Sunday, January 31, 2016

ABC Reads: January Review

Today is the day!  Our first ABC Reads Challenge Link-Up.  Here's a refresher on the terms of the challenge in case you missed it previously:

What does the challenge entail?  Well, I'm glad you asked.  There are 26 letters of the alphabet and Mia and I challenge you, during the course of 2016, to read a book that starts with each letter.  For example, Atonement (A), The Bell Jar (B), Catching Fire (C), and so on.  Makes sense, right? You don't need to go in order - if you want to start with S, go for it.  On the last day of each month, we'll host a link-up for you to share your ABC Reads.  We will award one point for each letter you review AND a bonus point for linking up with us!  At the end of the year (or when the first participant reviews a book beginning with each of the 26 letters), the winner will be awarded a $30 Amazon gift card.  So, what do you say?  Do you accept our ABC Reads challenge?

I read SO much this month!  I certainly expect to taper off as the year continues, but I was really on top of my reading game in January!  I completed the following letters: O, F, V, and P.  And truly enjoyed each book along the way!

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Mia actually selected this book for our Literary Trio book club...and all three of us absolutely loved the story.  The book jumps back and forth between current day Maine and Depression-era Minnesota to tell two stories - Vivian's and Molly's.  It was a real page-turner!  Ninety-two year old Vivian's journey proved lonesome and horrifying.  Several times throughout this historical fiction piece, I was on the edge of my seat waiting to discover the next twist ahead for Vivian.  The book even inspired me to book a tour at the NYC Tenement Museum and learn more about the life of immigrants during this time period.

Find the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary Writer by Heather Lende

Brooke from the #collaboreads monthly link-up that I participate in suggested this book when our topic was non-fiction a few months ago.  I immediately flagged it on Goodreads.  The title itself was enough to pull me in.  Honestly, it sounds like my dream job - small-town obituary writer.  She told many stories about lessons she learned during times of sadness as well as during celebrations of life.  I loved this quick read because it was full of wisdom!  This book would be a great gift to a college graduate...particularly if they studied English or journalism. 

The Vow: The Kim and Krickett Carpenter Story by Kim Carpenter

Finding a "V" book proved a bit of a challenge.  I eventually found myself on google.  When The Vow popped up, I thought it sounded familiar...and then I saw that a movie had been made in 2012 based on this story.  Sounded like a winner to me.  I love a good book and movie combo!  As usual, the book was much better than the movie though I'm sure Kim and Krickett were flattered to be portrayed by Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams!  In all seriousness, this book is a true testament to the strength of faith - a strength that is inspiring and amazing.  Roughly three months into their marriage, a near fatal car accident leaves Krickett with no memory of Kim.  Not only does she have to re-learn many basic skills due to her brain damage, but she has to fall in love with a man (her husband) that she doesn't even recognize.  I simply can't fathom...and it was not portrayed to be an easy process, but in the end those vows they took before God were powerful enough to prevail.  As a newlywed myself, I really enjoyed this book.  It was a very straight-forward and honest account by Kim - a touching and powerful read.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

As I mentioned in my recent #collaboreads review (check it out here), this book had been sitting on my shelf for a couple of years.  Mom had given it to me as a Christmas gift.  I picked it up a few times over the years, but never devoted myself to giving it a shot.  After reading it, I am totally kicking myself because I loved it!  The psychology behind the habit loop is simply fascinating to me.  The book is divided into three sections focusing on habits of individuals, successful organizations, and society at large.  With New Year resolutions beginning to wane, I definitely suggest giving this book a read to learn more about why this happens and how you can help yourself maintain change over the long haul!

I absolutely can't wait to see the ABC Reads each of you selected this month!!

Andrea :)

Friday, January 29, 2016

Three Servings of Misery

Back in October, I read Misery by Stephen King for one of my book clubs.  I wrote a review here, but overall it was a horrifying story.  Completely and utterly horrifying.  So, I did what any logical person would do. I signed up for two more servings!

That's right, I went to see the Broadway performance featuring Laurie Metcalf and Bruce Willis with my lovely husband who gifted me tickets at Christmas.  And then we followed it up with a re-watch of the movie starring Kathy Bates a couple weeks later.  Turns out the play followed exactly the same script as the movie.

Like pretty much every other scenario in the history of ever, the book was best. Easily. The book spends so much time inside the mind of tortured writer Paul Sheldon and there really isn't a great way to capture that on stage or screen.  The wackiness and evil of Annie Wilkes is thoroughly shown in all three formats - there is no escaping (literally!) her insanity!

