Sunday, January 31, 2016

January Reading Receipt

Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy

I'm trying out a new monthly post idea...the reading receipt.  I often mention what I'm reading on my weekly Wednesday post but thought I'd try to keep my monthly progress updated for my 2016 Book Challenge at the end of each month.

Here's my January Reading Receipt:

#1 The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
Reading this one was a good way to start 2016.  It's the story of an Irish girl who becomes an indentured servant in Virginia in 1791.  This is one of those books that starts off with a gruesome scene, and then flips back to many years previous and starts to tell the story of how the initial scene comes to be.  Sometimes I resent this tactic, and sometimes I find it intriguing.  The deciding factor is how much the characters and story pull me in as the book progresses.  In this case, it was the latter, even though I was dreading finding out how things came to be in the initial scene.  In the author's afterword, she said she came upon a piece of land like the one in the opening scene of the book and could just see the scenario.  She built the whole book from that one scene.  Pretty amazing.

#2 The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Another historical fiction book that was a winner.  This one is set in France during German occupation in World War II.  It told the story of two sisters and how they both helped the Allies cause in very different ways.  This almost came across as a very well written "made for T.V. movie", but Hannah does not wimp out in the end and romanticize the effects of the war on her main characters.  I think people my age who have never lived through such a thing can tend to romanticize World War II a bit since we've only seen it through movies and books.  But make no mistake about it, there's nothing romantic about war.  This novel is a great example of that. 

#3 Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Best book of the month for me, hands down.  I'll be writing a longer post about this later.  Gilbert writes so honestly about living a creative life that I felt like I was carried away by this book at times.  I liked Eat, Pray, Love (probably her best known work), but it was nothing compared to how I felt about this one.  The only other time I've liked reading about writing so much was in every foreward I've ever read by Stephen King and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.  If you are a writer of any kind, read this.

#4 The Blondes by Emily Schultz
Very different from the first three books I read this month, this one was styled in the science fiction/apocalypse fashion.  This tells the story of a rabies like virus that starts to affect blonde women all over the world.  The story is told by a graduate student who is writing her thesis on the way women are portrayed in advertising and film.  I always say I like an outrageous premise if the author can make it work.  Did she?  Oh, yeah.  Funny, sharp, and eerie.

So there you have it - January's books.  I'll be back at the end of February with another Reading Receipt.


Saturday, January 30, 2016

Ten Years Ago...

I was planning on writing a post on my 46th birthday but couldn't come up with a theme.  Today when I was listening to a Jason Isbell song on my way home from renewing my driver's license, an idea came to me. 

Here's the line that caught my attention:

"Ten years ago I might have thought I didn't have the right/ To say the things an outlaw wouldn't say, but those were different days."

Ten years ago is the perfect amount to look back if you want to see how things have changed.  Those were different days.  So I'm going to dial it back 10 years a few times.

At 36, I had been married for four years, was a mother to a one year old and a three year old, and a full time teacher.  What would I tell my 36 year old self now?  "All the time spent with your kids now is worth it. I know you think you already know this, but they really won't be this little forever."

At 26, I was a second year teacher in Flossmoor, Illinois.  I was working on my thesis for my Master's Degree and living alone on the top floor of a bungalow house.  I got my first dog that summer.  I felt I was behind everyone who was getting married and having kids because I so badly wanted those things for myself.  I had a lot of time on my hands and was very lonely. My life seemed to be on pause. What would I tell my 26 year old now?  "There's still plenty of time for you.  Your best days are yet to come. Enjoy yourself more.  Don't give up on your writing."

At 16, I had my first real boyfriend.  I wanted to be a writer.  I hated high school, but I did have good friends.   I couldn't wait to get out and live my "real life" somewhere else. I wrote all the time.  I started working at my aunt's daycare and loved being around those little kids.  What would I tell that 16 year old girl now?   "Learn how to play the guitar now like you've always wanted to. Keep writing. You're only just figuring out who you want to be, but you're on the right track.  And it's okay to let people see your vulnerable side. "

At 6, I was the quietest one in kindergarten.  I liked to read.  Stories were my favorite thing.  What would I tell that 6 year old?  "It's okay that you're quiet. You've got a strong voice when you need it.  Keep watching and listening and reading. You know who you are."

I really do think we know who we are at six.  You just have to learn it all over again for some reason.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

What's Up, Wednesday?

Sometimes it just feels good to spruce things up a bit.  This week the boys both got haircuts at a local barber college.  They've been going to Lockhart Barber College for the last few months, but this was the first time I came along to watch. Haircuts are only $7 because students are doing them under the supervision of instructors.  With such an affordable price, I was very impressed with the professionalism of the place.  They have always come home with good haircuts, but it was so refreshing to be in a place where it's so clear they care about the customer.  I think some small businesses just don't get this concept, and that's a shame.

