MJ’s Top Ten Books of 2021

Hey hey, it’s MJ,

            I cannot believe how many books I read in 2021, it is really almost twice as many as I usually read and that to me is insane, honestly and truly insane. I cannot even really begin to narrow it down to my favorites. So maybe this post shouldn’t be called ‘top ten’ it is more of a list of books that I wish I could read again for the first time because they were so good. Now you might be saying, ‘well the title is favorite’. I know, I changed it because it’s not a list, it’s just a recap of my favorite books of the year and I don’t want to rank them.

            I read several series this year so I am not going to count each book in my top ten. I haven’t completed some series though so I am just rolling with it at the moment until I do finish them, or await the next volume in the series because they aren’t out yet. 

            If you actually want to read about all of the books I have read this year, you totally can because there are six of them. Part 1 covers January and February, Part 2 covers March and April, Part 3 covers May and June. Then it gets a lot longer so strap in for a long read, Part 4 covers July and August, Part 5 covers September and October, and Part 6 covers November and December, also another long read because well I read a lot at the end of the year.  

            These are in no particular order and there may be some spoilers, I don’t know yet if there will be or not. I am starting this at the beginning of December because I have the time to start it now, but I still have almost ten books on my TBR for the rest of this year. I have so many and I will only have more next year. That’s why every month is getting their own books post, it’s just easier for me that way and then the posts won’t have so many books on them.

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

            I mean, I wrote a whole paragraph about this in February when I read the book because it was amazing, I think this was one of my only five-star books of the year because it was so good. She weaves these amazing fantastical worlds that I want to get lost in. The Night Circus is one of my all-time favorite books. This one was amazing and I absolutely could not put it down. The multiple perspectives that all thread together makes it amazing and so much fun to keep up with. It’s vivid and I could not put it down, if you like fantasy and a magical library with a dark past and a society of people trying to make sure that it goes dormant then this one is for sure for you. 

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco (the entire series so Stalking Jack the Ripper, Hunting Prince Dracula, Escaping from Houdini, and Capturing the Devil)

            I have read six of her books this year because she is a phenomenal writer and her writing style is imaginative and vivid and again, this was a series I read all of them this year starting in April and finishing the series itself in October. Like I said in that post, I will one day re-read the entire series and I will tab it, I am really bad at tabbing but I am trying with re-reads. This series though is one for you if you like turn of the century true crime, badass female lead, and twists and turns throughout London, Romania, a steam ship, and Chicago this series is for sure something you should look into. 

Seaside Café Mysteries (series) by Bree Baker (the series so far so, Live and Let Chai, No Good Tea Goes Unpunished, Tide and Punishment, A Call for Kelp, Closely Harbored Secrets, and Partners in Lime)

            It is literally and legitimately no secret that I love cozy mysteries I read two of these books in a day each. I can devour cozy mysteries and I feel no shame about it. The next one doesn’t come out until April and that means that I just have to wait. I love Charm and the character of Everly is so much fun. The mysteries for sure take a little bit of a darker turn than usually a cozy mystery heroine faces, like there were near death experiences more than once in this series and that was a little jarring. Also, several of the killers have been female which for a murder mystery is not super common, the series is a lot of fun though and I am kind of unhappy that I have to wait because I read through these so fast. This is the exact reason that I am doing a TBR because otherwise I would just buy half the cozy mystery section at Barnes and Noble and not read any of the other books that I own. 

A Darker Shade of Magic (the series) by V.E. Schwab (the first two, so, A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows)

            I have not read the third one yet, that is on my TBR for next year but I have not read it yet. So, no spoilers on the final book, I don’t want to know how it ends. I want to read it next year and enjoy it without spoilers. This series is one that has been on my TBR since about 2018? Or so. I honestly can’t remember when I added it to my TBR but I know that I am looking forward to and dreading reading the third one because then it’s over. This is the series that I have tried to tab, it went okay for the first one and then I couldn’t stop to put anything really in the second book because it was so good. I love the world of the different colored London’s, it’s fascinating to use a multidimensional travel scenario like this. It’s super good. (Yes, I know that is not a great sentence, but here we are and it’s staying.) I love the characters and the world building and I cannot wait to see how it all ends in A Conjuring of Light.

