Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Goals for 2015 / Looking Back 2014

I don't use the term resolution, I prefer Goal!!

BLOG:  Blog more.  Book reviews. Movie Reviews. Interesting Photos, you name it. I'm going to try to blog at least once a week. I'm not going to use school as an excuse.

READ:  The goal is 65 or more.  1/3 of them TBR books.  More larger books (500+) pages.

MONEY:  Start seriously saving for my retirement.  I have pensions and IRA's, but I want to save even more on my own.

SCHOOL:  Keep my GPA over 4.0, and earn another honors award.  I plan to get my degree by January 2016, so this is my last school year. I won't walk until May 2016, but that's just a bonus.

LIFE:  Work harder on my writing.  I have to get my sample ready for my MFA sample.

MONEY:  Put extra money to the side for graduate school.

HEALTH:  Get back to eating healthy and living a more healthy lifestyle.  Try to get down to the high end of my normal weight range.

Looking back on 2014, A lot of great things happened to me and my family.

HEALTH:  I lost 20 lbs. by changing my dietary habits, and managed to keep it off during the holidays.  Because of this, I received a thumbs up from the doctor as my metabolic syndrome disappeared.

SCHOOL:  I received an honors award for having a high GPA.  I've maintained my status as a straight A student.

FAMILY:  I took 2 mini vacations. One of them was to see my former sister-in-law get married.

FAMILY:  I got back in touch with my favorite Aunt and have visited her on occasion.  We have been plugging away (with our cousins) on our Genealogy and have uncovered a lot of interesting information.

LIFE:  I finally got to see my two favorite Metaphysical guru's in person (Wayne Dyer & Doreen Virtue) live.  And learned it was Doreen's last live appearance on the East Coast.  And I discovered a few more Life Altering gurus.

HEALTH:  I discovered that my constant foot pain was due to my diet and the inflammatory foods I had been eating.  Once I stopped eating them, my foot pain decreased and I was able to avoid surgery and walk more.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2015 Reading

I am planning to put a huge dent in my TBR list.  As of 12/31/14, I have 128 books on my Goodreads to read list. Therefore any book added after this date will not be considered a TBR.

I'm ging to really work on this. I'd like to read 1/3 of this list. That is around 42 books or so from the list.  That is a tall order, but I would be happy if I managed to read 30.

I also want to try to read larger books. I say this every year, but never actually manage to do it.  Books 400 pages or longer totaled around 16 for this year, which is good.  So I'm going to attempt to read books that are 500 pages or larger.

I have made my goal 65 books for 2015.  This is because I'm still in school and I'm not sure of the work load.  And the books with more pages will mean I will read less books per month.

I found a challenge that I will join to help me in this endeavor.  I'm going for "First Kiss". That means I'll have to read 21-30 books from my pile.


The books I am going to read if it kills me:

The Color Purple
The Autobiography of Malcolm X
The Rosie Project
We Are Not Ourselves

There will be many more

These are books that I own, but have yet to get to. I tend to keep going to the library for new books and neglect them, but 2015 is my TBR year!!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Book Stats for 2014

Looking back on my reading habits for 2014 is interesting as it is every year.  I have a ton of TBRs on my shelves, but I often read other books.  It is enlightening to see what I read in a year and what types of genre's I gravitate toward.

As of 12/28/14

Total Books Read: 109

Christmas Books: 13

New Authors: 75

Female Authors: 43

Male Authors: 46

Classic Books (before 1970): 13

Historical Fiction: 26

All Fiction: 78

Non Fiction: 30

Poetry: 1

Some of my favorite books for 2014

1.  Perfect Peace by Daniel Black
2.  Wonder by R.J. Palacio
3.  Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.
4.  Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Some of my least favorite books for 2014

1. Ulysses by James. Joyce
2. An Old-fashioned Thanksgiving and Other Stories by Louisa May Alcott
3. Tenth of December by George Saunders
4. Mrs. Lincoln's Rival by Jennifer Chiavirini
5. Faith by Jennifer Haigh
6. Insomnia by Stephen King

Books I wasn't sure I'd like, but did

1. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
2. The Autobiography of Santa Claus (The Christmas Chronicles #1) by Jeff Guin
3. Bird Box by Josh Malerman
4. The Care and Management of Lies by Jacquiline Winspear
5. Child 44 (Leo Demidov, #1) by Tom Robb Smith
6. I Shall Be Near to You by Erin Lindsay McCabe
7. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

Saturday, December 27, 2014

My Top 30 Books You Should Read - 2014 Edition


There is a quiz on Buzzfeed that asks: Are You As Well Read as Stephen King? There are 178 books from his recommended reading list.  Out of these 178 I've only read 13, I've heard of only a few more of them and the rest, I never heard of.  I'd have to go one at a time and read up on them. But from my experience, I've read some of the books I knew he had read, and it is hit or miss. We don't have the same taste in books.  Although he is one of my favorite authors, I can't wrap my head around his taste in books.

