Saturday, December 31, 2016

Let's Bust a Recap : 2016

Hey-o! It's New Years Eve. Time to bust a recap of my reading accomplishments for 2016. And not to toot my own horn or anything, but I read every book on my list (except one) and then some. My official goal for this year was to read 20 books. #nailedit
I also had a secret goal which was to read 24 books. #nailedthattoo
Granted, I read three full novels in the last week alone, but goals are goals and if the housework has to take a hit in order for me to achieve them, then that's just a sacrifice I'm willing to make. The only book from my original list that I decided to give up on was In Their Own Voices by Simon & Roorda. After our adoption came to an end in May, I lost the motivation to continue that one, and I don't really feel bad about it. 

So without further ado, here's a little review of everything I read this year:

Obviously, I read the majority of this book prior to 2016, but I couldn't quite wrap it up by the end of last year. It was a real hallelujah moment when I turned the last page on this one.

So good! I can't believe I had never read this one before.

Couldn't put this one down. Probably the most thrilling thing I read this year.

Not gonna lie, kindof a let-down after all the hype surrounding this little play, but it was still good. I mean, it's Shakespeare after all. 

A re-read (duh) and completely lovely (as usual).

Still feels awkward telling you people I read a sex book this year, but the truth is the truth and this may have been the most encouraging thing I read this year.

I think this may have been the longest book I read this year (not including TR since I read most of that one before this year), but it was excellent.

So nice to read a manageable biography after slugging through TR for such a long time. I'd love to read more from Joseph J. Ellis.

Possibly my favorite read for the year. I loved this book.

Such a fun one! It was like going on summer vacay with my high school girlfriends that I haven't seen in forever. 

Perfect October read. After I finally made it through that dadgum introduction, I couldn't put this one down. I highly recommend reading it during the month of October.

Y'all. The next two books in The Baby Years are both coming out next year. April and October according to this blog post. They're taking up two valuable slots on my 2017 book list, but I am so excited!!

Chilling. Possibly the most unconventional book I've ever read. 

Meh. Whatever.

The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan : completed 12/23
Beautiful, beautiful book. Written in 1678 by English author John Bunyan, it is considered one of the most significant works of English religious literature. It has been cited as the first novel written in English but has been translated into over 200 languages, and it has never been out of print since its original publication. I haven't written a recap of this one (or any of the final ones on this list) because I just finished it a week ago (and I've pretty much been reading non-stop the whole rest of this week), so consider this a mini-recap of The Pilgrim's Progress. I honestly wasn't sure I was going to get through this one this year but a little determination goes a long way. I absolutely loved this book, but it's not one I could get through very quickly. I had to stop and digest it bit by bit. My favorite part of Part I (Christian's journey) was his capture by the Giant Despair and his subsequent escape from Doubting Castle. My favorite part of Part II (Christiana's and her children's journey) was hearing the stories of characters such as Mr. Fearing, Mr. Feeble-mind, Mr. Despondency and his daughter Much-afraid reminding me how tender my sweet Lord is and how I should live without fear. We've got several Wednesdays in January already dedicated to quotes from this classic work. Again: beautiful book.

Child of Grace by Irene Hannon : completed 12/24
This one was loaned to me, and I wanted to read and return it before the year was over. Totally a generic Christian romance, and I totally read it in less than 24 hours. #cantstopwontstop

Hannah's List by Debbie Macomber : completed 12/28
Another loaner. First Debbie Macomber book I've ever read. It was about a wife leaving her husband a list of 3 women she wanted him to consider dating and marrying after she passed away. Interesting, but the characters were difficult to like, and can someone tell me why this whole opposites-attract, we-hate-each-other's-guts-but-then-somehow-end-up-together storyline has caught on and become such a common plot for movies and books? I mean, is that the way it happens for anyone in real life? It's tired, and I don't buy it.

Gardenias for Breakfast by Robin Jones Gunn : completed 12/29
This was my personal reward book. I decided back when I bought this book in July that if I finished everything on my list, I could read this one--but only after I finished everything else. DONE! Reading Gardenias for Breakfast was like taking my own private little victory lap. And what a precious book to end the year with, too. I was crying sweet heart tears at the end of this mother-daughter story. Y'all already know I feel this way, but RJG can do no wrong.

So there you have it. 24 books in 12 months. Fun fact: the three novels I read this past week all had significant characters named Hannah in them. My name has never really been a super-popular one, so I found that out of the ordinary. What have you read this year? Anything worth recommending? Have you accomplished any goals or resolutions this year that you're proud of? I hope so, and I hope you enjoy bringing in 2017 tonight with the ones you love. Check back tomorrow for my 2017 book list and see ya next year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Word for Wednesday

"Certainly, war meant dying, but it always shifted the ground beneath a person's feet when it was someone who had once lived and breathed in close proximity."

