2013 in pictures of people, bison, and a tattoo

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Books 2013

Considering that I take it as a personal challenge to convince other readers who don’t like to quit books that they can, in fact, quit a book they don’t like, you would think that at the end of the year I would only be concerned about quality instead of quantity. But the truth is, there is just a part of me that is absolutely not happy if the total at the end of year is not at least 24. So when goodreads sent me my “See Your Year in Books” email a couple of weeks ago and it said “Congratulations! You read 22 books!” I snarled and immediately started book 23, which I finished today, and today I started book 24 and it is going on this list because it WILL be done before the end of the day on Tuesday therefore it counts. But the better news it that I did, in fact, read some quality books this year.

This list is in reverse chronological order, starting with where I am right now, with the exception of my favorites, which will be listed last regardless of when in the year I read them. And this year I am listing all of the books I read instead of just the ones I wanted to specifically highlight. Just for fun.

Looking for Alaska by John Green: let’s just go ahead and point out that Green will be on this list 3 times this year and also it is the first year I’ve read anything by him. I don’t have an opinion yet because I’m only 51 pages in but I will be done by Tuesday. I will.

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe: Will and his mom, both avid readers, form an unintentional book club while she is undergoing treatment for cancer. You can tell by the title how it ends. It’s a true story, and it’s touching and difficult. One of my favorite parts was their discussion of Gilead and Home, as Will’s mom was a huge fan of Marilynne Robinson.

Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger: my first Salinger. Constant dialogue and not a lot of action and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It will not be my last Salinger.

Paper Towns by John Green: insightful in interesting ways but not as good as the Green that shows up later on this list.

Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiza: very thought-provoking

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling): it was the perfect cruise vacation private detective novel and I hope Rowling writes more of them.

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer: this book has made it onto several best of 2013 lists and while I am not sorry I read it, I disagree with it being one of the best. It was a very long 463 pages of little to no plot and all character driven. It had some moments of true depth but they were few and far between and I was relieved when I was done.

January First by Michael Schofield: the youngest child on record to be diagnosed with schizophrenia-this is her story of “descent into madness and her father’s struggle to save her.” I was incredibly intrigued but ended up feeling increasingly angry and frustrated with both the hospitals and her parents.

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris: I always love Sedaris, except not the fiction chapters.

The Last Letter From Your Lover by JoJo Moyes: I read this because Moyes wrote one of my favorites of the year (later in the list) and the library happened to have it on the shelf-no hold required. Mostly I spent my week with it embarrassed that it looked like a romance novel and hoping no one in the coffee shop was noticing that. But I ended up liking it more when it was over than I had expected to.

Everything Beautiful Began After by Simon Van Booy: The prologue will confuse you. The rest of the book will intrigue you, make you sad and thoughtful, wish you could reach in and fix a few flaws. The very end will make your heart beat a bit faster as everything comes full circle in a way you didn’t see coming.

Night by Elie Wiesel: I feel like I should have liked it more than I did.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn: Loved it. It’s making the rounds in Literary Society which makes me happy.

Hope: A Tragedy by Shalom Auslander: Dark and weird

Starvation Heights: A True Story of Murder and Malice in the Pacific Northwest by Gregg Olson: An interesting (and crazy) true story

Travels with My Aunt by Graham Green: delightful

The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister: the follow up to one of my favorites of a few years ago, The School of Essential Ingredients. Loved it almost as much as the first one.

And that brings me to my favorites. Yep, I have 7 favorites (because I know you were counting to get to 24). Sometimes I give my favorites their own special titles, like “favorite fiction” or “favorite book by an author I want to stalk” or something like that. This year I’m just going to say these were my favorite books of the year for whatever reason they happened to be a favorite.

Home by Marilynne Robinson: This is the many-years-later follow up to Gilead which I loved in 2010, and I think I loved Home even more. I related to the characters even more than I had in Gilead. In 2012, I named her book Housekeeping one of the top fiction books of the year (here is a link to my 2012 list of books, which is on the old site I’m no longer writing on). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again-Robinson is a genius of a writer.

