. Their relationship is so sweet. And for different reasons, I appreciated the scene when the Nazis are checking basements...it was really good and appropriately tense.


The one thing about the book that bugs me is the profanity. Bad language is one of my pet peeves, and the book unfortunately includes a lot of it. It's also just a bit too crass at times. I'm glad the movie steered away from that...in that way, it actually improved on the book (in my opinion :).

Like I said, The Book Thief is such a beautiful movie, and I really recommend it. It's not a feel-good film by any means, so don't watch it if you're in the mood for something cheerful. (The end will make you cry. If you've read the book, you know what I mean. It's even more heartbreaking seeing it happen, though it's handled in a really graceful way.) But it's definitely worth watching.

Have you read The Book Thief or seen the film? What did you think?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Olde Liberty Fibre Faire (and pretty yarn!).

Yesterday was the best sort of day. :) I've known for months what I wanted to do for my birthday. Like last year, I wanted to go yarn shopping. But not just any old yarn shopping...I wanted to go to a yarn and fiber festival. At the beginning of 2013 I found out that there's one fiber festival that's within easy driving range from us: the Olde Liberty Fibre Faire in Bedford, VA. It was canceled last year, but it was happening this year, and very conveniently happening just about a week before my birthday (which is on the 21st).
 
 
We made the hour-and-a-half drive and after a little bit of trying to figure out exactly where the festival was being held, we found it. And wow...it was so much fun. :) A whole festival filled with hand dyed and handspun yarns and handpainted spinning fibers and spindles and fleeces and spinning wheels. Bags of pretty fiber and piles of gorgeous yarns. It was pretty overwhelming! I knew that I would enjoy the festival, but I didn't realize just how much fun it would be. {I can't speak for exactly how much fun it was for my parents, but they were really good sports about it. Especially Mom, considering she has a cold or allergies and felt crummy all day. They followed me around for a while and talked to several vendors and then went and sat in the shade.}

I made one loop around the booths without buying anything, just to get an idea of what the different vendors had and trying to remember which ones I wanted to come back to later. I had brought my camera along, planning on getting lots of pictures. Well, that didn't happen. I was enjoying myself so much that I didn't even think about my camera. I pulled it out once to get pictures of the alpacas*, and then put it back in my bag until we were leaving and I thought to snap a picture of just a few of the outdoor booths. And of course you can't even see any of the pretty things they were selling in the picture.
 
*I think this was the first time I had ever seen an alpaca in real life. They had both fuzzy ones and just-shorn ones there, and they were quite a bit different from what I expected! Of course I've seen pictures so I knew what they looked like. But I was expecting them to be tall, I guess like a llama. They were rather small and instead of the deep sound I was expecting, they made tiny, sweet noises that sounded like a baby goat or a baby sheep. :)
 

It was just really nice to be around other crafty people. There were people knitting and spinning and talking about patterns and getting as excited about pretty yarn as I was. I liked getting to see and talk with several of the yarn shop owners and spinners that I've met in the past couple of years. I do have blog friends who knit and such, but I don't really spend a lot of time in real life with other crafters. I'm not part of a knitting group or anything. So the festival was a good reminder that there are tons of other people out there who have the same "unusual" hobbies and interests as me.

So...the gorgeous pile of yarn and fiber that I bought home. *happy sigh* I had been saving up money for quite a while because I know that hand-dyed fiber isn't cheap (and it shouldn't be...in my little experience with dyeing yarn, it's not as easy as it looks!). It seems like pretty fiber is harder for me to find locally than pretty yarn, so I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity and get at least two dyed fibers. (My only rule was no white spinning fiber or fleece. I have plenty of that.) I ended up with three fibers and three yarns. It seems like I always gravitate towards the same colors. Like blue. I wouldn't really consider blue one of my favorite colors, but I'm almost always drawn to blue or teal yarn. I tried to branch out a little and not get the same colors over and over, but you can still see some similarities in what I bought. :)


The first yarn, this really colorful one, is from Fairy Tale Knits. That was one of the first booths we stopped at, and she had so many beautiful colorways with awesome names! It was definitely one of my favorite booths, and I had such a hard time deciding which color to get. I finally ended up with a skein of 100% superwash merino in fingering weight, in a colorway called Mountain Meadow. It's so pretty. I definitely want to buy more yarn from her in the future, so I'm glad she has some available on her website!


