Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 End-of-year Movie Stats

I also love the movies. I have no idea how many movies I watched this year. I only kept sporadic details. My goal is to do better this year....

My favorite movies of 2017:

1. Get Out (2017): Most amazing horror-comedy, social-satire ever made!

2. Logan (2017): This movie made me cry. It's moving and heart-felt while also kickass!

3. Manchester by the Sea (2016): While I'm no Casey Affleck fan, this story is raw about grief, what we do with it and how we never truly heal from it.

4. Captain Fantastic (2016): Heart-warming story about an unconventional family trying to make it in this so often cruel world.

5. La La Land (2016): While I never got caught up in the music, I enjoyed the love story and how sometimes real life gets in the way.

6. Miss Sloane (2016): This was a surprise find for me. I loved it and didn't expect to.

7. Hidden Figures (2016): I loved watching these amazing women soar! I enjoyed how the movie brought these women into real life for me. The book was a bit confusing and dry. But absolutely adore this movie.

8. Wonder Woman (2017): Finally an action movie I can truly get behind! Gal Gadot is superb as Wonder Woman and look forward to the rest of her solo movies.

9. Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016): This is an adorable story of a foster father and his son hiding out in the woods due to miscommunication and crazy antics.

10. The Big Sick (2017): I'd heard good things before watching but it truly blew me away with it's acting, story, and raw scenes. It's the feel-good movie of the year for me.

11. It (2017): Not only was a it a great horror movie but it's also just a good coming-of-age movie. The kid actors in this are fantastic. I cannot wait for part II!

12. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (2014): Another heart-wrenching movie about grief. Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy are amazing in this.

13. Thor: Ragnarok (2017): Best superhero movie ever. It's funny, action-packed, and smart. Perfect combo.

14. Wind River (2017): Another surprise for me. Heart-wrenching story about grief. What can I say the grief and death stories get to me and I love them.

My favorite documentary this year has to be Strong Island directed by Yance Ford. It's a Netflix original. Ford sets out to examine the violent death of her brother and the judicial system that let his killer go free. It's eye-opening and tragic yet beautifully done.

2017 End-of-year Book Stats

I'm really behind. It's been nothing but sickness and recovery here at my house for two weeks. I'm in the middle of it but this morning I saw a bit of light and clearing of the sinus head goo so I'm going to take advantage of it and try to count up books and think about faves!

According to Goodreads, I completed 76 books this year.

15 were young adult or middle grade books. 9 were children's books. My favorites were the Zooey and Sassafras series by Asia Citro, The Inquisitor's Tale by Adam Gidwitz, and all-time favorite young adult book this year was The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

31 were nonfiction. My favorite memoir of the year has to be between Roxane Gay's Hunger and Sherman Alexie's You Don't Have to Say You Love Me. Both thought-provoking, tragic, and beautiful. 19 of those nonfiction were memoirs of some sort! I like those, apparently!

For classics I read To Kill a Mockingbird , The Handmaid's Tale, and Murder on the Orient Express.

I read a lot of horror around September and October; 10, with The Last Days of Jack Sparks being my favorite horror read of the year.

My favorite science book of the year was The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. It was fascinating science and a fascinating story behind Henrietta Lacks and the trauma that her family has felt through generations. She packs a lot of ideas into a coherent whole.

Shortest book: Zooey and Sassafras at 96 pages.

Longest book: It by Stephen King at 1478 pages! It took me over 4 months to read that one!

I read a lot more this year! But I found I didn't record as much at the beginning. I really started hitting Goodreads and blogging hard after G started school in September and have been making this my end of the year goals.

Top 5 books of the year:

1. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

2. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

3. You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie

4. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

5. H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

I guess I needed to share the pain with others this year since I read a lot of memoirs about hard experiences, grief, and pain.

I have a couple of reading challenges this year plus the Classics challenge. I only read 3 out of 10 this year so I need to crank it up for 2018! I may join one more to help me read the books I own!

Here's to another great reading year!

Friday, December 29, 2017

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Goodreads Summary:

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade's worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi's transformation from a na├»ve medical student "possessed," as he wrote, "by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life" into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality. 

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir. 