While we're on the subject of sprucing things up, I am in love with my new purse and wallet that I bought Saturday at Kohl's.  Here's the thing about Kohl's that keeps me coming back - They sent me a $10 gift card for my birthday this month AND they gave my $15 in rewards from the customer loyalty program.  This got me motivated to go in search of a new bag.  There's something about a new purse and wallet that makes me feel so together (even when the rest of my house may be in chaos).  I saw this one and clearly the hunt was over.

In other big news, we received the title for our car this week.  We hadn't had a car payment in several years before we bought our Equinox back in 2013, so I was really put out to be making a car payment again when we did.  We put money down on this car and only took out a three and half year loan, but I was still really irritated every month when I had to write that check.  But no more!  The empty payment book went into the fireplace this weekend.  So glad!

I finished The Blondes by Emily Schultz this week and made a trip to the library on Monday for a new haul.  Not sure which of these I'll be reading first, but it's feeling like a Stephen King kind of weekend.  At least that narrows it down to two choices.  


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

What's Up, Wednesday?

It was wonderful to have a three day weekend.  Friday evening we drove to Chicago to spend the night because the girl had a dance workshop to go to with her dance performance company Saturday morning.

We picked her up after lunch and hit LegoLand, which was only about 20 minutes away.  I'm really happy we finally made it there.  The boy loved it, but I suspect if we waited another year or two, he'd be too old. Sigh.  

We drove home afterwards, and I made everybody watch The Lego Movie again.  Also, there's nothing that brings me a better night sleep than sleeping in my own bed the night after sleeping in a hotel.

It was so cold on Sunday that I didn't mind just staying home and doing all the laundry and reading on the couch in front of our fireplace. I finished reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Here's how much I loved it: I had it on loan from the library but promptly ordered it from Amazon upon finishing it. I rarely buy books anymore, and if I do they're on my Kindle 99.9% of the time.  It takes a lot of love for me to buy an actual, honest to goodness book these days.  This one definitely qualifies as real book-worthy.

Bonus!  We had one more day off on Monday.  I started reading The Blondes by Emily Schultz.  I don't want to jinx it, but I'm 4 for 4 on the books I've read so far this year. I've really enjoyed all of them, each one as much or even more than the next.  I'm choosing to believe this bodes well for 2016.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

What's Up, Wednesday?

Hey, what's up, Wednesday?  Just a few things...

We had a fun Friday night watching my brothers' band in my hometown.  Yes, that apostrophe is in the right place.  I have two brothers, and they're in the same band.  And they both rock.

I finished reading The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.  I really enjoyed it and think most anyone else would too.  I started reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert tonight.  I read that some people found this book a little "woo woo", but I think I can handle it.  A little woo woo never bothered me.

Last but not least, the girl showed me this book she made for her science class.  I was impressed.  To say that I could have explained to you what mitosis was at her age would be a bit of an overstatement.  I am especially fond of the exclamation point after mitosis.  Mitosis! She says science is her favorite subject in school.  I hope this doesn't change. (BTW, pictures like this are why I love having a camera in my phone.   This will never be printed out, but it is the kind of image that takes me back when I'm scrolling through my camera roll.  And these are the kind of things I like to remember but probably wouldn't left to my own memory devices.  And isn't that the point of a picture?)


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

What's Up, Wednesday?

Welcome to What's Up, Wednesday?  In case you're new here, you have to read that in your mind like you're asking Wednesday a question.  Glad we cleared that up.

First, it's the New Year!  2016, please be good to us.  

Also, these are the droids we're looking for.  Our library is giving these cut-outs to one lucky Star Wars fan.  All you had to do was take a picture with it and post it to their Facebook Wall. Fingers crossed!

Sometimes you find the perfect memorial a few years after you need it.  I found this on Etsy and knew it was the one.  When spring rolls around, it will find its home next to the rose bush we planted in her honor.  Until then, it's nice just seeing it sitting around the house.

I finished up my first book for the blog's reading challenge, The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. I definitely recommend it.  Hey, if you want to join the challenge, there's still time.  Come on down!  Unfortunately I finished my book on a Saturday night and had no other books from the library.  I had three requests waiting for me but couldn't pick those up until the library opened on Monday.  Got 'em now, though.

I chose to read The Nightingale first because I blew it the first time I had it from the library.  I read something else from that trip and ended up having to return it because it was on a short loan.  Not this time, my friend.  I am not very far in, but I can already see why this one has been recommeded around the blogosphere so much.  

Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy

Friday, January 1, 2016

16 Books in 2016

It's that time again!

This is the third year in a row I'm setting up a reading challenge for myself and anyone who wants to join in.  It all started back in 2014 with this post.  Then in 2015, I renamed the group and upped the ante.  I also reported on all the books I read in 2014 in this post

I'm back again to report on 2015's books and to reissue my invitation to you to read along with me. 

This year I read 35 books.  My total actually went up 8 books from 2014, so bully for me.  Here are my titles in the order I read them:

#1 Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
#2 The Vikings by Robert Wernick
#3 Revival by Stephen King
#4 The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap by Wendy Welch
#5 Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
#6 Wild by Cheryl Strayed
#7 Small Victories by Anne LaMott
#8 Defending Jacob by William Landay
#9 Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty
#10 Raylan by Elmore Leonard
#11 Schooled by Dalton Jackson
#12 The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
#13 Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin
#14 People of the Darkness by Tony Hillerman
#15 Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall
#16 The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith
#17 Sparkly Green Earrings by Melanie Shankle
#18 Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
#19 The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
#20 The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
#21 The Antelope in the Living Room by Melanie Shankle
#22 Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
#23 The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison
#24 The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny
#25 The Martian by Andy Weir
#26 Somebody I Used to Know by David Bell
#27 X by Sue Grafton
#28 Zoo by James Patterson
#29 Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith
#30 Nobody's Cuter Than You by Melanie Shankle
#31 The Prize by Dale Russakoff
#32 The Man in the High Castle by Phillip K. Dick
#33 The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty
#34 Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
#35 The Hypnotist's Love Story by Liane Moriarty

Now time to break it down...

35 books = 1.4857142 books read per week.  Let's round that off to 1.5 books per week. 

10 Non-Fiction, 25 Fiction

3 Recurring Authors for 2015: Liane Moriarty, Robert Galbraith, and Melanie Shankle

14  (15?) Never Before Read Authors:  (I'm not sure if I should include Robert Galbraith or not here.  He's really J.K. Rowling writing under a pseudonym.  I've read all the Harry Potter books, but Rowling does really seem to be writing as another person here.  She even cops to that when she talks about writing under a pseudonym.)  Anywho, the others are Robert Wernick, Wendy Welch, Celeste Ng, Cheryl Strayed, William Landay, Dalton Jackson, Rebecca Skloot, Tony Hillerman, Susan Crandall, Melanie Shankle, Kimberly McCreight, Paula Hawkins, A.S.A. Harrision, Louise Penny, Andy Weir, David Bell, Dale Russakoff, Phillip K. Dick,  and Emily St. John Mandel.

5 Books That Were (or are going to be) Interpreted Into Movies or a Television Series:
Wild, Raylan, The Girl on the Train, The Martian, and The Man in the High Castle
I've seen Justified (loosely based on the characters from Raylan), The Martian, and Wild.  I just read yesterday that The Girl on the Train has been made into a movie.  I'll probably see that too, if I get the chance.  The Man in the High Castle was made into a series by Amazon.  I've only watched the first episode but plan to watch the rest.

And now what you've been waiting for, the awards...

For Non-Fiction That is Stranger than Fiction Award...The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Hard to believe, but at the same time, totally believable, because well, it's true.

Best New Author Find...Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

The Rotten Tomatoes Award...Zoo by Robert Patterson
Really, just really?  I was prepared for a far-fetched concept on this one, but ugh.  Trite characters, lecture-y tone, implausible ending.  I think this might have been made into a t.v. series too, now that I think about it.  The book was so bad, I don't even want to Google it to find out.  I'm sure he doesn't give two figs about my opinion.  He can laugh all the way to the bank.

Lived Up to the Hype Award...Go Set a Watchman

The Page Turner Award...The Martian and everything I read by Liane Moriarty

A repeat award from last year!  The "The "Stayed With Me For The Longest in an Unsettling but Fascinating Way" Award goes to...The Man in the High Castle

One more repeat award, "Made Me Cry Award"...Wild 
It was the part when they shot the horse that did me in. Cried as I was reading it and sobbed when I went to bed that night thinking about it because it brought back memories of putting my pug down a few years ago.  I did cry a little during some other books, but nothing like this.

Best Discovery of a New Fictional Recurring Detective Award... Cormoran Strike in The Cuckoo's Calling, The Silkworm, and Career of Evil

So there you have it. I'd love to hear about your favorites or not-so favorites or your own personal awards for the year.  Hope you'll join me for 2016.  Here we go...