Kingdom of The Wicked (the series) by Kerri Maniscalco (both books, so Kingdom of The Wicked and Kingdom of The Cursed)

            I for sure am writing this post in sections because that’s who I am as a person and I finished these books super quick. I loved Kingdom of the Wicked and got sucked into Kingdom of the Cursed so fast that I could not put it down. I love Wrath and Emilia. I love the seven realms and everything that happens in the second one. So many plot twists. I am so excited for the next and final one to come out next year. The world, like the Stalking Jack the Ripper series is vivid, but this one is super magical and amazing. I feel like I am talking like a middle schooler as I talk about books I like. I don’t get to do it very frequently, so, here we are. The second one is a little spicy, it may not be for some readers but for me, it was.

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

            I watched the mini-series first and loved it, this book has been in my collection since before we moved to Arkansas, so it’s been in my library for at least four years if not longer. I loved the book, the series stuck pretty close to it and that made me so happy while I was reading the novel. It was a book that I read really early this year and then watched the series again because I wanted to. I wrote an entire blog post about the series and if you want to read that, you totally can. I love the characters and the pacing of the book itself because it is a week to the apocalypse and it needs to be stopped by an angel and a demon who are both so extra. 

Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian 

            This was my first Book of The Month and it was so good; it was one of those books where it hooks you in from the first line and then doesn’t let go. The first line talks about her drowning and I was hooked. There is mentions and instances of suicide and that’s not fun. It is a retelling of King Arthur’s court and it is phenomenal. So many twists and turns for characters that are so familiar to all of us. Merlin is shady in this one though, which is a departure from the normal mythos so that was fun. I spent the book thinking of the characters like the BBC show Merlin so that was amusing. 

The Ex Hex but Erin Sterling

            Fantasy and Romance, I loved this book, I wrote a whole post on it in November because it was my October Book of the Month, it was a really fun read and I saw someone online say it had no plot, it did. It was magic and a curse all started with a Bath and Body Works candle and too much alcohol. It was just so fun. I spent a lot of time laughing and a lot of time wondering what I had gotten myself into. I liked that magic kind of cohabitated with normal life in this one as well, it made the world feel much more real. 

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

            At the beginning of the year if you would have told me that two rom-com/romance books would be on my top ten list I would have laughed at you. Then I picked this book up and I regret waiting so long to read it. I read it in one day because I could not put it down. There are some tropes in this book that I actually really enjoyed and when the book was one of the September selections for Book of the Month I considered it, but the romance tag and the fact that they tagged it ‘salacious’ gave me pause and I read Rock, Paper, Scissors instead. I am so glad I got this one as an add-on for December though because it was amazing. It did get a little spicy, again for me, for most people it probably isn’t that bad. I loved it though, it had me closing it every few pages to silently laugh, so good. 

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

            I wholeheartedly blame BookTok for my want to read this and then I read it and I get the hype, I cannot wait to read the next one, I will probably go out and buy the rest of the series at some point soon just so I can have them when my fancy strikes me to read the next one. It was so good and felt very Beauty and The Beast to me, I loved the characters and all of the vivid imagery that were provided in this book. It is a slow start than then it gets so good. I have seen enough through BookTok that I know there are things that come up in later books that will make me dislike a character I currently like, (do not spoil it anymore for me!) If I could I would just read the rest of the series before going back to school at the beginning of January but I have met me and I need to sit with this one for a while before moving into the next one. (For some reason every time I am writing next in this post the next word that my brain wants to type is morning. I mean, writing problems?)

            There it is, my favorite books for 2021, I am writing this on Christmas but I don’t think I am going to have another book that can match up to this list and if there is there will be 11 on the list not ten. 

            I read so many books this year, finally tally is: (insert number here), my goal at the beginning of the year was 45. I found a bunch of books this year that pulled me out of a reading slump that lasted years. I love reading and it’s an expensive hobby, but it’s better than a lot of other hobbies I could have. Reading also makes you a better writer and I have written quite a bit this year, nothing like during 2020 because you know, lock down, but I am excited to really dig into my TBR list for next year because 2022 promises to be fun when it comes to what I am reading. 

            I can’t wait to do this post again next year and see what else I loved throughout the year. 

            I will see everyone later in the week with another post and until then I hope that everyone stays safe, happy, and healthy. 