Kalanithi wrote this book while battling lung cancer and the ripe old age of late 30s....He was a renaissance man who got his degrees in literature and history of science before heading off to med school to become a neurosurgeon and neuroscientist. He shares his journey with us from what ultimately turned his attention from literature to becoming a doctor. He wanted to face death and experience it with his patients. But then he became the patient.

Kalanithi pulls from science, philosophy, and literature to bring together his thoughts and experiences on death and dying.

"...the physician's duty is not to stave off death or return patients to their old lives, but to take into our arms a patient and family whose lives have disintegrated and work until they can stand back up and face, and make sense of, their own existence."

It's a moving and poignant memoir. It makes me ponder my own existence and how to approach life and make it a good one so when I finally meet death I can say I'm ready.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

2018 Monthly Motif Challenge by GirlXoXo

I wanted to sign up for this one to help me expand and diversify my reading this year. This one is hosted by the ladies at Girlxoxo.
*All my picks are subject to change any given day, week, or month!

The monthly challenges are:

JANUARY – Diversify Your Reading
Kick the reading year off right and shake things up. Read a book with a character (or written by an author) of a race, religion, or sexual orientation other than your own.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. I picked up her Earthseed series from Amazon a few months ago.
FEBRUARY – One Word 
Read a book with a one word title.

Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala
MARCH – Travel the World
Read a book set in a different country than your own, written by an author from another country than your own, or a book in which the characters travel.

The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne. I've heard amazing things about this one and want to read an Irish tale for March.
APRIL – Read Locally
Read a book set in your country, state, town, village (or has a main character from your home town, country, etc)

Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place by Terry Tempest Williams. I'm from Utah and this one has been on my shelf for awhile plus it will go along with Earth Day in April.
MAY- Book to Screen
Read a book that’s been made into a movie or a TV show.

Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile. I've heard both the TV show and the book are must-watch/reads.
JUNE- Crack the Case
Mysteries, True Crime, Who Dunnit’s.

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Madness, and Magic at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson, or Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker, or In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, or Beyond the Body Farm by Dr. Bill Bass & Jon Jefferson. Whichever feeds my fancy.
JULY – Vacation Reads
Read a book you think is a perfect vacation read and tell us why.

I may try for some children's fiction. I've been wanting to read my way through the Newberry Award winners and finalists. Vacation reads should be easier reads but not necessarily just brain candy and thus a perfect fit for some juvenile fiction.

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia, Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley.
AUGUST- Award Winners 

Read a book that has won a literary award or a book written by an author who has been recognized in the bookish community.

There are so many...Waiting for Snow in Havana by Carlos Eire, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier Clay by Michael Chabon....
SEPTEMBER- Don’t Turn Out The Light
Cozy mystery ghost stories, paranormal creeptastic, horror novels.

The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff, NOS4A2 by Joe Hill, The Exorcist by William Peter Beatty, Ghost Story by Peter Straub.
OCTOBER- New or Old
Choose a new release from 2018 or a book known as a classic.

Possibly something from Virginia Woolf or Kate Chopin or anything new that catches my eye!
Books where family dynamics play a big role in the story

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
DECEMBER- Wrapping It Up
Winter or holiday themed books or books with snow, ice, etc in the title or books set in winter OR read a book with a theme from any of the months in this challenge (could be a theme you didn’t do, or one you want to do again).

Anything I don't get to this month I'll probably add to next year. Love the holiday-themed books!
It'll be fun to choose what to read each month and see where my reading takes me in 2018!

Tis the Season for Reading Challenge Signups! 2018 Nonfiction Reading

I go back and forth on reading challenges. I usually like to randomly choose which book I'll end up reading at any given time and so reading challenges haven't worked for me in the past. But I'd like to spice things up this year and reconnect with other readers via the great interwebs. So I'm planning on adding a few to my list this next year. My first official challenge is being hosted by Doing Dewey. She will have mini challenges and giveaways as well as hosting 4 group nonfiction read-alongs.

I usually read a lot of nonfiction throughout the year. But this year I'd like to finish off a few I've started in the past and also diversify my reading.

