Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year

It seems like I can't get online or even go anywhere without people griping about what a bad year it's been. I could join them, I mean my dad died, tons of car problems, and then the election happened. But...

I'm joining the ranks of those that found something positive to say about the year. Looking back, a lot of good things also happened to me. Here are a few of them:

My nephew Alexander
Technically, he happened in 2015. He was born December 21. But I got to spend this year watching him grow into a darling cutie boy. I love all my nieces and nephews and I've got a fine crew of them.

I went to Paris!
Ha ha yeah, I went to Paris. France. And Mont St. Michel, so that's 2 more spots to mark off my bucket list. It really was a great trip and I got to go with a good friend. One day I'll go back with my sister and see more of France.

Family vacation to Oregon
This was my dad's dream and we had a fantastic time. He rented a house on the beach and the whole family was there. We made a photo album from Shutterfly and I love to look at it. So, so many good memories. 

Family time when dad died
I mean, it sucked. It really did. But on the other hand I am so blessed with my family and seeing all the friends and family at the viewing and funeral was more of a happy time than sad. 

Planning the next trip!
My mom, sister, and I are all going to on a trip together next year. To Scotland. We got a fantastic deal on the airfare and we spent Christmas day deciding where to go and where to stay. We are all super excited.

So yeah, some good things happened this year.  It seems like 2017 is filled with so many uncertainties and fear but I have hope. I have to have hope that good things will also happen. 

Friday, December 30, 2016

Best Books of 2016

2016 was a great book year for me, which is nice since it sucked in other areas. But this post is about books. I read 132 books of varying lengths (plus I re-read a few all the way though which is not in my count). I gave 13 of them 5 stars. I know it's a low percentage but I'm stingy with my five star ratings and kind of feel that I loosened up this year. I got 3 classics in with The Outsiders, The Haunting of Hill House, and The Hidden Staircase (I totally count the original Nancy Drew as classic.) I read 5 non-fiction books, including a book of Mary Oliver's poems that I enjoyed. Ebooks made up 55 of the 132. Nothing can really beat the feel of a book in my hands, but I also love the advantages of ebooks. I've especially loved that now I can borrow them from the library.

So here are my favorite books of 2016 in no particular order:

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
I decided to read this one before Halloween to get in the mood. I've had mixed results with NG in the past but this hooked me and I just loved it. There might have been a few tears shed at the end when Bod leaves the graveyard.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
Definitely tears shed for this one. This book was everything I wanted it to be. One of my most anticipated and I was bereft when it was over.

A Darker Shade of Magic & A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
Both of these got 5 stars from me. It amazes me how authors come up with some of this stuff. I loved the four different Londons but I really loved Lila Bard and her determination to live life under her terms. I question some of her decisions in AGOS but I'm dying for the final book next year.

My Brother Michael by Mary Stewart
It's hard to say but this might be my favorite MS book yet. There is a very, very subtle romance and fantastic nail biting scene at the end. I wish so badly that I could visit Mary Stewart's Greece.

Dark Horse, Dark Deeds, & Dark Minds (The Class 5 series) by Michelle Diener
I'm cheating and putting the whole series on here because it was my biggest book hangover of the year. I really just couldn't get them out of my head. Music played a big part of these books and it had me thinking about what songs I would have chosen.

These Shallow Graves, Revolution, & A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
I discovered Jennifer Donnelly this year and all 3 books have to be on the list. They are all so different and every one of them captured me from the beginning and wouldn't let go.
Read These Shallow Graves for a lighter historical mystery with a bit of romance, Revolution for some time travel with a moody teen and a fictional composer that I wish were real, or A Northern Light for an intense historical novel about a girl who has to make some hard choices. If I had to choose, Revolution would be my favorite but all of them are excellent.

Madam, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart
Did I say My Brother Michael was my favorite? Dang! It's so hard to choose. I loved this from the start. It's a great old fashioned caper complete with mistaken identities and a car chase.

Death Wears a Mask by Ashley Weaver
Relationship drama! Plus a society murder. I loved it and can't wait to read the next book in the series.

Marked In Flesh by Anne Bishop
This series is so different from a lot of things I read. it's slow moving with lots of details and I'm on the side of the Others all the way.