The second yarn is superwash merino and nylon in fingering weight. It's from Unplanned Peacock Studio, and her yarns are seriously gorgeous. I had bought two skeins of yarn from this dyer before, but I purchased them from local yarn stores. (My first cowl was from her yarn, and I haven't knitted up this sock yarn yet.) This was the first time I had seen all of her yarn together in one space, and wow...it was so beautiful. This color was my favorite, and she explained that it was the colorway she created especially for the festival. It wasn't even named yet...they were going to have a Ravelry meet-up later on in the day where they were going to have a naming contest. Anyway, this is one of my favorite skeins of yarn that I've ever bought. It's sock yarn so I was planning on it being socks at first, but now I think I've changed my mind. Maybe a Hitchhiker? I know that is one crazy popular pattern, but I only recently fell for it (this is probably why).


This one was from Gerschubie Fiber Arts. This dyer was very friendly, and she had lots of hand-dyed yarn and spinning fiber. There were about three skeins that I really loved, and out of them I picked this DK weight yarn in 100% superwash merino in a blueish colorway called Moira. It's a good-sized skein...about 275 yards, and once again, I'm drawn to blues.


Now for the spinning fiber! The first two were from the same vendor: Misty Mountain Farm. It's finnsheep wool, which I've never spun before. The first colorway is called mountain stream, and it was one of the first things I bought. I went back for the second one, which is called scuba diving (and it reminds me of the Florida Keys, which makes me happy). The final fiber is wool from Spinn Lady Fibers, and it's called berries and cream. My mom said, "I thought you didn't like pink!" And I usually don't. Hot pink is about the only pink I can handle. :) These are all 4 ounces each, by the way.


After we left the festival, we met up with my brother, sister-in-law, and niece for a few minutes (they also happened to be in that area for the day, but not to go to the festival) and then got some lunch and ate it at a picnic table just outside of the Booker T. Washington National Monument (it was such a pretty day). And on the way home we stopped for ice cream.

So, yes, it was a lovely, fibery sort of day. I think this should become a yearly tradition...mint chocolate chip ice cream and all. :)

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Sword in the Stone {1963}

{Animated Disney Film #18 of 53}

This is the first Disney movie on the list in quite a while (since The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, in fact) that I've never seen before. For whatever reason, we just never owned it on VHS and apparently never borrowed it to watch.

So, The Sword in the Stone is about King Arthur. Well...sort of. It's about a boy called Wart (his real name is Arthur) who meets the wizard Merlin. Merlin begins to sort of tutor Wart and teach him some life lessons. By life lessons, I mean he turns Wart into several different kinds of animals to reinforce the idea that brains are better than brawn. Then, at the end, Wart pulls the sword from the stone and is crowned the next king of England. Thus, King Arthur. That's the movie in a nutshell, and I don't think I'm spoiling anything by telling the end because of the movie title. (Actually, the pacing seems a bit weird because the sword is mentioned at the beginning, and then in the last five minutes, and that's about it.)


First of all, let me say that I don't really have any experience with the story of King Arthur in books or films. Except for reading Avalon High as a teenager.

This is a strange little movie. It's a story set in medieval times, similar to Sleeping Beauty. But Merlin has seen the future, so he mentions motion pictures and comes back from a trip to Bermuda wearing shorts and a flowery shirt. The music during the opening credits is very 60s, but the rest of the songs have that typical Disney feel. The animation is similar to that of 101 Dalmatians, and Wart's mannerisms and movements remind me of Mowgli in The Jungle Book. Basically, a lot of the aspects of this movie reminded me of other Disney movies.