I'd like to read at least two nonfiction books a month and make sure that they aren't both memoirs--biography fine, but not more that one memoir a month (well, as long as I get another nonfiction in besides a memoir then another memoir would be fine!). Except for September. I'm planning on reading a book a day or close to it with another friend so I'll be reading a lot of memoirs that month!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Cat Thursday--December 14, 2017

Welcome to the weekly meme (hosted by True Book Addict) that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite LOL cat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s)


Check out this cute cat playing with the rhinos!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday--Favorite Books of 2017

hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

It's that time of year again....time to cull the list of favorite reads from 2017. I read a lot of wonderful books this year.  Here they are in no particular order:

1. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Fantastic writing and research and I loved the humanity as we met all of Ms. Lacks family.

2. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. The best book and letting you feel what it might actually be like to be clinically and severely depressed. Hits you in the gut.

3. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I listened to this. It was a heart-wrenching story. Starr and her family stick with you. They make you think. Beautiful and much needed story.

4. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay. Her stories are visceral but necessary. No one can make me feel all the feels quite like Gay. Anyone who thinks it's still OK to fat shame needs to read this. Boom.

5. The Inquisitor's Tale: Or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz. It's a beautifully told story about three children (from different backgrounds) in the early 1200s making their way through France and hiding from the King!

6. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel. She writes a beautiful memoir about her father while trying to understand him and deal with his death.

7. Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign by Jonathon Allen. This was a fascinating insider's look on how Clinton ran her campaign and how she really messed up. It was sad but a necessary read.

8. The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp. This was a wacky and well-written story about well, the last days of Jack Sparks! It's horrifying and funny all at the same time and I just loved it!

9. We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates. So powerful. Coates reflects over the eight years President Obama was in office. It is a tragedy.

10. You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie. There are no proper words from me about how beautiful and poignant this memoir is. Listen to it. It brought me to tears.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Week-in-Review-- December 11, 2017

The one thing that I do enjoy about this time of year is the excuse to slow down a bit and just be. G and I made Christmas goodies all weekend and we watched at least 3 holiday movies! It's been busy but fun.

Books Finished:

From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling, and You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie.

Currently Reading:

The Burning Girl: A Novel by Claire Messud. This one is very short and I should finish it either today or tomorrow. It's on a lot of best of 2017 lists so I figured I'd try a few out before 2018 hits with more wonderful books on the way!

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Krampusnacht: Twelve Nights of Krampus by Kate Wolford. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte and finally Hamlet by Shakespeare! Whew. We shall see how many of these I can get through before 2018!

Listening To:

Audible just gave out a new title to its members called "The Most Wonderful Tales of the Year." So I'm thinking I'll listen a bit to that this week along with The Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan.

I just picked up Lindsey Stirling's new Christmas album Warmer in the Winter, which has been amazing. I also found Loreena McKennitt's A Midwinter's Night Dream which features Celtic winter tunes and vocals. Delightful.


Dark on Netflix. It's from Germany and it's dark and weird and fabulous. It's like Stranger Things on steroids.

All the Christmas holiday movies. G loves Home Alone so we've watched those two many times. Elf has been on the list and Polar Express too while sipping hot chocolate and nomming on popcorn and other goodies.


We made all the cookies and goodies this week. Oreo mint truffles, peanut butter balls, peanut butter blossoms, and good old-fashioned sugar cookies. The frosting wasn't as good as I was hoping. We're making more this week since we ran out and I'll try a different recipe and hopefully that one tastes better! The Oreo truffles didn't quite work out either but we made do. So I'll need to find a better recipe for those. I don't bake a lot so most of this is new. But I like branching out and with DH gone so long, I've needed an outlet and some fun to do with G.

Looking forward to:

DH is coming home Saturday night! Yay! We cannot wait. It has been very lonely at our house without him. G has his rescheduled cooking class on Friday and we're going to a winter solstice celebration on Saturday morning.

Also, it's DH and I's 14th wedding anniversary Tuesday. So I'll probably take G out for some Thai and a little merry-making.

Pics from the week:

Dec 8
G got some playtime in with friends!

2017-12-10 10.08.21
Nala loves the head scratches

Dec 9
We spent all weekend making cookies and other goodies!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Saturday Caturday

I wanted to get some cute kitty/animal stuff in for the weekend...

