Friday, January 30, 2015

January Wrap-Up

What. A. Month. Today is my last day at BMS, the middle school that I've been substituting at for the last couple of months. Bittersweet, to say the least, but also very, very exciting as I embark on my new career! Cheers to the end of January and all it's dreariness, and bring on February, love, and Mardi Gras!

January in One Word: Cold

My Favorite Memories in January 2015:
  • Bridesmaid dress shopping with my future sister-in-law!
  • Cooking.. A Lot!
  • Weekend alone with the kitten while the boys were camping
  • Awesome visit with Momo, Steph, and Mom
  • Getting retweeted by Lauren Oliver and replied to by Jandy Nelson ON THE SAME DAY
  • Reuniting with elementary school friends at a bridal shower
  • Last days at BMS
Books I Read this Month: 
  • I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (Review)
  • Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
  • The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
  • Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman
  • A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (In Process!)
In Case You Missed It (Best Posts from January):
Articles from Around the Web:
New Obsessions:
  • My Clarisonic! I got it from my parents for Christmas, and me oh my, I'm addicted.
3 Things I'm Sad to See Go with January:
  • Saturdays with Jeromy.. Busy season is in full swing, and the firm is monopolizing all of Jeromy's time. Life with a CPA... Guess I'll be seeing this for the next 20-30-40 years.
  • My time at BMS. While public school was too... hectic.. for me, I really connected to a lot of the kids, and I'll miss them for sure.
  • Weekends of fun.. February (with the exception of a very fun wedding) will be a bit more lazy since Jeromy is working
    3 Things I'm Looking Forward to in February:
    • Starting my full time job at Ascension! I'm so looking forward to working with teenagers again, and I'm completely obsessed with how awesome this school is.
    • Mardi Gras, if only to have a few days off
    • Valentine's day! How could you not love a day dedicated to love?
    Favorite Quote from a Book I Read this Month:

    “Meeting your soul mate is like walking into a house you've been in before - you will recognize the furniture, the pictures on the wall,the books on the shelves, the contents of drawers: You could find your way around in the dark if you had to.”
    - I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

    Thursday, January 29, 2015

    Book Club Reviews: Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman

    On Monday, we had our first book club meeting of the new year (and our official 2 year anniversary meeting!), and we read Neil Gaiman's Smoke and Mirrors.

    Book Title: Smoke and Mirrors
    Author: Neil Gaiman
    Publication Date: 1998
    Genres: Adult Fiction, Short Stories
    Goodreads Rating: 4.06 Stars 
    Book Club Rating: 4 Stars

    In the deft hands of Neil Gaiman, magic is no mere illusion . . . and anything is possible. In Smoke and Mirrors, Gaiman's imagination and supreme artistry transform a mundane world into a place of terrible wonders—where an old woman can purchase the Holy Grail at a thrift store, where assassins advertise their services in the Yellow Pages under "Pest Control," and where a frightened young boy must barter for his life with a mean-spirited troll living beneath a bridge by the railroad tracks. Explore a new reality, obscured by smoke and darkness yet brilliantly tangible, in this extraordinary collection of short works by a master prestidigitator. It will dazzle your senses, touch your heart, and haunt your dreams.
    1. The writing. Neil Gaiman is a master with words, and Smoke and Mirrors definitely corroborated that. His use of subtle sarcasm and situational irony is definitely what drives most of the stories and makes them seem even more outlandish because, even though you KNOW that this just is way out of left field, the characters react like it's nothing. (English teacher tip: That's masterful situational irony.)

    2. The introduction. Most of us read a version of Smoke and Mirrors that had an AMAZING introduction. In the introduction, Gaiman has a short story tucked away that was a unanimous favorite. Also, he includes background to why he wrote each short story, which we found kind of fascinating to read after reading the story.

    3. The concept. All in all, the play on fairytales and whimsy was what kept our attention. We wanted to see how Gaiman would play out the troll under the bridge (which still has me thinking...) or the holy grail concept. It was really, really neat (and a little unsettling, in a Grimm Brothers sort of way).