After a mostly music-less film (101 Dalmatians), the songs are back here. Honestly, I didn't really find them very memorable. Maybe that's because I didn't grow up with this movie, so the songs aren't ingrained in my memory like those in other Disney films. I'm surprised that I didn't like the music more because it was composed by the Sherman brothers, who did a lot of famous film scores and songs (like the "It's a Small World" theme song, and the music for Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, several Winnie the Pooh movies, the 1961 Parent Trap, etc.). I did really love the jazzy number that plays when Merlin sets the kitchen to magically clean itself, though. :) That's a perfect example of how this movie that's set in medieval times can have a 1960s feeling to it.

My favorite scene was probably the Wizards' Duel, or basically any of the scenes with Madam Mim. Because while she doesn't make a very convincing villain, she is wacky and fun to watch. (By the way, she was voiced by a lady named Martha Wentworth who did the voices of three small characters in 101 Dalmatians: Nanny, the cow, and the goose.)


Two other little random things: the voice of the man who is Wart's foster dad sounded so familiar to me. When I looked it up, I realized he was the voice of Bagheera in The Jungle Book and the narrator from the 1977 Winnie the Pooh film. No wonder he sounded familiar. :) Also, The Sword in the Stone was the last animated Disney movie that was released before Walt Disney's death.

Overall, I enjoyed The Sword in the Stone. It was pretty entertaining, though it's definitely not a favorite. It's not one I'll be rushing out to buy on DVD. I depend on a good story and catchy songs in Disney movies (and sometimes a dose of nostalgia :), and I guess that's where this one fell short for me. The story felt weak at times, and I didn't love the songs.

Up next is another childhood favorite: The Jungle Book!

Do you like The Sword in the Stone? What are some of your favorite King Arthur-related books, films, or TV? (I do have the BBC series Merlin in my Netflix queue, but I haven't watched it yet.)
 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

TARDIS blue handspun.

I finally finished some more handspun. It had been a while...I don't think I had used my spinning wheel since December! You don't really forget how to spin yarn, but I feel like it took me a while to get back into the groove of drafting the fiber.
 
I bought this blue fiber from KnitPicks at the end of last year. I've spun their Bare Roving twice before (and dyed it after spinning), but this was my first time buying already dyed roving from them. It's the same fiber, so there wasn't much difference. I really love this color. I'm sure you never saw this coming, but I bought it because it was a TARDIS-y blue. :) This is approx. the fifth time I've bought yarn or fiber in this general shade. (I'm a Doctor Who nerd.) It's actually a lot darker than it seems in the pictures...it's very similar to what I used in my time and space shawl.
 

I tried to spin it long draw, woolen style, though I'm not quite sure I've mastered that. Also, I tried to spin it a little thinner than I usually do. I've basically only spun worsted weight yarn so far. I want to learn how to spin finer yarn (I'd love to knit handspun socks), but it's harder than I thought. I'm always breaking the yarn...maybe it would be easier to control that in the worsted style? I ended up with approx. 208 yards of two-ply yarn that's somewhere between DK and sportweight, which is a little finer than my usual.


I think it will become fingerless gloves. It seems like I've knitted a lot of those, but I really haven't. I wear my red pair the most during the winter...they're long enough to tuck inside my too-short coat sleeves so I'm not left with chilly wrists. :) But they're also really bright and sometimes I feel a little too conspicuous wearing them. I need more subtly colored wrist-warmers.

I think I'll go cake it up now. I really do love that ball winder...

Speaking of Doctor Who inspired yarn, I am obsessed with these. Especially the Van Gogh ones, because that's one of my favorite DW episodes. They cost more than I generally spend on yarn, but I might have to save up sometime this year for one of them.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Top ten most influential books.