Needless to say, Laurie Metcalf as Annie completely stole the show.  She was great.  Bruce Willis was pretty disappointing.  I had read previous to seeing the performance that he required an earpiece and/or off-stage teleprompters to help him with his lines.  Honestly, one of the main reasons I wanted to see it was to determine if it was noticeable.  It wasn't, but he didn't really have many lines at all so I spent most of the time wondering what in the world he couldn't remember!  Thankfully, Laurie Metcalf was there to swoop in and save the day!

The show wasn't our favorite, but we watched from across the street as the two stars departed the theater.  Laurie Metcalf signed a few autographs and then charged over toward our side of the street only to hail her own cab and head home.  We were in awe - what a bad mamma jamma!! True to form, Bruce Willis wasn't nearly as impressive in his exit.

Andrea :)

Monday, January 25, 2016

#collaboreads: Something to Make You Better

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg has been on my shelf for a couple years.  I am SO glad this month's topic prompted me to finally give it a read because not only did I really enjoy it, but I also learned a few things!  Most importantly, I discovered the habit loop - along with all the chaos and harmony it creates in our everyday lives.

What part of the book could you NOT get enough of?

The book had three sections focusing on the habits of individuals, successful organizations, and society at large.  Each section build on the previous one.  Honestly, I couldn't get enough of all of it.  The psychology of how habits are created and maintained was simply fascinating to me.  From the most simple act like brushing your teeth to much more complex ideas like the civil rights movement all ultimately boil down to habits.  Unfortunately, it takes A LOT of work to rid your life of bad habits...though this book does break down the method for doing it!

How did you relate to/care for the characters?
What's your thought on the plot line and twists and turns?

There weren't any characters per se, but it was easy to identify with many of the examples that were provided throughout the book.  As I mentioned before each chapter built on the next taking you from individual habits to how you fit into larger movements in society.  Super interesting...and easy to read!

What other books are like this one? If none, did it remind you of a particular TV or movie with it's themes and characters? Does it serendipitous-ly line-up with things going on in your life or the news right now? 

I haven't necessarily read anything quite like this book, but it could likely be lumped into the self help category.  It did line up with life in that it helped to explain why new year's resolutions often get overridden by the habits of our pre-New Year life and why popular TV shows become must see TV or household products can gain worldwide use at the drop of a hat!

You know you judged this book by the cover. What did you think of it? 
How did it relate to the contents of the novel? And the font and layout of the pages? 

The cover wasn't too great, but I did like the bright yellow - definitely grabs your attention.  I supposed the stick figures represent the idea of habits being circular in nature, but it didn't totally connect for me until I saw additional stick figure drawing throughout the book.   

How many out of five do you give this book? Would you recommend this book to a friend?  

I give this book an easy five stars!  It applies to each of us...and the author made the material so easy to move through. I would certainly recommend this book to anyone!

Andrea :)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Thursday Thoughts

Between watching the Oscars nominated films, reading books for the ABC Reads Challenge, and cashing in on my Broadway ticket Christmas present, I haven't been around here much in the past couple weeks!  Here a quick recap of the everyday happenings in life while I've been away!

1 - Making A Murderer is a must-see Netflix documentary!  If you aren't sure what I am talking about then you have most assuredly been living under a rock.  The buzz has died down a bit at this point, but I still highly recommend giving it a watch.  A truly fascinating tale of the injustices of our country's justice system - regardless of guilt or innocence.

2 - Chris and I have been loving the theater this month!  We've seen three Broadway shows since Christmas including the highly acclaimed Hamilton - which we LOVED!!!  We have a list of several others to see this winter.  The theater truly is my favorite part of living in New York!

3 - I have been reading like crazy since January 1.  I can't wait to link up with all of my fellow ABC Reads participants on the last day of January.  Looking forward to seeing all the wonderful books you have read so far this year!  For more info on the Challenge, click here!

4 - We also finished the final season of Parenthood on Netflix - cue ALL the tears!!  This series is fantastic!  I love everything about it!!  We even rented the DVDs from the library to check out all the deleted scenes and commentaries.  I think we are both sad to not have the Braverman's on our TV any longer.  What series do you suggest we start next??