    1. The creepy? Honestly, there wasn't much that we said we didn't like. Some of the stories were weird and uncomfortable, but that's Neil Gaiman's writing style. He tries to make you uncomfortable. Generally, the creepy weird factor as the only problem that some of us had with the book, especially when it came to some of the more familiar fairy tales.

    This is a good book to keep in your purse. It has some short (like.. 100 words short) stories and some longer ones, and they would be great to fill any spaces when you need a little something to do.

    Wednesday, January 28, 2015

    Books Turned Movies in 2015

    Monday at Book Club, we stumbled upon the subject of books turned movie. It was the general concsensus that, for the first time that we've ever fathomed, we found a movie that was better than the book. The Maze Runner. That got me thinking about how AWESOME 2014 was for Books-Turned-Movies, with The Fault in Our Stars, The Giver, If I Stay, Gone Girl, etc.

    Then I started researching books that are becoming movies in 2015, which... wow. Not as big of a cast as 2014, but definitely some eye-catchers.

    50 Shades of Grey (February 12) This one is an obvious choice... I'm pretty sure everyone and their moms (although not at the same time, because that would be awkward as shit) are going to see this movie.

    Insurgent (March 20) Sequel to the badass Divergent and a definite midnight showing for me. Still boycotting the last movie though.

    Paper Towns (June 5) Squee. Another John Green adaptation! Although this was not one of my favorites by him, I'm still excited to see how it plays out.

    Me Before You (August 21) I absolutely cannot wait to see this love story play out on the big screen. Not that they have any information about it. At all. Not even an announced cast.

    Victor Frankenstein (October 2) Daniel. Radcliffe. I'll stop there.

    Mockingjay Part II (November 20) Well... I've made it this far in the series, and Part I had me amped up for the conclusion.

    Dark Places (2015... Sometime) After seeing how Gone Girl played out on the big screen, I'm anxious to see this adaptation. Chloe Grace Morentz (from If I Stay) is in it too!

    The Light Between Oceans (2015... Sometime) This is a novel that is just begging to be turned into a artsy movie, and I'm pretty excited to see it happen.

    Room (2015... Sometime) Squeeeeeeee. One of my favorite reads in 2014, and this movie will be INTENSE. So pumped for it!

    Of course, this is only a small sampling of book-to-movie adaptations going on 2015. What did I miss? Any books I NEED to grab before they hit the big screen?

    Tuesday, January 27, 2015

    Top Ten Tuesday: Book Club Picks!

    Top Ten Tuesdays, as always, are hosted by The Broke and The Bookish! I was excited about this week's theme, particularly because we had book club last night, and we talked about which books we've read that really stand out.

    This week, I chose our top five books that we've read together as a book club, then paired it with five novels that I read that would be great as book club books as well!

    What do you think? Any awesome book club books to share?
    photo credit: QuinnDombrowski via photopin cc

    Friday, January 23, 2015

    Friday Inspirations and Shiny New Things in my Life

    For the past few weeks, I've been scheduling every post I send out. I write them weeks in advance, schedule them to post, and end up re-editing them a half hour after it goes live (because I live on the dangerous side, I guess).

    While that is AWESOME because it means I'm keeping content coming at a steady pace, what sucks is that I don't really feel connected... You know? I'm not posting things I'm passionate about right when I see them.

    Although, to be fair, when I started this blog, I was a GA stuck in a tiny office for 5 hours a day and I had nothing better to do than to skim the interwebs for awesome things. These days, I'm working full time, which means a lack of sitting and mindlessly browsing.  I know, #postgradproblems.

    So here's a couple of new things in my life that I want to talk about. A lot. Because I'm happy about them.

    First thing, I got Disqus for my comments. Downside? You have to register and make an account. Upside? You get emails when people reply to you. Which makes me downright giddy, because that means we can have REAL conversations since, you know, you'll be notified when I respond.

    Also, I got a job career.

    (Why didn't I lead with that? Oh yea, I'm going for the slow play.)

    A full-time job at an amazingggg school. Back in November, I told you faithful readers about my life and my new career choice. I decided to go back into teaching, and I decided to work in a private school. Since then, I've taken over a maternity leave at a public middle school, which.. it's rough, guys. I love teaching, but middle school is a whole different ball game.