I've read some tough books like James Joyce's Ulysses and Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, heck I've even read Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo.  Would I recommend them? Not unless you want to ruin your love of books (well -- A Tale of Two Cities wasn't bad). Just because they are big and important doesn't mean they are worth reading. You can say "I've read this, and I've read that" but when someone asks you did you LIKE said book -- can you say "no" without feeling like a failure?
I can.  I hated Slaughter-House-Five, but thought Madame Bovary was quite good. I thoroughly enjoyed Agnes Gray but hated Villette.  So what does that make me?  Someone who has read a lot of crappy books just because someone said I should read them.  I still take recommendations, but now if the synopsis doesn't speak to me, I pass it by.

So I thought I'd make a list of my recommended reads in no particular order. The are diverse in genre and era.  They are varied in length and topic.  Does this make me less well read than Stephen King? I don't think so, it makes me just differently well read.

My Top 30 Recommended Reads:

1. The World According to Garp  by James Irving
2. Wonder by R.J. Palacio
3.  Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall
4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
5. The Talk-Funny Girl by Roland Marullo
6. The Stolen Child by Keith Donahue
7. Silas Marner by George Elliot
8. The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity by William P. Young
9. Sacajawea by Anna Lee Waldo
10. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
11. New York: The Novel by Edward Rutherfurd
12. May the Road Rise Up to Meet You by Peter Troy
13. The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
14. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs
15. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
16. Hamlet by William Shakespare
17.  The Green Mile by Stephen King
18. The Good Earth   by Pearl S. Buck
19. The Godfather  by Mario Puzo
20. Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
21. The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
22. The Exorcist by Peter William Blatty
23. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.
24. The Destiny of Miro by Julie Rae Rickard
25. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
26. Beasts of New York: A Children's Book for Grown-Ups by Jon Evans
27. Army Of Children by Evan H. Rhodes
28. Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
29. Harry Potter #1 - 7 by J.K. Rowling
30. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy #1 - 3 by J.R.R. Tolken

Thursday, December 25, 2014

MERRY CHRISTMAS!! - 25 Days of Christmas #24 and #25 and other photos


25 Days of Christmas 

The Stockings Were Hung

Merry Christmas

Other Christmas Pictures
Me on my way to sing in the Christmas Eve Concert and Midnight Mass

The Priests during the service gather on the altar

After the service we, the choir, are invited back to the Rectory for a little nosh.

Clarissa's Favorite Gift
Playstation 4

And for all you book lovers...Yup! one of my gifts.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Movie #17 & #18

Christmas Movie #17
The Santa Clause 2
It seems like this year, I'm favoring the sequels.
Haven't watched this one in a few years, but I love it just as much as the first one.

Christmas Movie #18
Scrooge (1970)
The one with Albert Finney.  Not my favorite version, but it is a decent one. It is a musical so it is a little different.  There aren't too many songs so it isn't overdone, and I love the story regardless of the year or actors.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Movie #15 and #16 / 25 Days of Christmas #23

Christmas Movie #15

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

The original movie is usually the best.  I've seen other versions (there are 2, the latest version and a TV version).  This is still the winner. 

Christmas Movie #16

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)
I am a fan of both 1 and 2.  I usually only watch 1 during the Christmas Season, but this year, I decided to watch 2 instead.  This trio is the best and I don't think any of the subsequent movies were nearly as good.

25 Days of Christmas

Christmas Angel 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Reading Challenge Complete / 25 Days of Christmas #22

I have read 11 Christmas books for the challenge.  I will not read any more this season.  This is the most I've read in any year.  I read 2 prior to this, so that means I've read a total of 13 Christmas books this year.

Read Specifically For Challenge

1. The Autobiography of Santa Claus by Jeff Guinn
2. The Last Holiday Concert by Andrew Clements
3. Jacob T. Marley by R. William Bennett
4. How Mrs. Claus Saved Christmas by Jeff Guinn
5. Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
6. 'Tis the Season by Ann M. Martin 

7. Let It Snow by John Green
8. The Mistletoe Promise by Richard Paul Evans 

9. The Ghost of Christmas Present: A Novel by Scott Abbott & Amy Maude Swinton
10. Christmas Poems by J.D. McClatchy (Editor)
11. The Christmas Candle by Richard Paul Evans

Read Earlier in the season

Santa Claus in Oz by Frank Baum
The Christmas Pearl by Dorothea Benton Frank

I'm still watching movies, although I haven't watched as many movies as I usually do, and I've been re-watching a lot of my favorites this year.

