Sunday, February 10, 2019

BOOK CHAT: Best of 2018


Every year, I share with you the best of the year.  Each year looks a little different, but you can always count on at least my favorite reads of the year.  This year will be no different.  It just happens to be coming at a much later date than usual.  Because . . . life.


I think my favorite book of the year was Dear Martin by Nic Stone.  I listened to it on audiobook towards the beginning of the year, but it has stuck with me all year long.  When I recently went to the bookstore, I saw it sitting on the shelf and I knew that I had to have it for my own personal collection.  It is one that I will likely revisit because it is a quick read that I will extract new things from each time I read it.  If you have not yet read this story, you will want to add it to your list sooner rather than later. 

Other favorites of the year was Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke, another story I digested in audio format.  I enjoyed it so much that I immediately recommended it to my son and he immediately checked it out from Overdrive to take a listen for himself.  I also enjoyed the Finishing School series by Gail Carriger (i.e., Etiquette & Espionage, Curtsies & Conspiracies, Waistcoats & Weaponry, and Manners & Mutiny).  This was such a fun series to listen to, and I couldn't get through them fast enough.  Lastly, Amy Poehler's Yes Please came into my life at just the right time, and listening to her read it made all the difference in the world.  I didn't always agree with what she had to say, but I did relate to so much of it way too often.  It made me laugh and cringe and even cry, and at the time, it was just what I needed.

As I look back on my favorite reads for the year, I realize that every favorite was actually an audiobook.  Most of my reading in 2018 was actually via audio; 23 of the 44 total books to be exact.  I also discovered that it was my worst year of reading yet (at least of the years that I have been tracking).  I hope that 2019 will see an increase in my reading, no matter what the format may be.  I can definitely use the escape at this point.

I leave you with my top nine pictures from the year as well.  There are not as many books featured this year, but I will admit that most of them were some of my personal favorite pics that captured my year fairly well.  Here's to hoping for more book pics and more travel pics, as I adventure both in and out of the pages!


YOUR TURN:  What were some of your favorite reads of 2018? 

Monday, January 28, 2019

BOOK CHAT: Books Read in 2018

In 2018, I read a total of 44 books.  I did not finish one book in December.  Life was turned upside down for me, and my reading took a hit.  It is one of my worst reading years on record.  It's okay though.  My life turning upside down was surprisingly just what I needed.  Now, I am just working to get back into reading like I once used to.  For those interested, here's the full list of books read for the year.  I will be back to share my favorites from the year hopefully later this week. 

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JANUARY

1.  Black Panther #1:  A Nation Under Our Feet by Ta-Nehisi Coates
2.  Dear Martin by Nic Stone
3.  The Dragon of the Month Club by Iain Reading
4.  Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd (Flavia de Luce #8) by Alan Bradley
5.  Etiquette and Espionage (Finishing School #1) by Gail Carriger
6.  Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

FEBRUARY

7.  The Battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson #4) by Rick Riordan
8.  Whatever You Are, Be a Good One by Lisa Congdon
9.  Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

MARCH

10.  China Dolls by Lisa See
11.  The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

APRIL

12.  Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
13.  Dragons at Crumbling Castle by Terry Pratchett
14.  A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

MAY

15.  When Luck Dies (The Murder Lawyer Series #1) by Piper Punches
16.  The Witches:  Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff
17.  Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke
18.  Strange Weather by Joe Hill

JUNE

19.  Curtsies and Conspiracies (Finishing School #2) by Gail Carriger
20.  If I Stay (If I Stay #1) by Gayle Forman
21.  Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
22.  Where She Went (If I Stay #2) by Gayle Forman

JULY

23.  Lord of the Flies by William Golding
24.  It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
25.  The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian
26.  The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1) by Suzanne Collins
27.  Princesses Behaving Badly by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie
28.  Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli
29.  Bold School by Weston Kieschnick
30.  Waistcoats and Weaponry (Finishing School #3) by Gail Carriger
31.  Wizarding World:  Movie Magic Volume 2 by Ramin Zahed

AUGUST

32.  The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris
33.  Catching Fire (The Hunger Games #2) by Suzanne Collins
34.  Manners and Mutiny (Finishing School #4) by Gail Carriger
35.  Sam the Chandelier Man (The Murder Lawyer Series #2) by Piper Punches