    Well, the teacher is coming back from maternity leave, but before I could go into full time panic mode about what I was going to do, I received an email from the private school I interviewed with back in October. And just like that, I was hired.

    In fact, they created a position for me. From now until August, I will be a full-time sub. I'll get a schedule every week letting me know where I'll be filling in, and in my downtime, I'll be shadowing teachers, doing professional development, and helping out in the office.

    I can't think of a better way to transition into full time teaching.

    I'll get to know the school, the faculty, the students, the curriculum, and the programs (because all the kids have iPads.. What?) before I'm actually out on my own.

    Then, in August, I'll be taking over full time with at least three Economics classes that the students can take for college credit, as well as some English and History classes to round out my schedule. Lately, I've been waking up in the middle of the night to write down brainstorming ideas of lessons I want to teach.

    (Shakespeare social media. Also, market game? ...Some things are incoherent when written at 1 am.)

    Needless to say, I'm excited, nervous, thrilled, hopeful, and inspired by this new undertaking in my life. I start February 2nd, and it really can't come soon enough.

    Thursday, January 22, 2015

    Book Review: I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

    “Maybe some people are just meant to be in the same story.” 
    ― Jandy NelsonI'll Give You the Sun

    Book Review: I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

    Book Title: I'll Give You the Sun
    Author: Jandy Nelson
    Publication Date: 2014
    Genres: YA Fiction, Realistic Fiction
    Goodreads Rating: 4.07 Stars 
    My RatingStars!

    Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah's story to tell. The later years are Jude's. What the twins don't realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.

    This radiant novel from the acclaimed, award-winning author of The Sky Is Everywhere will leave you breathless and teary and laughing—often all at once. 

    1. "I can unzip the air and disappear inside it..." Holy cow. The words in this book. But really. Check down there and see just how many quotes I chose. Go on. Read them. They are so pretty. And that is really, really what I loved most about the book. The plot? So-so. The characters? They're cool. The words? Amaze-balls. But not in a pretentious "I'm so pretty and fluffy and pointless" way but in a "Metaphors and sarcasm expand the plot and make you think" way. And that line in bold right there? I gasped out loud when I read it. Because it's so. damn. pretty.

    2. Ok, so the plot is pretty good. Have you ever seen Crazy, Stupid, Love with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone and Steve Carrell? (If your answer is no, go watch it, then proceed.) The plot shifts and twists and all of a sudden, the characters collide in a way that you never expected. This book? Same thing. The characters on point, and it has the added bonus of have multiple points of view, some awesome art references, and main characters that are slightly unhinged in a really cool and funny sorta way (especially considering they are teenagers).

    3. Thank you, Jandy Nelson, for an AMAZING realistic YA fiction book. Seriously. I haven't read a good realistic YA fiction book in a while. This novel is added to the top of my list with TFiOS, 13 Reasons Why, and Perks of Being a Wallflower. That's how good it is (and how pretty the words are).

    Read this book.

    “Meeting your soul mate is like walking into a house you've been in before - you will recognize the furniture, the pictures on the wall,the books on the shelves, the contents of drawers: You could find your way around in the dark if you had to.” 

    “I love you,” I say to him, only it comes out, “Hey.”
    “So damn much,” he says back, only it comes out, “Dude.”
    He still won’t meet my eyes.” 

    “People die, I think, but your relationship with them doesn't. It continues and is ever-changing.” 

    “This is what I want: I want to grab my brother’s hand and run back through time, losing years like coats falling from our shoulders.” 

    “It's never occurred to me that the stars are still up there shining even in the daytime when we can't see them.” 

    “Per your request and his, this is how it's going to be from now on. When I want to ask you to abandoned buildings or kiss those lips of yours or stare into your otherworldly eyes or imagine what you look like under all those baggy drab clothes you're always hiding in or ravish you on some grimy floor like I'm desperate to this very minute, I'll just bugger off on my Hippity Hop. Deal?”