25 Days of Christmas
The Holy Family minus one

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas Book #11 / Christmas Movie #13 & 14 / 25 Days of Christmas #20 & #21

Christmas Book #11
The Christmas Candle by Richard Paul Evans - On his way home for Christmas, Thomas needs a light for his lantern. He stops in an old candlemaker's shop and is dismissive of all of the old man's intricate and beautiful candles, buying an inexpensive one. However, as he continues his journey, this simple candle takes on some unbelievable power. By the light of the candle, he mistakes a beggar woman for his mother and gives her his cloak and he thinks a man lying in the streets with no place to go is his brother and gives everything he has to put him in an inn for the night. Though he loses all his material items, he finally arrives home with a new found sense of what family can be.

Very short picture book.  Though it seems like a children's book, it is rather dark, but the message is for all ages.  I am a Richard Paul Evan's fan, so I found enjoyment in this short story.  4 / 5 Stars.

Christmas Movie #13
Max Lucado's - The Christmas Candle (2013)

This movie is based on the book The Christmas Candle by Max Lucado.  

Deep in the heart of the English countryside lies the enchanting village of Gladbury. Legend has it every 25 years an angel visits the village candlemaker and touches a single candle. Whoever lights this candle receives a miracle on Christmas Eve. But in 1890, at the dawn of the electric age, this centuries old legend may come to an end. When David Richmond (Hans Matheson), a progressive young minister, arrives in Gladbury, the villagers discover a new formula for miracles: good deeds and acts of kindness. While David's quest to modernize Gladbury sets him at odds with the old world candlemaker, he finds an unlikely ally in the lovely skeptic, Emily Barstow (Samantha Barks). Now, the fiery candlemaker must fight to preserve the legacy of the Christmas Candle. But when the candle goes missing, the miraculous and human collide in the most astonishing Christmas the village of Gladbury has ever seen.

Though this didn't seem to get very many stars, I enjoyed it and the message behind it.  It is a very Christian movie.  This is the 2nd Lucado movie I watched this season and I've enjoyed them both.

Christmas Movie #14
Scrooge (1951) - This is the Alastair Sim's version, in my opinion the best of them all.  Of course no synopsis is needed and you don't need me to sing its praises either.

God Bless Us Everyone!

5 / 5 STARS!!

 25 Days of Christmas

On my Mantle

Leaving Church During Advent

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Book #10 / 25 Days of Christmas #18 and #19 / Ice Skating

Christmas Poems - This book is filled with classic and newer poems. Lots of favorites such as, "A Visit From St. Nicholas" as well as little known poems such as, "The Christmas Robin".

I didn't spend too much time on the Christmas Carols since I know them backwards and forwards, but it was nice to read things I never have before.

3/5 Christmas Stars!!

25 Days of Christmas

Reindeer #18

Santa's Corner #19

My daughter went ice skating with her class. It was at Bryant Park in Manhattan.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Book #9 / 25 Days of Christmas #16 and #17

Christmas Book #9
Here is the very long synopsis
The Ghost of Christmas Present

After reading a lot of Christmas books back to back, I feel that some of them are just bad, and I wonder if people write Christmas book just to say they've written one.

This was an unbelievable story of a man who is being threatened with the removal of his son from his custody.  The son has a genetic heart condition.  Patrick (the MC) has to find a way to make some money, so he takes to the street and panhandles as The Ghost of Christmas Present.

The idea was not a bad one, I don't think it was carried out well.
I give it 2.5 / Stars out of 5.

25 Days of Christmas

Pine Cones & Holly
16 /25

Christmas in New York
17 / 25

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Book #7 & #8, 25 Days of Christmas #15

Christmas Book #7
Let it Snow: Three Holiday Romances - John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle.  This book is a compilation novel comprising three separate stories that intertwine with one another. The stories are The Jubilee Express by Maureen Johnson,A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle by John Green, and The Patron Saint of Pigs by Lauren Myracle. The book follows three different teenagers as they experience a huge snow storm in the town of Gracetown during the Christmas season. (Wikepedia)

Though these stories intertwine, the story I enjoyed the most was Maureen Johnson's The Jubilee Express.  Like many people, I wanted to read this book because of John Green the author of The Fault in Our Stars.  But I felt his story was mediocre, as was Lauren Myracle's.  I am not sure if it was because Johnson's story is the lead story and she set the tone.  The other stories are not bad, I just personally didn't enjoy them as much.  3/5 stars.

Christmas Book #8
The Mistletoe Promise by Richard Paul Evans -
Elise Dutton does not like the Christmas season, she has been divorced for three years and it has left her broken.  A stranger comes along and asks her to be his “girlfriend” for the Christmas season.  She agrees and a contract is drawn up.  What will happen?

I discovered RPE through his Christmas books, and I’ve usually adored them.  Although this book was pretty good, I felt it lacked that special something his books usually have.  I think it was because I was not choked up or blurry eyed when reading this.  By the end of this book, I was saying to myself, “Oh isn’t that….” But it was not as satisfying as usual.  However, it is a good, solid story. 3 out of 5 stars.

25 Days of Christmas

Holly Planter in Bryant Park, New York City