This link will take you to a cute gif of a similar cat settling in for a nap with its huskie. Cat settles in for a nap. 
It's horrible about those fires in California and this story just touched my heart that this man would risk so much to rescue this wild rabbit. I just bawled while watching it.

May we all have a safe and happy weekend!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Mini Book Reviews: Lincoln in the Bardo...

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Goodreads Summary:

February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. “My poor boy, he was too good for this earth,” the president says at the time. “God has called him home.” Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returned to the crypt several times alone to hold his boy’s body.

From that seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of its realistic, historical framework into a thrilling, supernatural realm both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory, where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state—called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo—a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul.

I listened to this one and I am sure glad that I did. It had a wonderful cast of characters...I think around 166 different narrators!

It was a great story on grief and penance. I've never read anything by Saunders so his style was very different and it was hard to get into the flow of the story so it wasn't my favorite but I can appreciate why it's been a lauded work this past year.

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown

Goodreads Summary:

Every day we experience the uncertainty, risks, and emotional exposure that define what it means to be vulnerable, or to dare greatly. Whether the arena is a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, or a difficult family conversation, we must find the courage to walk into vulnerability and engage with our whole hearts.

In Daring Greatly, Dr. Brown challenges everything we think we know about vulnerability. Based on twelve years of research, she argues that vulnerability is not weakness, but rather our clearest path to courage, engagement, and meaningful connection. The book that Dr. Brown’s many fans have been waiting for, Daring Greatly will spark a new spirit of truth—and trust—in our organizations, families, schools, and communities.

Amazon lists this as 100 top books to read in a lifetime and I wholeheartedly agree. After I finished listening to it, I ordered the book and am going to reread the hard copy. She has so many beautiful things to share on vulnerability and how that truly, in practice, lead to a transformative life. I especially identified with the parenting section.

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste

Corinne La Mer isn't afraid of anything. Not scorpions, not the boys who tease her, and certainly not jumbies. They're just tricksters parents make up to frighten their children. Then one night Corinne chases an agouti all the way into the forbidden forest. Those shining yellow eyes that followed her to the edge of the trees, they couldn't belong to a jumbie. Or could they?

When Corinne spots a beautiful stranger speaking to the town witch at the market the next day, she knows something unexpected is about to happen. And when this same beauty, called Severine, turns up at Corinne's house, cooking dinner for Corinne's father, Corinne is sure that danger is in the air. She soon finds out that bewitching her father, Pierre, is only the first step in Severine's plan to claim the entire island for the jumbies. Corinne must call on her courage and her friends and learn to use ancient magic she didn't know she possessed to stop Severine and save her island home.

G and I both enjoyed this fantastic tale from the Caribbean. It had a great group of kids who care about each other, a big bad to get the best of, and growth for everyone involved. I try to read books to G from varying genres, sex, and diversity. And this one was perfect.

You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie

When his mother passed away at the age of 78, Sherman Alexie responded the only way he knew how: he wrote. The result is this stunning memoir. Featuring 78 poems, 78 essays and intimate family photographs, Alexie shares raw, angry, funny, profane, tender memories of a childhood few can imagine--growing up dirt-poor on an Indian reservation, one of four children raised by alcoholic parents. Throughout, a portrait emerges of his mother as a beautiful, mercurial, abusive, intelligent, complicated woman. You Don't Have To Say You Love Me is a powerful account of a complicated relationship, an unflinching and unforgettable remembrance.

Wow. This memoir blew me away. Alexie takes us along for the journey while he processes the death of his mother and his relationship with her. But we also learn along with him the complexities of his mother, all the good and bad and in between. It's gut-wrenching. I listened to this and he breaks down a few times while reading his poems and thoughts. It's a must-read for all humanity. Alexie for world leader!