The Circle by Dave Eggers: If you’ve ever had a conversation with me about favorite authors overall, you already know I love Eggers and read everything he writes, even though I have not always loved every book. He gives me a lot to think about every time. I really got into this one. It’s the one I read all 500 pages of in one weekend. It’s been discussed at Literary Society twice now with more times on the horizon. If you are on a social network at all, read this book. If you despise them, read this book. The story is fast moving and easy and will make you roll your eyes and then smirk and then stare at the pages in disbelief and then panic because you know it’s not all that far fetched. The main character is flat and the ending is rushed but it is still so very good and needs to be read. Critical reviews compared it to Orwell’s 1984. Read it.

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. I’ve already reviewed this book here. I hope Hosseini keeps writing.

Confessions of a Latter Day Virgin by Nicole Hardy. Already reviewed here. I love that I have forced this book upon a few people who have come back and loved it as much as I did. I suppose this is my favorite non-fiction of the year (if I was giving my favorites specific categories) as it’s the only non-fiction of the top 7.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. Already reviewed here.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Already reviewed here. This was the year of John Green for me. I’m ok with that. Please please tell me if you read this book so we can discuss it.

And finally, the book I really am pushing on almost everyone: Me Before You by JoJo Moyes. Discussed already here. If you read this book, you need to have my phone number, because the texts I get when people are reading this one make me smile and then sometimes when they are done and they text me how much they are crying, I start crying again too.

If you’re still reading, thanks for getting all the way though my list! I really loved this year in books. I hope 2014 is even better!

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Music 2013

Nothing will stop me in my tracks as fast as a song that speaks to me. I’ve been known to pull over to the side of the road to listen more closely, or to ask people to stop talking so that I could hear something better. I really love music. I know, I know;  who doesn’t?

Of everyone I know who reads this blog, I can think of one, maybe two, that this list might be of interest to. And so I write it for them, and also for myself to refer back to, and also just on the off chance that it interests anyone else too. I’m linking as many of the videos as I can, if you are really interested.

You could call this the year of Pandora. As much as I love my own collection of music, I became far closer friends with Pandora this year. I like not having to create my own playlist, but to simply pick an artist I enjoy and then Pandora makes the best possible playlist for me. I’ve discovered a lot of new artists and songs I enjoy through this process.

Pandora stations of 2013, in no particular order (chosen based on whatever mood I’m in at the time):

The Civil Wars

Brandi Carlile

Damien Rice

Mumford and Sons

Rarely-to-never did I venture from one of these stations, because they never failed to meet my current musical need.  I like that each of these artists will appear on the others’ stations, which you would think makes them sound all the same but actually they are just the right amount of different.

A sampling of the songs and artists I discovered I really liked simply by playing Pandora:

Down, Jason Walker

One More Dollar, Wailin’ Jennys

Set The Fire To the Third Bar, Snow Patrol featuring Martha Wainwright (I’ve been a fan of both Snow Patrol and Martha Wainwright for a while-no idea they had a song together until it popped up on Pandora)

Wherever You Will Go, Charlene Soraia

Where I Stood, Missy Higgins

If I was to make a soundtrack of 2013, it would contain the above songs and the following two sets of songs.

Songs I liked and was always happy when they were on the radio:

Highway Don’t Care, Taylor Swift and Tim McGraw

We Were Us, by Keith Urban and Miranda Lambert

Don’t Let Me Be Lonely, by The Band Perry

Angel Eyes, by Love and Theft (I can’t find a good video of this one, so how about a picture of these two not so shabby looking guys instead):

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Cruise by Florida Georgia Line (NOT the pop remix-also I don’t really care for the video, I just really like signing along to the song)

Drunk Last Night by the Eli Young Band

Wrecking Ball, Miley Cyrus (don’t judge me, it’s a catchy song! and no, I am not linking to that video)

Royals, Lorde

Need Your Love, Ellie Goulding and Calvin Harris

Just Give Me A Reason, P!nk

Final category, meaning my top favorites of the year, also known as songs that I love so much I will not get out of the car when they are playing even if I am late for a meeting:

Cups, Anna Kendrick from Pitch Perfect

Next to Me, Emile Sande

Wake Me Up, Avicci

Let Her Go, Passenger

All in all, I think 2013 had some pretty great music. 

Movies and TV 2013

It’s here! The first of my end-of-the-year posts! These are always some of my favorite things to write, because it involves making lists!

Let’s start with movies. I think the total came to 29. I saw a lot of decent movies and a few good ones, but I’m just going to mention my favorites, and these are all movies I recommend.