    “Our eyes meet and hold, and the world starts to fall away, time does, years rolling up like rugs, until everything that’s happened unhappens, and for a moment, it’s us again, more one than two.” 

    “And you used to make art and like boys and talk to horses and pull the moon through the window for my birthday present.” 

    "Unlike most everyone else on earth, from the very first cells of us, we were together, we came here together. This is why no one hardly notices that Jude does most of the talking for both of us, why we can only play piano with all four of our hands on the keyboard and not at all alone, why we can never do Rochambeau because not once in thirteen years have we chosen differently. It’s always: two rocks, two papers, two scissors. When I don’t draw us like this, I draw us as half-people.” 

    “And I know [other] faces aren't this colorful, this vivid, this lived-in, this superbly off-site, this brimming with dark unpredictable music. NOT THAT I EFFING NOTICE... For the record, breathing is overrated.” 

    “Her face slides off her face - no one can keep their faces on today - and the one underneath is desperate.” 

    Wednesday, January 21, 2015

    Guest Review: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller

    Hey friends! My name is Nina, and I blog at The Grand Adventures of Me - a grandiose title for a tiny little girl like me. I’m in my last semester of undergrad, a student of English and Psychology with a minor in Humanities.  I started the blog three years ago so my family could keep up with all my shenanigans while I was off at college, but it has morphed into my space where I write about things I’ve learned through life, my (somewhat) athletic life, and what it’s like to be in an interracial relationship

    So, I have to be honest: I wanted to write a review on the book Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid. This was one of my very favorite books that I read this past summer; however, when I went to grab it off my bookshelf to do a skim-through refresher, it was nowhere to be found! (This is the problem with moving between home and school every few months.) I’m sincerely disappointed that I left such a beautiful book at my parents’ house, especially because now I can’t tell you all about how amazing Lucy is, a young woman from the West Indies finds herself in the US nannying for a wealthy family. It’s a coming-of-age novella about feminism, and discovering who you are in the midst of your current circumstances and past experiences. I’m pretty sure it’s on a list of books every 20something should read. So if you have a chance, check it out!

    Meanwhile, I’m going to instead gush about the most recent book I finished, which was actually on my list of books to read in 2015. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is one of those books where, if you are an avid highlighter such as myself, the whole book is covered with little yellow lines and scribbled notes in the margins. Donald Miller spends 252 pages encouraging his reader to write a better story with their life. He uses anecdotes from his own life, which are quite adventurous, mind you, to demonstrate the importance of writing a better life story. 

    Let's all admire the fake rose I keep on my windowsill. The only floral accessories I can keep alive. 

    So how do we make our life a better story? 

    Jordan looked at me with his furrowed brow again. “You put something on the page,” he said. “Your life is a blank page. You write on it” (p 93).

    A Million Miles in a Thousand Years pertains to everyone, but especially bloggers. Here we are, a group of people who daily arrive to a meeting with our laptops to create portraits of ourselves so that it looks like we are living a life of importance. There’s only so many ways I can portray my daily routine of yoga, coffee, reading, and Netflix. This book encouraged me to say “Yes!” more, and to be more aware of the type of life I am living. Living a comfortable life with a doctorate degree, a 401K, and a fund for my childrens’ future college career sounds so inviting because there is a plan and a way that life will go. Yet while that all sounds like a sigh of relief, I want my life to be more! I want to say “Yes” if life takes me across the Atlantic. I want to say “Yes!” to this Oxford seminar on Jane Austen and C.S. Lewis that I’ve had my eye on since I was a freshman in college. I want to live a life that demonstrates God’s goodness, faithfulness, and glory. 

    In order to reach that point, though, we have to live a life of conflict. The “inciting incident” stands out the most to me from this book. The inciting incident is the tool writers use to push their characters further into conflict; it forces them to make a decision and either shirk away from responsibility, or to pursue their dreams. Let’s face it, a story with someone who hides in the face of conflict is a terrible story. We don't finish reading stories without an inciting incident. Think about it, even reality tv has an inciting incident in every single episode. Granted, it's probably something really stupid like when one of the girls throws a fit that the bachelor didn't choose her for a date and then she sulks and is passive aggressive towards the other girl. It may be a train wreck, but either way we are drawn in. We crave dramatic tension. We long for change, for the transformation of our former selves into the people we could be.