5 - The Oscar controversy has me all twisted up inside.  I am a lifelong fan of the Oscars, but I definitely agree that something needs to change.  I haven't seen all the movies (yet) with nominations in the top categories, but I have seen Creed.  And if Sylvester Stallone deserves a nomination for best supporting actor then Michael B. Jordan should hands down have a nomination for best actor.  They were both wonderful in the film.  I'm not sure who in the best actor category he should replace because I haven't seen all the films (yet), but I do know the system is broken.  I am not familiar enough with the system of nominations to claim to have a solution, but I do know that actors (and directors...and writers...and etc.) of all races deserve to have a fair shot at this glorious honor in the acting world.  I am happy to see so many individuals speaking openly about the issue at hand - that is certainly a step in the direction of a proper solution.

6 - I'm making progress on the scrapbook front!  I ordered photos from Shutterfly via a promotion they ran after the holidays and plan to dive back into scrapbooking as soon as I return from Hawaii.  Did I forget to mention that I'll be shipping out to Hawaii for a Pro Bowl work trip in just a few days?  Well, that's also been keeping me busy!  I'll certainly be looking forward to some beautiful sunshine after this massive snowstorm that we are supposed to receive this weekend.  Maybe I'll just stay out there forever...or at least until winter ends!!

What are your Thursday Thoughts??

Andrea :)

Monday, January 4, 2016

A View from the Stage

Since moving to NYC, I have seen numerous Broadway shows.  I've enjoyed almost all of them.  I venture to say, the theater is my favorite aspect of living here.  Honestly, I can't think of any event I enjoy more in this city that never sleeps.  So imagine my excitement when I realized we purchased tickets to be seated on the stage during a performance!!

We received multiple reminders prior to the performance of Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge that late arrivals would not be seated.  We didn't take any chances arriving before they even opened the theater doors for the evening.  Another stern warning came from the usher as we took our seats, "If you leave your seat for any reason during the performance, you will NOT be permitted to return!"

It was the real deal.  We were on the stage.  Practically in the show!  We were on the first row toward the back of the set on stage right.  It was SUPER neat!!  And I highly recommend it for the experience alone!  The show was so-so and quite predictable, but the acting (particularly from the male lead) was phenomenal.  Definitely an experience to remember!!

Andrea :)

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year!!

Happy New Year, friends!!  We had a relaxing night of watching movies and some Netflix before we flipped over to watch the ball drop at midnight!  We also managed to run up to the rooftop and catch the fireworks just after midnight - so fun!!  Today, I'm excited to start another year by announcing my 2016 goals!

1 - Read (and listen) to the Bible!  I will get this accomplished in 2016.  It has been on my goal list for FAR too long.  Additionally, I'd like for us to get involved in a Couple's Bible Study.

*I made it to 2 Kings, but that is a far cry from completion. We did find a wonderful Bible Study group that we joined in March. Unfortunately, the group was forced to dissolve in November when half the group relocated. 

2 - Complete all outstanding scrapbooks either by hand or online.  I have SO much scrapbook stuff.  It is imperative that I tackle this project!

*I didn't get nearly as far as I would have liked on this one, but I did manage to create Shutterfly books for both my NYC Marathon adventures. 

3 - Clean out the apartment!  If we haven't used it for a year, we probably won't miss it!  Especially in the clothing department!

*This simply did not happen.

4 - Read (or listen) to 40 books this year!  I plan to complete the ABC Reads Challenge that Mia and I are hosting this year!  We would LOVE to have you join us!  Completing that challenge will put me at 26 books - one beginning with each letter of the alphabet.  I also plan to keep up with the three book clubs that I enjoyed last year.  Ideally, a number of the books will overlap - I'm excited to get started!

*I knocked this one out of the park. It took me literally the entire year, but I completed the ABC Reads Challenge. According to Goodreads, I managed to read a total of 45 books this year. Yay!  

5 - Maintain at least two dedicated date nights per month with Christopher!  Our plan is that we will each plan at least one date night per month!

*Chris and I easily completed this goal. We had a great time, too! :)

6 - Act on what's best for ME!  I spent a majority of this past year reflecting on my interests and searching for my passion.  This year - whether with work, in regard to health & fitness, or with my free time - I want to take action toward a better life for me.

*I'm going to give myself a high five on this one. I made some really tough decisions about halfway through the year, but I know in my heart they were right for me. The future is bright. 

What are your goals for 2016?

Andrea :)

*Edits made on January 1, 2017.