SEPTEMBER

36.  Night Film by Marisha Pessl
37.  The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Volume 1 by Arthur Conan Doyle
38.  Snared:  Escape to the Above by Adam Jay Epstein

OCTOBER

39.  Frog Music by Emma Donaghue
40.  Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
41.  Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3) by Suzanne Collins
42.  Yes, Please! by Amy Poehler

NOVEMBER

43.  The Familiars by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson
44.  The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

DECEMBER

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

WEEKLY WANDERINGS: Stories In All Forms


As I stated in my last post, these past few months have been difficult for me, and because of that, reading has taken a drastic hit around here.  I'm still reading, but just not often and mostly via audiobooks.  However, words in all forms remain a key piece of my life ... and in this stage of my life, the words take the form of music.  I have been listening to a wide array of music, but I have particularly been focusing on music to empower and inspire me.  Like this one . . .


I have listened to different forms of this song during other difficult times.  Not all the lyrics are what I can relate to each time, but the phrase "I'm A Survivor" is definitely one that sticks with me and can usually bring me out of my funk .... not always, but usually.

As I listen to all these empowering songs, I run.  I have taken to running one to three miles everyday.  I don't always run the entire way, but I am getting stronger and more capable with each mile that my feet hit the street.  And, as I run and listen to my playlists, I listen to the messages within the songs.  Each of these songs are truly short stories in and of themselves.  So, despite the fact that my reading has decreased, my love for a good story has not, especially for ones that bring me strength and hope.

I love stories in all forms, and right now, they happen to be told through music and I listen to them over and over and over again.

YOUR TURN:  What are the songs that you have found to be the most inspiring and empowering during the difficult times?

Saturday, January 12, 2019

MY RETURN: Life is Like a Game of Baseball

I have had this piece in my head for months, bouncing around, brewing, and evolving. It finally came time to write it. It's personal and raw, in an analogous sort of way. It stirred up a lot of emotions, and as I sat here deciding whether to publish it and send it out into the world, a weight was upon my chest while I debated if it was the right thing to do. Well, I made my choice, and now that weight has lifted.

After all, in real life I wear my heart on my sleeve. Today, I give you all a piece of my heart online.

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Sometimes life is like a game of baseball.

I was just hanging out in the dugout, cheering on my team. I was the one that cheered the loudest. I was the one encouraging as times got tough and the game was close. I was even the one cleaning up as spit, seeds, and trash hit the floor. Then, a shift occurred.

It occurred to me that I was taking the roles of the coach, the janitor, and the fans, but what I really was was just one of the team. I didn't have to do it all, and I deserved to be treated as an equal. I needed encouragement when I was playing out on the field. I needed support as I went up to bat. And, I was up next on the roster.

As I slowly walked up to home plate, I gripped the bat tightly with sweaty palms. I was scared and nervous as I stood there staring down the pitcher. I stood there realizing that all I heard was silence. I did not have the rest of my team cheering me on, and I never really had.

My eyes met the pitcher's. We stood there, I trying to read what was to come, him trying to decide which strategy to move forward with. I knew with all my heart that a curve ball was coming. I adjusted my stance. I turned slightly to ensure that when the bat met the ball, I would not hit it foul. I took a deep breath, slowly inhaling through my nose. When I didn't think I could inhale any longer, I paused and breathed in slightly deeper. He began to curl in upon himself, readying to throw, and I slowly released my breath, closing my eyes for my own silent moment of encouragement. When I opened them, the ball was flying my way. I could see it begin to curve, even more than I had predicted. I could imagine the bat connecting with the ball. I felt the air as the ball flew past me. It didn't matter if it was called strike or ball.  I had chosen not to swing.

I looked at the pitcher. Our eyes connected. I knew my time on this field and on this team was done. Because we were not on the same team. He had been playing against me all along.

I took one last deep breath, slowly taking in the smells of the field. It would be the last time I would smell these smells. It would be the last time I would see this field. I had made my decision.

I came to the conclusion that I simply don't like the game of baseball. I called myself out. It was time to move on.