    From the Book

    One of my favorite stories Donald Miller shares is when he meets his good friend, Bob Goff (author of Love Does). Donald Miller is on a kayaking trip up the Jervis inlet in British Columbia. One day, the kayaking guide shows the group a house only accessible by seaplane or boat, built by a lawyer so that world leaders could gather together quietly to discuss peace. The closer they get to the house they see the owner of the home, Bob Goff, waving his hands out from the dock. He invites them inside for a meal, and they wind up spending the entire day with Bob Goff and his family, learning about their lives as people who give most of their money away, invite world leaders over on a regular basis, and travel back and forth between Africa regularly (Bob Goff is Uganda’s official lawyer.) 

    When the group left, Bob kneeled down on the wet dock and held [the kayak] close as I [Don] lowered myself into the boat. I told him thanks and that I was sorry he got his knees wet. He looked at me and smiled and said it was nothing; just wait. . . As the group is waving goodbye to the Goff family, the entire Goff family jumps, fully dressed, into the water and continues to wave and shout goodbye (p 168)

    All in All...

    I cannot do the story of Bob Goff and his family justice. But they are an example of a group of people who live a great life story, void of fear, and full of whimsy. Reading A Million Miles in a Thousand Years caused me to question one thing: “How am I going to live my life this year?”

    If you aren’t telling a good story, nobody thinks you died too soon; they just think you died (p 38). 

    Thank you so much for letting me take your time, and I sincerely hope you grab a copy of A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Another great seller by Donald Miller is Blue Like Jazz. And, of course, if you’re interested to know more about the crazy family who jumps in water just to give a group of kayakers a special goodbye, check out Love Does.

    You can also find me on BloglovinFacebook, Instagram, and Twitter

    Tuesday, January 20, 2015

    Top Ten Tuesday: 2015 Releases I Want to Read

    As always, Top Ten Tuesdays are hosted at The Broke and the Bookish!

    This was a hard topic for me. Typically, I don't really pay attention to release dates when choosing books, and I hardly ever read new releases because I usually get my books from the library and/or buying new books is expensive. However, all of the blogs I follow have been raving about novels coming out this year, and I have come across some that seem pretty darn awesome. A few of my favorite authors have books coming out early this year, a few authors that I haven't read yet are publishing books, and there's some new-to-be-published authors whose books I'm dying to get my hands on. Check them out below! (Links below the pictures are links to Goodreads pages with summaries of the novels.)

    | 1 | 2 | 3 |

    | 1 | 2 | 3 |

    | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |

    What new releases are you itching to read?

    Thursday, January 15, 2015

    Book Review: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

    “I asked you here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” 
    ― Graeme SimsionThe Rosie Project

    Book Review: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

    Book Title: The Rosie Project
    Author: Graeme Simsion
    Publication Date: 2013
    Genres: Adult Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Humor
    Goodreads Rating: 4.01 Stars 
    My RatingStars

    An international sensation, this hilarious, feel-good novel is narrated by an oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor on an unusual quest: to find out if he is capable of true love.
    Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

    Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don's Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

    1. Big Bang theory in a Book. I really felt like I was reading the diary of Sheldon Cooper when he met Amy Farrah-Fowler. The main character, Don, is definitely on the autism spectrum, but he is also a genius. He has a few friends who are less weird than he is, and he struggles in social situations (hence, the Wife Project). Let me just add that I LOVE the Big Bang Theory, and these characters were really fun and interesting.

    2. There is ZERO unpredictability. The book starts when Don is setting up The Wife Project to find a wife in the most scientific way possible. Of course, Rosie butts into his life and turns it upside down. Sound likes every Rom-Com I've ever seen. However, there were some parts that had me literally laughing out loud, and I actually really enjoyed the predictability of it all.

    3. I'm a nerd. Ok, so I really liked learning more about genetics, genetic testing, and all of the nerdy things that Don and Rosie run into. Plus, there was so many puns and intelligent jokes. The wit and sarcasm and puns just kept me laughing and enjoying the book!