~from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak~
image credit: Daily Kos

Thursday, December 22, 2016


Since the very beginning of our marriage, Cody and I have talked about seeing all 50 states together. It's a big Bucket List item for us, and we decided this year that we needed to start working toward it. Even though we've traveled to several different states together for various reasons, we decided to define our parameters for this Bucket List goal of ours and start making it happen. Here's what we decided:
  • We will do at least one specific, unique activity in each state.
  • We will purpose to visit at least one new state each year. Preferably more, but at least one.
  • We will buy a T-shirt from every single state with the goal of one day making a cozy T-shirt blanket to commemorate our success. In the meantime, fun wardrobe options.
  • We will create an All-American scrapbook of our adventures with a spread from each state, and I will also create a blog post for each state.
That's pretty much it. Not complicated, but definitely measurable and super-fun. And of course, we decided to start at home. So the weekend of my birthday, we traveled down to the Keys, stayed in a little "cottage" on Marathon, and spent one whole day on Key West checking out the Southernmost Point, eating the freshest fish straight out of the Caribbean, ducking in and out of funky gift shops, laughing at how many crazy roosters are all over that island, and watching the Mallory Square performers at sunset try to swindle us out of our money. Too bad we never carry cash.

Florida : done.

Have you visited all 50 states? Do you care to? What's your favorite one?

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Word for Wednesday

"A snowball in the face is surely the perfect beginning to a lasting friendship."

~from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak~

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Tuesday Confession

This will be my longest confession to date.
It's actually a double-confession of sorts.
Part I : one of my favorite parts of Christmas is getting Christmas cards in the mail.
There's something so magical and spectacular about opening your mailbox and seeing a stack of personal cards instead of credit card applications and coupons to Pet Supermarket.
Since we've been married, I have never thrown away a single Christmas card we've received.
I am the extreme opposite of a packrat, and I absolutely detest clutter. 
But there is a special drawer in my house just for Christmas cards. 
I love them.
Part II : I always keep one of our own Christmas cards each year.
They're pretty, they cost money, and they're a fun little recap of our year together.
And even though I have obsessively affectionately kept every Christmas card we've ever received, I realize that the average person probably does not have the same affinity for Christmas cards that I do, and they probably don't treasure our Christmas card for the rest of their lives.
And I don't expect them to.
Well, not entirely anyway.

Is this the craziest confession I've made yet?
Can we still be friends, and more importantly, will you still send me a Christmas card now that you know this about me?
Is there anyone else out there who keeps their own Christmas cards? I cannot possibly be the only person on this planet who does that, right?

Monday, December 19, 2016

Let's Bust a Recap : Talking As Fast As I Can

Well, y'all, completing this book means I have officially made my 20-book goal for the year. *waits for thunderous applause to die down* Are you proud of me? For those of you wondering what the heck happened to The Pilgrim's Progress (I see you, Dad, Oakie), no worries. I'm still determined and on-track to finish it before the end of 2016. 

Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham was just released like, 2 seconds ago so I definitely felt very in and current giving it a read, but honestly, it was just meh. Not to be ugly, but I think Lauren Graham is way funnier scripted which I guess shouldn't be the most surprising thing in the world. I'm somewhat of a fan of Gilmore Girls, and yes, I marathon-ed A Year In The Life the day after Thanksgiving and to be honest about that, overall I was disappointed with the revival, and I've officially decided that the entire series should have ended with Rory's high school graduation from Chilton so I could love the show unreservedly. But I digress. That's a post for another day and probably another blog since this blog is supposed to be about books. Back to the matter at hand: I picked up this book because it seemed fun, and I thought perhaps I could gain some insight into that trainwreck of a revival. 

But all in all, the whole book was very trite and clichéd. It read like one big, gushing thank you letter to the universe, and I felt like I had already read everything the book had to offer online. In the book, Lauren says, "As an actor person, as well as a person person, I don't think I naturally exude competence. I exude more of an 'I'm kind of winging it here, but isn't this fun?' type of vibe." And that's exactly how this whole book reads--like she was just winging it and it got patched together and now let's sell it because hey! Celebrity! Beloved TV character! Anything she writes will sell! Which is ironic because she also talks in this book about how her editor said they could sell a sub-par book by her because of her status, but that she had real potential and they could do better than that. 