Austenland-for fans of Keri Russell (me, me, me I’m a fan!) and for fans of anything Austen, it’s really quite funny and enjoyable.

Enough Said-I just saw this one last week. Very, very good.

The Way, Way Back-this movie is just perfect.

The Heat-hilarious and wonderful

Silver Linings Playbook-can’t explain how much I love this movie

But absolutely my favorite movie of the year which I bought on DVD and have watched probably 6 times and could watch again right this minute: Pitch Perfect. If you have not seen this, you absolutely must. MUST.

Ok now let’s talk about TV.  I finally had access to TV this year! Or rather, I finally had instant access to all sorts of shows via Hulu and Netflix. For a long, long time, I was unable to stream videos on my computer. But this year that changed. I can now stream videos on both a tablet and computer, thus my TV show watching increased dramatically.

Shows I was able to binge watch on Netflix and catch up to current seasons and now watch on Hulu week by week:

Parenthood (yep, I still cry every single episode)

Parks and Rec (I watch it after Parenthood in order to laugh)

New Girl

Hart of Dixie (Last Christmas while house sitting I watched all of season 1 in 5 days. When season 2 was released this fall, I watched all of it in 4 days. People-I HAVE A PROBLEM. Why is no one doing an intervention? Also if anyone knows the guy who plays Wade, please introduce us. We’re meant to be together.)

Other shows I’ve watched but am not current on and still have more seasons to catch up on:

Dexter (I watched 5 seasons this year. 5 seasons of a serial killer I completely root for)

Scandal (yeah, I told you about that one yesterday. As of this post, I’m on episode 6 of season 2)

Shows I watched that have made me sit around, twiddling my thumbs, waiting on the next season to come out:

Sherlock (have you seen this brilliant show???)

Downton Abbey

Orange is the New Black

Other mentions:

Breaking Bad (I’m having a problem finishing. It got so very dark and depressing and I just couldn’t take it. I’m in season 5 and have been sitting on the last available episodes for a while now and just can’t make myself go back to them)

I finished Weeds (I miss Andy and I long for him to return to me on another show)

I watched season 1 of Once Upon a Time but have no real interest in returning to it for more seasons

I am addicted to The Daily Show clips (sometimes full episodes) on Hulu

I watch a lot of Ellen clips and sometimes SNL clips on Hulu too

Basically, I spend entirely too much time with my tablet. TV on the internet is so much fun!

And that was my 2013 in movies and TV.

Secret Santa and Scandal

Today is the first day I’ve had to simply be and breathe in quite a while. I woke up at 6:20, not really all that surprised at the time as I think I told you recently-gone are the beautiful days of sleeping late. I stayed in bed until around 7 and then decided to move to the couch and watch Netflix. None of my currently-watching shows were calling to me, so I decided to give “Scandal” a try. Katie had told me almost a year ago that I needed to watch this show. Sometimes it takes me a while to get around to things.

Well, 7 episodes (all of season 1) later, here I am taking a little break before I start season 2. I suppose you could say I was instantly addicted. I did take a few bathroom breaks today, and I did go to the store-twice actually-so it’s not as if I haven’t moved all day. I also cooked dinner! And I’ve been crocheting while watching. So it hasn’t been ALL unproductive. But it has been quite lovely. 

The main reason I took a break to blog is to tell you about the gifts I received this week from my Secret Santa (the one that is part of The Broke and The Bookish blog). 

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My Secret Santa is Amanda over at Fig and Thistle, and we could not be any better long-distance-from-the-same-state-strangers-who-are-kindred-spirits. When I found out who she was and read the “about” section on her blog, I think I actually clapped with excitement. Later I read it out loud to Sheena who said “Oh good grief, you’ve found your soul mate.” 

Amanda sent me a wonderful, wonderful package containing two books (one of which has been on my to-read list for a really long time and happens to be one of her favorites that she loves to gift), coffee from her local coffee shop in Gainsville, GA, local tea, and a notebook that made me want to jump for joy: 642 Things To Write About. I am in love with all of it! I dug into the coffee this morning (while watching Scandal) and can’t wait to dive into the rest of it! 