    This novel was quirky and hilarious, despite the predictability, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a light read.

    “But why, why, why can't people just say what they mean?” 

    “Research consistently shows that the risks to health outweigh the benefits of drinking alcohol. My argument is that the benefits to my mental health justify the risks.” 

    “I met Rosie at the airport. She remained uncomfortable about me purchasing her ticket, so I told her she could pay me back by selecting some Wife Project applicants for me to date. 
    'Fuck you,’ she said. 
    It seemed we were friends again.” 

    “But I’m not good at understanding what other people want.’
    ‘Tell me something I don’t know,’ said Rosie for no obvious reason.
    I quickly searched my mind for an interesting fact. 
    ‘Ahhh…The testicles of drone bees and wasp spiders explode during sex.” 

    “I haven’t changed my mind. That’s the point! I want to spend my life with you even though it’s totally irrational. And you have short earlobes. Socially and genetically there’s no reason for me to be attracted to you. The only logical conclusion is that I must be in love with you.” 

    Wednesday, January 14, 2015

    Book Challenge Update

    So some of you may have noticed the new tab at the top of my homepage that says Reading Challenges. Yep. That is plural.

    2015 Reading Challenge

    Last October, I wrote a post about a new reading challenge I was taking on. Sadly, because I haven't been keeping myself accountable with it, I've fallen behind. Way behind. On the other hand, I managed to farrrrr surpass my reading goal on Goodreads last year with 49 books read (my goal was 36!).

    So, instead of being all willy-nilly about these reading challenges (and because I'm a glutton for punishment and taking on wayyy too many things at once), I decided to create a new tab on my page for you to see how I'm doing on my reading challenges for the year. Truthfully, I hope it will remind me what I signed up for and keep me on track.

    Goodreads Challenge

    Hosted by: Goodreads
    Challenge Runs January 1- December 31

    Last year, I set a goal to read 36 books in 2014, which equals out to 3 books a month. For some months, I ran pretty dry and only read one. Some months, like October, I read as many as 8 books! This definitely put me over the line and left me reading 49 books in 2014. (I tried to finish a book by midnight New Year's Eve to make it an even 50, but sleep sounded so much better.)

    This year, I'm setting my goal to 48 books read -- 4 books a month. I'm thinking that I can easily accomplish that, especially now that I'm done with school and have nothing but free time (HA!). 

    Winter Book Challenge

    Hosted by: A Semi-Charmed Life
    Challenge Runs November 1 - February 28

    I outlined the requirements and my expectations on this challenge back in October. Sadly, I've fallen pretty behind on this challenge, with only five books that meet the criteria of the challenge. I do love the concept of this challenge though, and I want to see it through to the end of February! I hope to do better when the spring one comes around, though.

    Alphabet Soup Challenge

    Challenge Runs January 1 - December 31

    This challenge only requires that you read 26 books, with each title starting with a different letter of the alphabet. (They make exceptions for the hard ones like x and z.) Typically, I like to take on challenges that will push me to read outside my comfort zone. However, when I saw this challenge, I thought it was kinda adorable, and I could probably accomplish it without too much struggles, since most of the books I read will fit into one letter or another. And frankly, I wanted a challenge I knew I could accomplish, so I signed myself up for this one!

    You can check out the books I've read so far this year and see how they fit in my challenges here. What do you think? Are you taking any reading challenges this year?

    Tuesday, January 13, 2015

    Wild Hits Theaters

    After reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed back in October, I was itching to see this movie! Luckily, I had my awesome cousins in town for the Christmas break and they were able to come watch Cheryl's adventures on the big screen with me!

    Wild Movie Review

    Of course, us being, well, us, we ended up having to sit in the front row of the theater. For some movies, that would probably be ok. For this movie, with the expanse of the desert/mountain/hiking area and the use of words to outline days and miles, well... It was a bit hard to sit in the front row. Major neck cramp going on. Although, I have to say, I was impressed with the amount of people in the theater, since I had heard very little buzz on social media (well, my local social media) about the movie.