            -MJ

Top 10 Christmas Movies

I can’t believe that it is already this time of year! Like 2018 has taken three or four solid years but the last three months of this year have flown right by and we are two weeks out from the end of 2018. Cannot even believe it. 

            I wanted to do a few holiday posts even though we are only a week out from Christmas but this is the time of year for themed movies! I did a post like this for Halloween and so I felt like I needed to continue the trend of the “my favorite movies” but now for Christmas. I did something similar if not the same last year on my YouTube channel but I have taken most of this year off of my channel, hopefully 

            Now I am going into this as the top ten movies that I watch during the season, it doesn’t mean that my number one movie is my all-time favorite, they aren’t really in any order so here we go. 

All thoughts and opinions are my own, per usual.

  1. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

There are two movies that I watch every Christmas Eve and this is one of them, usually the first film of the pair that I watch. I have been watching this movie for probably longer than I should have because of some of the language and the themes that are involved but who doesn’t love a good old fashion family Christmas from the saga of the tree, to the Christmas lights, to the reality that is having a big and diverse family around at the holidays. It’s one of those movies for me that no matter the time of year I can pop it in and enjoy it no matter what. It has some really memorable lines that I reference in conversation every once in a while if I know the other person has seen the film. 

2. A Christmas Story

This is the other movie that I watch every Christmas Eve, TBS shows, it or at least used to for 24 hours and I would try to stay up all night on Christmas Eve and watch it over and over, there was a good chance that I actually would only catch about half as I dosed in and out of sleep. Now that I am an adult I prefer sleep to trying to stay up all night like I did as a kid and even as an adolescent, when I was a kid it was the excitement of Christmas morning when I was a little older it was just me seeing if I could do it. I don’t think I ever did. Such a good movie though, whenever I bundle up to go outside and I have a lot of winter clothes on my first reaction is to say, “I can’t put my arms down!” because that is one part of the movie that makes me laugh every single time I see it. Also the word “fragile” neither my father or myself can resist saying it like they do in the film whenever we see the word. 

3. The Grinch Who Stole Christmas 

I love both of the incarnations of this film that have been out for years, I have not seen the version that came out this year but the one I am referencing in this list specifically is the 2000 live action adaptation. We went to the theater I think two days after Thanksgiving to see this and the whole family went my mom, my dad, my grandma, and me (small family). Now I watch it at least two or three times during the season because this is the movie I wrap presents to, normally that means I don’t really watch it so I have to watch it again and usually the second time through I end up falling asleep so a third time is required. I watched it for the first time yesterday and I was only a little distracted while trying to write this post yesterday, it didn’t work. (Then I watched Coco and cried a little.) It’s been one of my favorites since I got it on VHS in 2001, that’s right VHS; let that sink in for those of you who remember what a VHS is. I was 8 when this film came out so I grew up watching it and I still watch it every year.

4. Muppet Christmas Carol

Okay so I have a confession to make on this one, I didn’t see this movie until 2014 in my senior year of college, I told one of my roommates that I had never seen it and she was appalled because this is one of her favorite movies. I may have seen parts of it beforehand but never all the way through so we watched it and I have watched it every year since. It was on Netflix, then it was on On-Demand and then I had to get the DVD because no one else had it on TV or to watch online one year. I love a Christmas Carol; I need to actually sit down and read the original Dickens prose because it’s one of those pieces of literature that is so ingrained in our popular culture in so many different forms. Bah, Humduck! a Looney Toons Christmas Carol and A Flintstone’s Christmas Carol both are on my list to watch every year but didn’t make the top ten, though they were rather close in the running but I didn’t want more than one movie adaptation of a Christmas Carol on here.

5. The Santa Clause

Another movie that I grew up on, I am talking about the original Santa Clause here not the second one which was fine or the third one which I haven’t seen. I’m talking original mid-90’s movie. This was another one I had on VHS growing up so I watched it every year without fail. I love the story that goes along with the film, but there are some pretty dark themes to it that as a kid you don’t see. Like Scott losing custody of Charlie because everyone thinks he’s going insane, the mistrust of things that you don’t understand, and some other things that are at the moment slipping my mind. 