Den of Wolves by Juliet Marillier
I loved the final book of this series. Grim is just the nicest guy and so patient and I loved the way the friendship between Blackthorn and Grim progressed in the series. It was rock solid.

One Fell Sweep by Ilona Andrews
I read this serial online and then bought the final published version and devoured it again in one night. Right now this series is my favorite of everything they write.

Whew! What a list. Like I said, it was a great reading year. Plus I have some notable mentions that just have to be here.

The Shadowy Horses by Susannah Kearsley
This is a "me" book all the way around. Girl on an archeological dig with a ghost, boy who can see ghost, handsome professor... it hit all the right buttons.

The Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Marie Pope
Two words: Peaceable Sherwood. I love book boys that know exactly what they want right from the start and book girls who are clever enough to fall in with their scheme.

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
This one was just plain fun. I think the authors must have had a blast writing it.

Garden Spells & The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen
Another new to me author. I read 4 of her books this year and they are all keepers but I think these 2 might be my favorites.

As for 2017....

I'm looking forward to Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop, A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab, Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner, and Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs. I'm sure there are more that I can't think of.

As for what I'm reading next year, I found an old reading bingo card online that looks like it might be fun so I was thinking about challenging myself to a game of blackout. I changed it up a bit and got my niece and nephew to say they'd play along with me. I just have to think of an appropriate reward.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Nearing the End

I just finished my 125th book of the year. That's a record. My last record was last year when I hit 100. I know some people read a lot more than that but I'm not comparing myself to anyone else. The year isn't even over yet. I'm almost done with 2 other books so I've decided to see if I can hit 130. Christmas is going to be quiet this year. We're doing most of the celebrations with the family on the 24th so I think it will be me and mom for most of the day. She's a reader too so maybe we'll have some good reading time. Plus, you know, all the other reading I do in the normal course of living like eating dinner, right before bed, waiting for trains, etc.

I've been thinking about how I could have gotten so many more books in this year. I haven't scrimped on pages; I've read a few pretty big books. Both of the books I'm almost done with are 450-550 pages long. I went on a couple vacations with air travel time (which is more reading time) so that could be some of it. I think most of it might be that I'm staying at work for lunch. Since my parents moved and I don't have anywhere else to go I've either been eating in the break room and reading a book, or going to the park to walk. Being able to read an extra 40 minutes or so a few days a week can really add up, I think.

In other news I'm exhausted and really looking forward to having a break from relief society stuff, from work, Christmas preparations, etc.  How did it get to be the end of the year already? It's one of the mysteries of the universe, I guess.

Friday, December 9, 2016

True Confessions

I know I can get pretty grumpy (sorry family), but I think that I am generally a happy person and I try to smile and be positive and cheerful. 

I’m coming to the end of my time as relief society president in my ward (according to my bishop) and I am so tired of it. In general, this calling has not been fun. In fact, at times I’ve really hated it. Fun is probably the wrong word. I realize life isn’t always “fun”. I’m hanging in there but I seriously can’t wait to be released. I hate being the one in charge and having to pick up the slack when other people don’t follow through. Don’t get me wrong, I have seen many of the things the sisters in my ward do to serve. Some of them are so good and never say no. But then there’s the group that never say yes. I’m trying to not judge, but it’s incredibly frustrating when you need help.  The introvert in me struggles with calling people on the phone (texting all the way!) or showing up on their doorsteps uninvited. I’ve had a lot of awkward conversations because I’m not the best at making small talk or getting things out of my mouth in general.  I struggle to empathize with people. I’m more of a “suck it up and deal” type of person. I absolutely refuse to do bulletin boards and cute table decorations. It’s all ok. I know I could have put more effort into it at times, and I also know there are times when I really did try and did my best. 

I’ve learned a lot, truly, I have.  I’ve had great help along the way with my counselors and secretary and we’ve had some good times, I think. I’ve seen a lot of good and some struggles and have had help from my Heavenly Father even when I forgot to ask for it. And when I did ask for it, great things happened. And sometimes small things that were absolutely inspiration and answers to prayers.  For the rest of my life I am going to be diligent about saying yes when asked to help with things that I can help with. Seriously, how hard is it to show up to clean the building once in a while?  LOL – but don’t get me started on canning assignments in the middle of the day. Right now though, I’m tired of it and want to be done. Is that a bad thing?