It has not been easy. Honestly, it has been damn hard. I left behind my team. I hit the road on my own, alone with my two most prized treasures and my inspiration. Along the way, I have discovered that I have more fans in the background than I realized. I have had unexpected surprises. I have had to rethink my priorities, my desires, and my future. I realized that I may have been playing the wrong game, but there are other games out there that will be a better fit for me. I breathe deep every morning I wake and every night before falling asleep. I savor the new sights and sounds around me. I am on a new adventure, and I will continue to stand tall, even if I stand alone.

Bring it on.

Friday, September 7, 2018

BOOK CHAT: June 2018 in Review


On Wednesday, I reviewed the month of May.  Today, it's June.  If I keep this up, I can be all caught up in just a few short days!

JUNE went by way too quickly.  I did get in a little trip to Tulsa for an Usborne Books & More Convention.  Then, I had to attend some trainings for work that proved to be quite fun and I learned a lot.  I also made a long list of all the projects I wanted to get done during the summer.  (Spoiler alert:  I did not get all of those projects finished!)  I also really dove into planning the annual Out of the Darkness Walk in my area, which proved to be quite time-consuming even despite having an amazing team to help me out this year.

The TOP PIC for the month was this pic from my travels to Tulsa.  My plane was a bit delayed, which only meant a bit more reading time for me.



I had high hopes for reading in June, but I was only able to complete a handful.  Here's the full list of BOOKS READ for the month:
  1. Curtsies & Conspiracies (Finishing School #2) by Gail Carriger
  2. If I Stay (If I Stay #1) by Gayle Forman
  3. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  4. Where She Went (If I Stay #2) by Gayle Forman

My FAVE BOOK for the month was Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger.  This series is such fun!

JULY arrived before I knew it, and it flew by.  Stay turned for more information on that coming soon!

YOUR TURN:  Have you ever read The Finishing School series?  If so, tell me what you think!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

BOOK CHAT: May 2018 in Review


Wow, am I behind schedule a bit these days!  I have to go all the way back to May to get caught up, but I would rather do this than not.  I hate to let this little corner of mine in the webosphere disappear because it has held a special place in my heart for far too long.  With that in mind, bare with me as I catch up!

The month of MAY flew by so quickly.  My kids and I finished up the last month of school, and with that comes a large amount of activities to wrap up the year.  Overall, we all finished strong, but were so very thankful to see summer greet us with open arms.

The TOP PIC for the month was this beauty that I captured while out taking a walk, listening to an audiobook.


I got in a few BOOKS READ during the month, amongst all the chaos of the end of the year.
  1. When Luck Dies (The Murder Lawyer Series #1) by Piper Punches
  2. The Witches:  Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff
  3. Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke
  4. Strange Weather by Joe Hill

My FAVORITE READ for the month was probably Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke.  It was a light and fun read, which is just what I needed for this time of year.  I immediately recommended it to my son who recently started listening to audiobooks, and it was his first audiobook completed on his own.

JUNE would prove to be the low-key month of the summer, with a little traveling and a number of projects on my plate.  I will share more when I look at that month in review soon.

YOUR TURN:  Flashing back to May, what was your favorite memory of the month? 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

WEEKLY WANDERINGS: Back in Session!


As I logged into my account today, I realized just how long it has been so I have posted here.  I cannot believe it.  Since the last time, I have done a bit of traveling, have had some work done around my house, took a long hike, hung out with the family, and prepared to go back to work.  I have also been extremely busy working on organizing another Out of the Darkness Walk for suicide prevention.  If I'm being honest, it's been a bit more than busy; it's been chaotic!

Today, I hope that changes and at least a bit of routine helps me get back on track.  School started today, which means I'm officially back to work myself (though technically I started on Monday).  Now that school is back in session, let's hope that my writing falls into place as well.

As for the reading front, it's been slow lately.  I'm still plugging along, reading a variety of things these days:  a little Sherlock, Night Film on audio, listening to Mockingjay with my kids, trying to convince the kids to finally return to the sixth Harry Potter.  I try to get in a little each day before moving into the long list of things to do, typically wishing that I had some time to just sit down and read for an extended period of time.  Keeping my fingers crossed that the upcoming long weekend will allow me to do just that.

YOUR TURN:  What have I been missing this last month?  Have you been reading anything good these days?