Tuesday, January 6, 2015

And That's How I Know It's Going to Be a Good Year

I decided last week that 2015 is going to be a good year. I had no proof, and no particular basis for that decision. It was just one of those things that popped into my head, and I decided to go with it.

And although technically the new year started almost a week ago, it didn't actually feel like the new year until yesterday. My husband was back to work, my kids were back to school, and I could settle back in to my routine of normal life. (Or, at least, "normal" life.)

It was lovely. The house was quiet. Things actually stayed clean and put away after I cleaned them and put them away. I got to go grocery shopping by myself. And I got to catch up on the two issues of Entertainment Weekly that had been sitting neglected on my side table. Like I said... lovely.

But there were two other very specific things that happened yesterday, and I decided to let them set the tone for the year.

First, I decided to step on the scales. I had been purposely avoiding that over the holidays. Because calories don't count if you don't think about them. And I knew I wasn't going to do anything about it until after the holidays anyway, so I decided that ignorance was bliss. So of course I got on the scales expecting the worst, and thinking about how much I was going to have to work to take off the extra holiday pounds.

Only... there weren't any extra holiday pounds. In fact, there were 4 pounds fewer than there had been at the beginning of December. I don't know how that happened, but I'll take it. And I'll appreciate it for the awesome way to start a year that it is.

The second thing that happened was at the end of the blissfully quiet trip to the grocery store that I mentioned. I decided to restock my fridge, and picked up a case of Redd's Strawberry Ale (because it's delicious. Trust me. You should totally try it.) Being well past the age of legally purchasing alcohol, I didn't think anything of it. Until the cashier asked for my ID.

I said "really?!" And she said "yeah!" And then she actually looked at it before approving the sale. And I know, some places require ID before any alcohol sales. (But I've been there many times, and they don't.) And I know that some cashiers always make it a habit to card everyone, regardless of their age. But I'm going to choose to believe that she really needed to see my ID because she thought I looked kind of young. Because being almost 37 and having to prove that you're over 21 will make you feel good. Every. Time.

So here's to a fantastic year, my friends. I hope yours is off to as great of a start as mine is.

Friday, January 2, 2015

A New Challenge for a New Year

Because it was so much fun last year, I've signed up to participate in the Goodreads Reading Challenge for 2015. My official goal is to read 36 books this year. My more personal goal is to actually make time to review all of them this time. We'll see how that goes.

I'd like to invite you to participate with me. Because, really, what's not to love about anything that encourages you to read more?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014 Reading Challenge Recap (Part 2)

And here we continue with my reading list for the 2014 Goodreads Reading Challenge. (If you missed Part 1, you can find it here. If you missed the explanation of the challenge, you can find it here.)

Here are the books that I read during the second half of last year:

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

This is an excellent book, but don't pick it up if you're looking for a quick read. You definitely want to take your time and savor it.

There's a Boy in the Girl's Bathroom, by Louis Sachar

This was a fun book to read with the kids. Sachar is not my favorite author of all time, but he is an entertaining story teller. (My main problem with him is that his writing style is a bit awkward at times. I found myself spontaneously editing from time to time, just to make the dialogue flow more comfortably.) But it definitely wasn't enough of a problem to keep me from reading more of his books.

No Talking, by Andrew Clements

This was another fun read with the kids, and I instantly became a big fan of Andrew Clements. He has a very realistic style that is easy to read, and he has the ability to tell a good story with a good lesson without being heavy-handed about it.

The Whole Truth, by David Baldacci

This wasn't my favorite Baldacci book ever, nor was it particularly memorable. It was fast-paced and entertaining, though, like his books usually are, so if you like him you'll probably enjoy it.

King and Maxwell, by David Baldacci

This is the 6th book in the King/Maxwell series. I haven't read all of them yet, but I have read several, and always enjoy them. I like the characters, and the way they interact. It always makes for a fun read.

