Surznick Reads: February 2014 - The Surznick Common Room

Friday, February 28, 2014

Surznick Reads: February 2014


We're back for another edition of Surznick Reads! It was a short month, but I'm pretty pleased with the amount of reading I squeezed in. If you missed our January post, you can read it here. So without further ado, here are the February books!

Sarah's Reads!


A Beautiful Mess Photo Idea Book by Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman
From Amazon.com: "Whether it’s of your sister’s smile, your morning coffee, or your new puppy, photos are a way to connect on Facebook and Instagram, keep a visual diary of our lives, and create momentos for future generations. Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman, creators of the mega-popular DIY style blog A Beautiful Mess, are in love with photographing everyday life. Here, they share that love with 95 all-new tips and photo challenges that will inspire you to style and snap better photos and then transform them into simple yet stunning projects and gifts. Packed with Elsie and Emma’s happy spirit and unique style, A Beautiful Mess Photo Idea Book will inspire you to capture your days, your friends, and your dreams in beautiful photos!"

I'm sure you've seen us mention A Beautiful Mess over and over again on here. It's one of my favorite blogs to read, and as a new blogger (with a new camera!), I've been really interested in trying to improve the photos we share on here. I mentioned to Nick a few months ago that I'd really like to read ABM's photo idea book. Then one day I came home from work and he surprised me with it! So this wasn't intially on my list of books to read this year, nor is it really a book book, but I'm still including it. This book definitely taught me a lot and gave me great ideas for improving our photography. They don't go into camera specifics, it's more about what you can do outside of your camera to better your photos. There were some chapters that I can't really see myself taking advantage of, but overall this is definitely worth reading if you're looking for fun, new ideas for photographing your life.

My Rating: 4 Stars


To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
From Amazon.com: "The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic. Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior - to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into forty languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature."

I loved this book. To be honest, I only put it on my want-to-read list because I felt like it is one of those books that I should read. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. In the past when I've read a "classic" it has been tough to get through or understand (... check my Frankenstein review from last month for example). But this book was so readable and captivating. I genuinely wanted to know where the story was going and how it would end. I highly recommend reading this if you haven't already!

(Funny side note: The entire time I was reading this book, I was picturing Scout as Amanda Thripp, the little girl who gets swung around by her pigtails in Matilda, ha!)

My Rating: 5 Stars


Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
From Amazon.com: "A mysterious island.

 An abandoned orphanage.

 A strange collection of very curious photographs.

 It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive. 

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows."

First of all, how cool is the name Ransom Riggs? This is another book that wasn't on my want-to-read list for this year. The next book in the series was my February book club selection (more on that below), so I had to read this one first. I'm definitely glad that this series was introduced to me because it. is. awesome. I had seen this book cover before (It's a #1 New York Times bestseller), but it kind of freaked me out and I never had an interest in reading it. But I was definitely wrong to judge a book by it's cover. This is a great story and the book is full of awesome, crazy, and sometimes scary photographs that Riggs collected/borrowed that really make this book come to life. (By the way, these are REAL photos, which makes the whole thing creepier). If you're interested in young adult series (i.e. The Hunger Games, Divergent, etc.) you should definitely check this out. Word on the street is that the movie version is in the works with Tim Burton directing!

My Rating: 5 Stars


Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
I'm going to leave out the Amazon.com review on this one as it kind of has spoilers if you haven't read the first book. As I mentioned, this was my February book club selection and it is just as awesome as the first book. It picks up right where the first book left off and is full of more interesting (or shall I say peculiar?) photos. The plot is exciting and adventurous and you'll definitely want to know what's going to happen next. This book ended on kind of a cliff hanger so I can't wait until the third book comes out, but it's going to be a long wait (Hollow City only came out at the end of January). Luckily for me I have plenty to read in the mean time.

My Rating: 5 Stars


Nineteen Eighty-Four
by George Orwell
From Amazon.com: "Written in 1948, 1984 was George Orwell’s chilling prophecy about the future. And while 1984 has come and gone, Orwell’s narrative is timelier than ever. 1984 presents a startling and haunting vision of the world, so powerful that it is completely convincing from start to finish. No one can deny the power of this novel, its hold on the imaginations of multiple generations of readers, or the resiliency of its admonitions—a legacy that seems only to grow with the passage of time."

So this was another book that I felt like I should probably read at some point in my life. I was a little hesitant because I've read Animal Farm (also by Orwell) and Brave New World (by Aldous Huxley but with a similar theme) and I didn't really like either of them. 1984 surprised me. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. The story is interesting, easy to follow, and you can connect to the characters. I probably won't read it again, but I'm definitely glad I did.

My Rating: 3 Stars

Nick's Read! (Singular. That's right, just one.)


Bound For Glory by Woody Guthrie
From Amazon.com:  "The original road novel--even though it takes the form of autobiography. If Guthrie didn't actually invent the footloose, no-strings-attached American hero (remember this guy Twain who wrote something about lighting out for the territory?), he certainly solidified the 20th-century version. Guitar slung over the shoulder as he sprinted to boost himself aboard freight trains, a man of the people equally at home with urban intellectuals, Guthrie incarnated for generations of Americans the artist as free spirit. This is the book that created the legend."

I was first inspired to read this book after reading about it in Bob Dylan's book "Chronicles Volume One." I have to admit that I was a little disappointed to learn that Guthrie's book didn't really center around his music, as I thought it might. Instead, it was a vivid account of his upbringing, tragic family life (and I mean tragic), and his travels across America. Some of the reading got a bit dry, and it was difficult to read certain chapters, as he wrote the dialogue in "early 20th century hobo vernacular." (I think that's the proper term for it.) Overall, I found the book to be pretty inspiring. Guthrie's expeditions across the land were exhilarating to the point where I would get excited reading about what city he would end up in next, where his next meal would come from, where he would sleep each night, etc. The book was full of interesting characters and thought provoking passages such as:

"All of this talking about what's up in the sky, or down in hell, for that matter, isn't half as important as what's right here, right now, right in front of your eyes. Things are tough. Folks broke. Kids hungry. Sick. Everything. And people has just got to have more faith in one another, believe in each other. There's a spirit of some kind we've all got. That's got to draw us all together."

I absolutely would recommend this book to anyone, especially those with an interest in American history... or those who enjoy eating beans and rice while barreling along in a boxcar. 

My Rating: 4 Stars

We hope you all have a great weekend. We're off to pour beers at the Pittsburgh Winter Beerfest! Bottoms up!

Sarah & Nick

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