6. The Nine Lives of Christmas

I am a sucker for a Hallmark Original holiday film, even though they all have roughly the same plot formula, I don’t care. I will sit and watch a whole day of the same movie over and over because it just makes you feel so good inside. I actually did read the book for this movie and it is a lot different from the movie if we are being honest. Though my cousin borrowed the book in like 2015 and has yet to give it back, I probably should go buy a new copy because I have a doubtful feeling that I will get my original copy back. This movie is just super cute, I’m not even a huge fan of cats but this is one of those feel good movies that you can’t look away from no matter what. I don’t even get the Hallmark Channel now with my cable so I haven’t watched a single Hallmark movie this year. 

7. Yogi’s First Christmas

            I scoured the internet for this one year because I remember watching it as a kid and it was one of those things that I just couldn’t find, thankfully Amazon had the DVD so I ordered it because I needed to watch it and relive my childhood. There were plenty of Christmas specials on Cartoon Network when I was a kid, they had days dedicated to it or at least evenings about the time the Christmas break for school started and I watched so many things that I don’t remember the names to now. There was one movie about Santa with fairies and I had to look it up because for a while there I couldn’t find it to save my life, it was The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus.This movie is just one of those movies that brings back memories from when I was little so it’s really nostalgic even though it came out over a decade before I was born.

8. Arthur Christmas

            I mean, it’s a cute movie and Christmas is the time of year where animated movies rule the day. It’s a really cute movie about family and acceptance, it has some really good messages and this kind of amazing theory on Santa Claus. The animation quality is great and it’s just a feel good kind of film that takes a realistic look at a family business. 

9. Home Alone

            How could this movie not make this list? I mean it’s one of those movies that gave everyone the thought that they could so take on a burglar if they were Home Alone, though to be honest calling the police would have been a better option than maiming others. It’s a really violent movie if you watch it as an adult, no hate I still watch it every year and laugh throughout the whole film but after watching videos of medical professionals and others talk about the survivability of some of the stunts in the film it makes you question how super human Marv and Harry really are. 

10. The Holiday

            Another really feel good movie, holiday house switch both women find love. It’s very cliché and I love it either way. It has a really all-star cast and a really good story of stepping out of your comfort zone and not dwelling on things that bring you down and letting go of toxic people in your life. It’s cute and has a really great score behind it, if you haven’t given it a watch and romantic dramedy is your thing I would suggest it.

            I want to take just one second and talk about some of my favorite holiday specials growing up, The Rugrats Chanukah episode, it was something that taught me as a kid about a different holiday instead of Christmas and it was one of my favorites. Also the Proud Family Seven Days of Kwanzaa episode, again it was a holiday that I knew nothing about that was showcased on a show that I loved growing up to tell a different story about the season. 

            So have you got any favorite holiday movies, TV episodes, or specials? 

-MJ

MJ’s Top 10 Favorite Animated Disney Movies

I wasn’t even sure if I was going to write this post but I needed a brief interlude for something fun that isn’t beauty and lifestyle related. Don’t get me wrong I love writing those blog posts but I wanted to take a walk into stuff that I like. I grew up in what some people call the “Golden Age” of animated Disney films. I am a child of the 90’s, I am a mid-range millennial, my childhood was categorized by many an animated Disney film and some of those are still my favorites today. Though some of the newer Disney animated films are also on this list. This is going to literally be more of a list, it will be the movie (in no particular order) and a brief description of why it is on my list. Now I wrote my list in early 2017 so there have been other movies that have come out since then but these are my top ten as of when I originally wrote the list.

 

All of these are my opinions and my thoughts, if you don’t agree; that’s cool. We can all have our own opinions on things.

 

  1. Tangled
    • Maybe it’s the escapist in me, I love Tangled because it is a story about rebellion for the right reasons. It’s about the unlikely love story and telling people that you don’t have to be perfect to deserve good things in life. I love the musical numbers as well because they are catchy and there is an entire song dedicated to barbarians who want the almost opposite of what a traditional barbarian wants.

 

  1. The Great Mouse Detective
    • This movie is so underrated. It is for sure one of my favorite movies from childhood. It was my introduction to Sherlock Holmes without letting me realize that it had a loose basis in the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle character that has become increasingly popular over the last decade. I love this movie it still has all of the Disney elements that you would expect, a rescue, musical numbers, a terrifying villain, (I was afraid of Ratigan for years.) and witty one liners.