Amanda also included a letter. A real hand written letter, the same kind I love to write! Hopefully she doesn’t mind me quoting her here, because I just have to. This is how she described herself: “vegetarian, tattooed, feminist, library-working bibliophile married to an artist/tattoo artist (and has 3 children); loves books (duh), owls, lists, coffee, tea, thrifting, baking, stitching, crocheting, knitting, and writing letters.”

All of those words describe either something I am or love, want to be, have been, considered for more than a minute being, could easily be, or relate to exceptionally well, except I’ve never put any thought into how I feel about owls.

It makes me happy that our love of books and a desire to gift others with books has brought us together. Well, internet together. But as she has friends in the Portland area, and I am from GA and am there occasionally to see family and friends, it’s quite possible that one of these days we’ll meet in person. And talk about books and yarn related crafts and all the lists we’ve made lately, over coffee and tea. But in the meantime, we’ll be excellent internet friends. 

Ok, I have to return to Scandal. Season 1 ended with a cliff hanger. I have to know!

Check back over the next few days. I’ll be posting my traditional end of the year lists and reflections! 

Tell The Wolves I’m Home

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Shortly after I finished The Fault In Our Stars, I started another sad but wonderful story, by Carol Rifka Brunt.

Do you remember the 80s? Do you remember AIDS in the 80s? I do. Not in the same detail some would as I was fairly young, but I do remember.

Tell The Wolves I’m Home is the story of 14 year old June, set in 1987, who doesn’t fit in very well with her immediate family and not with very many friends either. But she has a wonderful connection and friendship with her gay uncle, the one person who understands her, encourages and supports her. And he dies, far too young. That is not a spoiler, you know this by reading the back of the book. This is the story of how June comes to learn more about her uncle, and about herself, after his death than she could have learned while he was alive. It is a story of secrets and lies, mistakes and forgiveness and ultimately of love. It is heart breaking but engrossing. Someone at work asked me for a book recommendation when they found out I read a lot. I had just finished this so I suggested it. They loved it, which worked well for me because now they almost always read what I suggest next.

If you are in the mood to be deeply moved, Wolves will do the trick.

The Fault In Our Stars

Speaking of how we relate to people…

Have you read The Fault In Our Stars by John Green yet? Do not tell me that you don’t read young adult fiction, because I don’t either. Except for The Hunger Games and Harry Potter and apparently John Green.

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Side note : Did you know that John Green voted for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in a “best young adult novel ever” poll put on by Entertainment Weekly (still my shameless guilty pleasure) even though his own book was one of the four finalists (along with To Kill a Mockingbird and The Perks of Being a Wallflower)? Because he credits Potter in his own success.

Back to my main point: have you read this book? Let me sell it to you: it is a tragically sad love story about high school aged kids with cancer, who have insight far beyond their years but is completely believable in their story. It is one of the saddest books I’ve ever read. Ever. I read it in two nights. The first night, I cried some. The second, I never stopped crying. I kept having to put the book down to clean up all the snot I had everywhere and because I was crying so much I couldn’t see the words on the page. But I could not stop. And honestly, even though the main character is a 16 year old girl, I didn’t realize it was a young adult novel until the 2nd night, half way through it, when I happened to see the genre listed on the back and I thought “What? Why I am so emotionally involved in a YA novel? I don’t care I just have to know what happens.” After I finished it, it was in my car for a few days before I had a chance to take it back to the library. One of those days I found myself with a 10 minute wait while sitting in my car. I picked it up and re-read the last few pages. And cried my eyes out again.

This was a book I put on Katie’s required summer reading list (Katie is a teacher and doesn’t get to read much during the school year but I give her a list before the start of every summer and she gets through as many as she can). She texted me late one night during the summer while at the beach with a large group of family and friends and said “I just want you to know that everyone is out there having fun and I am alone in the bedroom with this book crying so hard and I am not far from the end but I just have to stop and go be with my family.” It was one of my favorite texts all year.

I read it back early in the year, so I honestly can’t bring to mind too many specific details, though I could pull out a few if we were chatting about it in person. But the whole story is there in my memory, in its hauntingly beautiful way.

If you see the movie next year and you don’t read the book first…well you probably shouldn’t talk to me about it. Ok, so put your hands on a copy and read it. Tell me when you’re done, and then when the movie comes out we’ll all talk about whether we liked it or not. Deal? Good.

One thing: if you are already in a sad place, this is not the book for you. I suggest reading this when you are feeling emotionally stable in the rest of your life.