There's a tag going around on Booktube where you're asked to list the top ten books that have been the most influential in your life. I've really enjoyed seeing other people's responses, so I decided to make a list of my own. :)


It was a little more difficult to make this list than I thought it would be. It's not as easy as naming off ten of my favorite books, though of course most of these are among my absolute favorite books. I had to think about which books actually changed me or impacted me in a huge way. I didn't put the Bible on this list because while, as a Christian, it's the most influential book in my life, it seems too important and too obvious for the list. :)

By the way, except for the first one, these are in no particular order.


The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis. Other than the Bible, these books have been the most influential in shaping my ideas about God and heaven and life in general. I won't ramble about them again now, because I already did that here.


Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. This book taught me to beware of being prideful or prejudiced because it could make me miss out on my future Mr. Darcy! Just kidding (mostly). Seriously, though, as a young teenager, P&P crushed my belief that classics were dull and dry. The story and characters grabbed hold of me the first time I read it and haven't let go. (I can't believe that next year will be ten years since I fell in love with this story!) I feel so close to the characters in P&P...I feel like I actually know them. Again, I've dedicated a blog post to this one.


Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White. I was in second grade when my teacher first read this book to my class. She did different voices for the characters. This was probably my first encounter with a book that was funny and sad and beautifully written all at once.


Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt. Yay, cheesy movie cover! It seemed like I read this book for school nearly every year during my late elementary to middle school years, but I never got tired of it. It's so simple and short, but so profound. How many children's books tackle thoughts like this one: would you live forever on this earth if you were given the chance? And like Charlotte's Web, the writing is gorgeous.


Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis. Every Christian should read this book. It's full of so much wisdom, and my copy is all marked up. I think I'm due a reread soon. :)


The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling. This series is probably largely responsible for the obsessive reader I am today. And the reason why I find myself a part of several "fandoms." :) The Harry Potter books aren't overrated in the least, in my opinion. They're wonderful and funny and the world-building is probably the best I've ever read. I never get tired of rereading these books.


The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom. Okay...I've only read this book once so far. I've since bought a copy, so I definitely need to reread it. But I knew that there had to be a WWII or Holocaust book on this list, and this is one that really stands out in my memory so it's the one I chose (also, it's nonfiction). As someone who loves vintagey things, it's easy to get caught up in the good things of the 40s: the big band music and the glorious movies and even the way that our country pulled together during the war. But I don't want to overlook all of the horrific things that were happening during that era. The Hiding Place is a perfect example of the best sort of WWII book (nonfiction or fiction): it shows how good people lived and made a difference amongst all of the unspeakably terrible things.


The Giver, by Lois Lowry. This was my first introduction to the dystopian genre. I had never read anything like it before, so I was discovering the secrets of his "perfect" society right along Jonas. I still remember the shock I felt when reading about the infants being released. I really recommend this entire series.


Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. I loved this book from the first time I read it. But when I reread it, I was surprised by how much I felt like I knew Jane. I'm going to say this, which is a pretty big statement for a book lover: I feel like I know Jane Eyre better than I know any other character I've ever read. It's not that we're that similar, though we are in some ways (people pleasers who usually keep our emotions to ourselves behind a quiet fa├žade). But this is such an introspective novel that I honestly feel like Jane is a friend.


To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. I've only read this book once, a couple of years ago, but after finishing it, it went straight to my favorites list. (I'm hoping to reread it very soon...like in the next month or two.) It was one of those classics that truly does live up to the hype. It was beautiful and simple unlike anything I've ever read before. I think this book is a great example of flawlessly mixing humor with serious issues, which is something I appreciate. Everyone should read this book at least once.

I have a couple of honorable mentions. :) I didn't include these because they're packed away and I couldn't get pictures of them. But when I was younger, the Baby-sitter's Club and the American Girl books were among my favorites. I credit the AG books for my love of historical fiction.

Which books have been most influential in your life?