Legend, by Marie Lu

I like YA novels, and I like dystopian novels, so I was bound to enjoy this one. And it definitely didn't disappoint. I found myself completely immersed in the story, and not wanting to let the characters go. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

I loved this book. It completely sucked me it to the story, and was very hard to put down. I spent the first part of the book alternating between "no way, he couldn't have" and "yeah, it's always the husband." The second part was mostly "wait - what?!!" and the third part was a bit of "wow, that's messed up." (On a side note, the movie was also very well done. I recommend both.)

Sideways Stories from Wayside School, by Louis Sachar

Another good one to read with the kids. It's in the same old slightly-awkward Sachar style, but other than that we all enjoyed it. The stories are silly, obviously, but it was always fun to watch the kids make the connections, and figure out why the silliness was important.

Wayside School is Falling Down, by Louis Sachar

Fortunately I bought these as a set, because the kids were ready to go right into the next one as soon as we finished the first.

Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, by Louis Sachar

Not necessarily as good as the first two, but still fun. The kids really enjoyed all three of them.

Someday, Someday, Maybe, by Lauren Graham

Like many people, I picked this up because I was a fan of Lauren Graham as an actress, and I was curious to see if she could write too. And also like many people, I wasn't disappointed. It's a really cute story (nothing earth-shattering or life-changing, necessarily, but cute.) The characters are likable, which makes their stories compelling. And there is plenty of the wit and whimsy that you would expect from someone like Graham.

Loser, by Jerry Spinelli

I immediately fell in love with the main character, and enjoyed every bit of his story (and instantly became a Jerry Spinelli fan.) The kids loved the story too, and often found the adventures laugh-out-loud funny. It was a great book to read with the kids, and made for some really interesting/thought-provoking discussions.

Holes, by Louis Sachar

This was probably my favorite of all the Sachar books we read this year. Setting my problems with his writing style aside, it was a really good story (for kids and adults.) I'm kind of sad that it took me so long to get around to reading it.

The Mouse and the Motorcycle, by Beverly Cleary

I loved it as a kid, and loved it just as much when I read it again with my kids. This was another time when it was a good thing that I picked up the whole set, because as soon as we finished this my kids were begging to move on to the next one. (We're in the middle of it right now.) I'm so glad that books like this are still around, and still just as popular as they were when I was a kid.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

Loved it. Loved it. Loved it. It was beautifully written, with such wonderfully flawed and real characters that I couldn't help getting completely lost in their story (and didn't even mind the emotional roller coaster that it took me on.) This was a fantastic way to end the year, and I'm so glad that I finally got to read it.

And there we have it - my 2014 reading list. Please feel free to share your own thoughts. And remember that it's okay to disagree with my opinions. We all have our own tastes, and that's what makes life interesting. :)

2014 Reading Challenge Recap (Part 1)

As you may recall, this past year I committed to the Goodreads Reading Challenge, with a conservative goal of reading 26 books in 2014. I'm happy to say that I met - and exceeded - my goal, ending up with a total of 33 books. (Go me!)

Participating in the challenge was a lot of fun, and I discovered some really great books. I was even good about writing reviews of what I read... for a while.

But then August came, and my kids went back to school. And between my duties as room mom, and art teacher, and library volunteer, and PTO board member, and Girl Scout leader... I got a bit busy, and failed to make time for writing. I have to admit that I'm kind of disappointed with myself for that. But we have to deal with things and move on, so here we go.

Here is a quick recap of the books I read during the first half of the year (when I was still making time to write about them.) You can follow the links if you're interested in the full reviews.

Playing Nice, by Rebekah Crane

Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut

Looking for Alaska, by John Green

The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, by Douglas Adams

Innocence, by Dean Koontz

The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green

Accidents & Incidents, by Riley Graham

Hounded, by Kevin Hearne

The Lost Symbol, by Dan Brown

Divergent, by Veronica Roth

The 21-Day Sugar Detox, by Diane Sanfilippo

The Mighty Miss Malone, by Christoper Paul Curtis

Stuart Little, by E.B. White

The Dragonslayers, Volume One, by Matthew Maynard

Aspen, by Rebekah Crane

Insurgent, by Veronica Roth

Allegiant, by Veronica Roth

The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo

And there you have the first half (or so) of the year. If you'd like to see my book list for the rest of the year, visit Part 2 of my recap here.