I did enjoy the fashion chapter. Most of that was genuinely amusing. So there's that. And the book was easy to read. But as a whole, I would not recommend this book. Unless you are the biggest Lauren Graham fan in the entire universe and you haven't read or seen anything about the promotion of this book, I don't really know why you'd want to read it. Just my honest opinion. 

Do you like reading books by celebrities about themselves? Do you have any that you would recommend? I think the only other one I've ever really read was Instant Mom by Nia Vardalos which I actually really liked, but it wasn't even on my radar. I just happened upon it in a used bookstore and picked it up because #adoption. Are you a fan of Gilmore Girls? What did you think of A Year In The Life?

Friday, December 16, 2016

Casual Fridays

Basically just this. Because if I was this talented at anything, that's all I'd do all day long. Wow.

Oh, and Army beat Navy. What?! This has been some year. Donald Trump is our President-elect, the Cubs won the World Series, and now Army beats Navy? Come, Lord Jesus.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention, the blog hit 20,000 views sometime this weekend. 
So thanks for reading!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Word for Wednesday

"God only knows what the human heart can experience in a space of time that men call hours."

~from Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss~

Happy Birthday to my Kindred Spirit!

Happy Birthday, Caroline! I love you forever!
Kamakura ~ July '16

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Word for Wednesday

"I may suffer, I must suffer, He means it, He wills it, but let it be without repining, without gloomy despondency. The world is full of sorrow; it is not I alone who taste its bitter draughts, nor have I the only right to a sad countenance. Oh, for patience to bear on, cost what it may!"

~from Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss~

Monday, December 5, 2016

Let's Bust a Recap : The Book Thief

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. What a cold, grey, hard book. Set during World War II. Narrated by Death. 

Yeah. What else can I even say? 

Because the narrator is Death himself, I was immediately intrigued. And you know what? Zusak's writing made me believe that Death was really telling the story. It was compelling, unconventional, and a bit disturbing. After the first few pages, I thought he surely wouldn't be able to keep up that unorthodox style of writing throughout the entirety of the novel, but he did. Markus Zusak definitely has a gift.

In The Book Thief, we learn that Liesel Meminger is a girl that Death has seen three times, and although Death, as he informs us, tries hard not to take notice of "the survivors", for some reason, Liesel Meminger grabs his attention, and after his third encounter with her, he takes her discarded journal and learns her story. In The Book Thief, he tells that story.

When we first meet Liesel, she is almost 10 years old. As Death concludes his account, she is 14 years old, half a woman. And then there is an epilogue allowing us to catch a brief glimpse of what the rest of her life was like. Between the prologue and epilogue, The Book Thief is divided into 10 parts, each made up of several chapters.

Obviously, this was a fictional account of a made-up person, but because it was set during the very real historical event of World War II, it was difficult to read, especially toward the end. There was nothing imaginary about the Führer, the fear, the helplessness, the absolute cruelty toward and extermination of the Jewish people. What a devastating time in our not-so-distant past.

I would highly recommend this book. While it does contain some difficult content and there is a bit of coarse language throughout (though I think even the language was appropriate to the story and not at all gratuitous), it was well-written and gripping. Definitely worth your time. When I posted my book list at the beginning of this year, I had a friend comment that The Book Thief is one of the best modern classics she has read in a while. And I absolutely agree.

Have you read The Book Thief? What is the best book you have read lately? 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Casual Fridays

Listen, y'all. My family wins at gifting. And the funniest thing about that is: I don't think "Gifts" is even the love language of anyone in my family. But we love each other a lot, we love spending time together and talking and knowing everything about each other so that naturally comes out in our gift-giving. Remember earlier this year when I just randomly received Gerald in the mail? Remember the gorgeous books my husband got me for my birthday? And I haven't even told you about how I never used to wear jewelry at all until my mommy(in-law) started finding me jewelry that I actually love and wear all the time now. They just get me. 

And this year, my Mom wins. I mean, my Mom wins all day, every day, forever and ever amen, but this year, the birthday present she gave me rendered me speechless and made me cry. Remember way back to this post when I off-handedly mentioned that I always wanted a Hushabye Mountain music box like the one from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?
It plays Hushabye Mountain.

And you wind it by cranking the windmill.

I am in love with this music box.

Have you seen Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?? His workshop is INSIDE THE WINDMILL

My Mom didn't just casually keep her eye out for some music box that played Hushabye Mountain. She actively searched for one, ordered it from England, found this beautiful wooden music box, and then hunted down a person who could take the Hushabye Mountain song out of the music box it was originally in and put it into the windmill music box. She's been working on this gift for months.

And she kept it all a secret. 

I play it everyday.
Thank you, Mom! I love you forever!