    Ok, so for the actual review:

    Guys, as evidenced by TFiOS, If I Stay, Divergent, and umm.. nearly every other book-turned-movie, I get SO EXCITED to see how producers/directors/actors will take my beloved characters and put them into real life form.

    I wasn't that excited about this movie.

    Don't get me wrong. I loved the book. Seriously. I just really didn't think they could capture it in movie form. And sadly, I think I was right.

    For anyone who read this novel, you know there are two distinct parts. There is the Cheryl's-life-pre-hiking and Cheryl's-life-during-hiking. While the book moves between both worlds pretty seamlessly, the movie... didn't.

    Maybe it was my fault for expecting too much. The parts that I was most looking forward to were the scenes with the guys she met, the books she read, the animals she encountered WHILE HIKING. Unfortunately, the movie cut out most of the friends that Cheryl made along the way. Those friends that helped highlight that she was a person worth rooting for. The movie was much MUCH more focused on her past life -- the Cheryl that no one was rooting for. And that was really their mistake.

    They didn't show her evolution as a human, and they didn't show her getting better and stronger. No one wants to root for the Cheryl who did drugs, cheated on her husband, and basically failed at being the woman her mother knew she should be. The part of the book that I related to most was the part of her coming from the depths of her life and rising above to become someone she was proud of.

    The movie, unfortunately, used the hike as a backdrop to show Cheryl's fall from grace in her past life. And it never pulled her back up to the person we could cheer for.

    Overall, I'd say if you loved the book, you could skip the movie. And if you haven't read the book, well... Read it and skip the movie.

    Thursday, January 8, 2015

    Book Review: The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley

    “The world becomes a wider place, with but a little learning.” 
    ― Susanna KearsleyThe Firebird

    Book Review: The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley

    Book Title: The Firebird
    Author: Susanna Kearsley
    Series: Book 2 in the Slains Series 
    Publication Date: 2013
    Genres: Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction, Paranormal
    Goodreads Rating: 4.07 Stars 
    My Rating4.5 Stars

    Nicola Marter was born with a gift. When she touches an object, she sometimes glimpses those who have owned it before. When a woman arrives with a small wooden carving at the gallery Nicola works at, she can see the object’s history and knows that it was named after the Firebird—the mythical creature from an old Russian fable.

    Compelled to know more, Nicola follows a young girl named Anna into the past who leads her on a quest through the glittering backdrops of the Jacobites and Russian courts, unearthing a tale of love, courage, and redemption.

    1. The Slains Series was the best series I've read in the last year. But really. The Winter Sea was in my Top 10 books of 2014, and this sequel did not disappoint. It was different than the first book, and it really could be a standalone novel. In fact, I didn't make the connection to The Winter Sea until at least page 100. But it was so, so good.

    2. I love the cross between present and past. As with The Winter Sea, there was as much going on in the present day as there was in the past. Towards the end of the novel, the past overtakes the book as things heat up in Russia. Generally, I'm pretty picky on what time periods I like to read historical fiction from, and Russia has never really been fascinating to me, but Susanna Kearsley did an amazing job of drawing me into the past world and making me want to learn more. (She did the same thing with Irish history in The Winter Sea.)

    3. I loved these characters so much. There is so much life and fire in Anna, and despite all of her hardships, I never had a doubt that this intelligent, awesome girl would find her way. Nicola and Rob's love story is intriguing. Even the whole psychic powers thing was done well enough that I didn't mind it in there. The characters really drove the book on this one.

    This novel intrigued me, made me want to learn more about Empress Catherine of Russia, and moved me to tears at some points (happy tears, I promise).

    “There are times,” he said to Anna, “when our victories have a cost that we did not foresee, when winning brings us loss.” 

    “She nodded, looking down at the small wooden bird, a plain thing carved by a great man who'd always taken pleasure in creating things with his own hands. She's telling me, I think, that I should seek to be none other than myself, and so fly always like the bird that I was born to be.” 

    “The strongest soldier cannot balance long upon the blade that does divide his honor and his heart, and whatever way he falls, the cut will kill him.”