 

  1. The Princess and The Frog
    • I have been to New Orleans and I love the fact that it was the location basis for this film. Tiana is one of my favorite princesses, (her, Belle, and Rapunzel tie for my favorites.) she is hard working and focused while still being compassionate and generous. I loved this movie for so many reasons, normally when I am feeling down I watch it because it is just such a feel good story.

 

  1. Beauty and The Beast
    • How could this not make my list, Beauty and The Beast was a staple in my childhood and I always loved Belle, she was bookish and she was smart but people in her community didn’t understand her and made fun of her for things that most people would cherish. I grew up in a similar vein, bookish and isolated; people made fun of me. Granted I did not run away to an enchanted castle to a beast who suddenly becomes human at the end. (Side note: I did like the live action even though I know lots of people who hated it.) This movie was one of those that helped me accept that the things that made me unique were not something to be judged or hidden under a rug they were to be held proudly because they are what makes you who you are.

 

  1. Big Hero Six
    • This movie was also about accepting what makes you unique and basking in that because it can help you overcome so much. It is also a movie about the importance of family no matter if they are blood or not. It has a diverse cast of strong characters while still being relatable and grounded, it lets all sorts of people see themselves in these characters and that is very important in a film. It was a very creative movie when it came out and taught what I believe to be some good lessons. Including, revenge may not always be the answer; it will not make everything better it will not bring someone back it will only hurt more people.

 

  1. Robin Hood
    • Also a hugely underrated movie in my opinion it is one of my favorites and again I feel this movie like The Great Mouse Detective introduced us all to classic literature without any of us knowing it. We didn’t know we were learning about something that had been around for a long time it was just a fox running around the forest with a British accent stealing from a lion. There is literally no room to be mad about that. It’s a good movie and it was and still is one of my favorites.

 

  1. Wreck It Ralph
    • I was a fan of this movie when it came out because it was about overcoming stereotypes in a way, it was about moving out of your comfort zone because you don’t feel right there anymore. It also provided an interesting backdrop because video games are such a huge thing right now and there were a lot of familiar faces in the film that gamers of all ages would recognize. It was a funny movie because half the main cast are comedians and I was there for it at the time.

 

  1. The Little Mermaid
    • Who doesn’t want to be a part of your world, I mean come on some of the songs off this movie were the songs that I can still sing all of the words to. I still want a sassy crab friend to give me advice and tell me that I am stupid. I loved this movie because it was about overcoming a lot of things and also not trusting you know a sea witch who wants your voice. Granted like most of the princesses I have some issues with some things about the relationships with the princes but that is not a conversation for this post.

 

9. Pocahontas

    • Okay this was not on my original list, it was Frozen and after working with small children for two years I figured it was time to Let It Go. I know that Pocahontas was a very different reality from the Disney film but I loved the Disney film growing up. I watched it a few years ago and cried for most of the end. I love the songs and the animation as well as pretty much everything else about it. Like I said with The Little mermaid, I also want a hummingbird and raccoon sidekick and a sassy willow tree to help me with all of my life problems. (I mean getting the boy would be nice but I also want the assistance of a sidekick who is a cute and lovable woodland creature or magical entity that helps me out with stuff.)

 

10. Lilo and Stitch

  • Last but for sure not least, my godfather is from Hawai’i so when this movie came out he took me to see it, we all went to the islands the next year. I love this movie, it is one of my all-time favorite movies in general, I love the message about family that it provides and it is just a fun movie with a great soundtrack. It really shed a light on the difference between the natives to Hawai’i and the tourists.

 

Bonus: Moana.

  • This makes my list now because it is a beautiful film again that shows the heritage of many Polynesian islands and peoples. I had lost my grandmother about six months before this movie came out and I cried in the movie theatre when Moana lost her grandmother. Granted my relationship with my grandmother was rocky at best it was still fresh and I understood what she felt as she went out on her own to go and protect her people and her way of life even after losing one of the most important people in her life. I listen to the soundtrack when I am down because Shiny is a huge joke between my best friend and I. (I could not stop laughing in the theatre when I heard that song for the first time. It just hit me somewhere in my giggle bone.)

So there are my top 10 and a bonus favorite animated Disney movies. What are some of your favorites?

 

-MJ