From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty

Fascinated by our pervasive terror of dead bodies, mortician Caitlin Doughty set out to discover how other cultures care for their dead. In rural Indonesia, she observes a man clean and dress his grandfather’s mummified body. Grandpa’s mummy has lived in the family home for two years, where the family has maintained a warm and respectful relationship. She meets Bolivian natitas (cigarette- smoking, wish- granting human skulls), and introduces us to a Japanese kotsuage, in which relatives use chopsticks to pluck their loved- ones’ bones from cremation ashes. With curiosity and morbid humor, Doughty encounters vividly decomposed bodies and participates in compelling, powerful death practices almost entirely unknown in America. Featuring Gorey-esque illustrations by artist Landis Blair, From Here to Eternity introduces death-care innovators researching green burial and body composting, explores new spaces for mourning— including a glowing- Buddha columbarium in Japan and America’s only open-air pyre— and reveals unexpected new possibilities for our own death rituals.

Doughty travels around the world to see what other cultures do to celebrate and mourn their dead. I enjoyed the closer-up details of what these cultures do. She added a nice personal touch and let her thoughts be known. She muses on western culture and our lack of true ritual when it comes to death. We hold no spaces for our dead and those grieving. She inspires me to face death head on and search out my own held space for the present and the future.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Just after midnight, the famous Orient Express is stopped in its tracks by a snowdrift. By morning, the millionaire Samuel Ratchett lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. One of his fellow passengers must be the murderer.

Isolated by the storm and with a killer in their midst, detective Hercule Poirot must find the killer amongst a dozen of the dead man's enemies, before the murderer decides to strike again...

I wanted to get this read before I saw the new movie adaptation. I'm glad I did. It was fun to see how Hercule Poirot solved his mysteries. It wasn't great but it was fun!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Nonfiction November Wrapup

I enjoyed sharing my nonfiction reads of November with others. It was fabulous to get new books on my ever-growing TBR pile and to meet new bloggers. But the one thing I didn't get reviews. So without further ado, here are my mini-reviews.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty

I'm still processing this book...that's kind of the theme of the whole book, though. How we ignore death and dying and never process it until it's too late. Well, that's kind of what I've been doing after I read this. I've known I needed to write a reviews and I've put it off and put it off. Ha!

"Looking mortality straight in the yes is no easy feat. To avoid the exercise, we choose to stay blindfolded, in the dark as to the realities of death and dying. But ignorance is not bliss, only a deeper kind of terror."

"Death drives every creative and destructive impulse we have as human beings. The closer we come to understanding it, the closer we come to understanding ourselves."

Doughty has tried to turn the funeral industry upside down by providing a good death for those who want it. Her stories bring love and humor to death. She has started a death positive movement The Order of the Good Death. She wants everyone to accept mortality and to come at it head on.

"Whether my mortality caught me at twenty-eight or ninety-three, I made the choice to die content, slipped into the nothingness, my atoms becoming the very fog that cloaked the trees. The silence of death, of the cemetery, was no punishment, but a reward for a life well lived."

We are mortal; let's face death head on, not with a sense of dread or terror, but one of acceptance and knowledge of a full life.

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Coates offers up eight articles he wrote for The Atlantic during the eight years Barack Obama was president. He adds in new introductions for each one and a final epilogue.

I don't quite know how to quite sum it up properly. America is the great tragedy. Our country was built on the backs of slaves and genocide and we as a nation have never come to terms with that. It's a cycle that is perpetual. We can see it now with Trump in power and his cronies in the senate and congress.

"He was deliberate to a fault, saw himself as the keeper of his country sacred legacy, and if he was bothered by his country's sins, he ultimately believed it to be a force for good in the world. IN short, Obama, his family, and his administration were a walking advertisement for the ease with which black people could be fully integrated into the unthreatening mainstream of American culture, politics, and myth. And that was always the problem."

Can we ever come together and look into the eyes of our terrible past and present and move forward from that point with eyes wide open? Or is our country doomed to this tragedy until we are no more?

Coates knows how to lay it all out simply and profoundly. This book is a must-read.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

I listened to this one and that means it's going to be difficult to mark passages and go over them. But I can tell you that this was a powerful book. I cried during many passages as I was driving around town.

I felt her loss. Her year of dealing not only with the sudden death of her husband but also the illness of her daughter was horrible. It was a sad reminder of how our culture wants us to grieve but not too much. Get over it and move on and don't let us know how much you are grieving because it makes us uncomfortable and we don't know how to handle that....

I want to pick up a hard copy and reread and mark it up. Beautiful and profound.