Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Recently Read - Vol. 23 (Nov. '17)

November was a much better month than October in terms of reading.  I not only read more, but the majority of books I read were better than average (ratings of 4s and 5s). 

Without further ado, here are my thoughts on the the five books I read in November:

Survivor by Brett Battles
Read October 30 - November 8
Format: Audiobook
My Rating: 3/5

Think: If someone went back in time and changed history so significantly that the present time was utterly miserable and completely unrecognizable to you, to what lengths would you go to in order to rectify things?

Of the three books in this series, this one was my least favorite.  It's hard to explain why without revealing parts of the story.  Overall, it was a worthwhile series and I'm glad I read them.  I just didn't like this one as well as the first two and I felt the conclusion was somewhat weak.

FINAL VERDICT:  I'd recommend if you have read the previous two books.

The Humans by Matt Haig
Read November 9-14
Format: Audiobook
My Rating: 4/5

Think: A look at humans and our curious lives through the eyes of an alien.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  I found it to be delightfully funny and insightful about we humans, our precarious lives, and the flaws that make us tragic and wonderful at the same time.

FINAL VERDICT:  Recommend  

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
Read November 15-18
Format: Audiobook
My Rating: 5/5

Think:  An unconventional and shocking love story between two unlikely people. 

I had read several fellow bloggers' thoughts on this book before I read it, so I was prepared for the "heaviness" and knew that it might be uncomfortable at times.  I agree, it was, but I was still utterly enthralled.  It's a book that definitely made me think, wonder, and re-evaluate my own biases towards age, love, and soul mates.

FINAL VERDICT:  Highly recommend.

Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen
Read November 19-22
Format: Audiobook
My Rating: 4/5

Think:  A tale of nine women (and some of the men in their lives) and their experiences with the must-have, "it" dress of the season.

I'm a big fan of the movie Love Actually and one of the things I love about it is the how all of the characters are connected in some way.  It's the same for this book.  All of the characters, often unbeknownst to them, are connected to each other and it's because of a little black dress.  It was a very fun book that I found myself wanting to listen to every chance I got.  

FINAL VERDICT:  Recommend, especially when you are looking for a fun, light read.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Wells
Read November 24 - December 4
Format: Audiobook
My Rating: 4/5

Think: A stranger than fiction story of young girl's childhood.

My half-sister sent me this book two years ago with a note that read, "You MUST read this!"  I'm glad that I finally did.  It's a wild account of the author's childhood with her brilliant, alcoholic father, her artistic, gumption-less mother who has an excuse for everything, and their unstable, poverty stricken life.  (On a personal note, much of the author's childhood takes place in Welch, WV, which is about 20 miles from my hometown and where my paternal grandparents were from.)

FINAL VERDICT:  Highly recommend.

Have you read any of these?  Did you like them?

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Linking up with:

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Currently... (Vol. 23)

Breathing...  a sigh of relief as I am finally settled into my room at my new school.  Yes, the giant heap of boxes in my garage is no more!

Celebrating...  paying off my car 6 months early!  Yee-ha!

Making...  my to-be-read list for Erin's latest book challenge.

• 5 points: Freebie – Read a book that is at least 200 pages - TBD
• 10 points: Read a book that starts with the letter “L” - Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
• 10 points: Read a book that has a (mostly) red cover - The Royal We by Harriet Cocks and Jessica Morgan
• 15 points: Read a book with a character’s name in the title - The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
• 20 points: Read a book from this list: Book Riot’s 100 Must-Read Books with Plot Twists The Couple Next Door by Star Lapena
• 20 points: Read a book with the words “house” or “home” in the title - The Alphabet House by Jussi Adler-Olsen
• 25 points: Read a book by an author whose first and last name begins with the same letter - Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
• 30 points: Read a book that was originally published in a different language than your own - Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Bachman
• 30 points: Read a book where most of the action takes place on a form of transportation i.e. bus, boat, car, plane, etc. - The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
• 35 points: Read a book with a character that suffers from a debilitating physical illness - The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

Eating...  Cuties! I love them almost as much as Honeycrisp apples!

Starting...  to get my Christmas presents together.

Listening...  to the audiobook This is Your Life, Harriet Chance! by Jonathan Evison.

Accepting...  that I probably will not complete my Goodreads Challenge this year.  I wanted to finish 50 books, but to date, I've only finished 40.

Missing...  several of my work buddies at my former school.  It's hard to leave friends.

Amazed...  at how life changing a shorter commute can be.  I mean, I knew my old (90 mile roundtrip) commute was rough, but I had no idea how rough it really was until I shaved nearly a third off it.

Enjoying...  the simplicity of my Christmas tree.  I only used three kinds of ornaments: red berries, pinecones, and cardinals.  Voila!

Participating...  in a Secret Santa gift exchange at work.

Dealing...  with soft tissue trauma in my mouth.  Damn almonds.  Who knew you could actually sprain the ligaments around your teeth when using a lot of force to chew something?

Looking...  forward to spending some time in West Virginia over Christmas Break.

Disbelieving...  that the school year is almost halfway through!  Where in the world has the time gone?!?

Contemplating...  participating in several athletic events in 2018.  No firm commitment yet, just consideration.

Laughing...  at this:

Wishing...  a friend of mine a Happy 51st Birthday later this month!

Giving...  kudos to Time magazine for naming "The Silence Breakers," the individuals who set off the national reckoning over the prevalence of sexual harassment, as their Person of the Year.  

Sincerely hoping...  that this movement, which has been simmering for decades, will finally boil over and bring about a long overdue shift in our culture.

Feeling...  incredibly blessed.  This time last year, I was not in a good place and I was extremely apprehensive of what 2017 might have in store for me.  Not only was this year very kind in terms of not throwing any curve balls my way, but it was also incredibly generous, unexpectedly giving me the transfer that I've been waiting on for years, which has renewed my spirit in so many ways.  Seriously, this is the happiest I've been with my career and my life in years.  

November in a snapshot:

1) Surprise flowers on my first day at my new job, stunning color, the return of Bandana Girl.
2) Fall foliage in the park, a sunrise as viewed from my work parking space, almost no more leaves.
3) My room at work, celebrating R's BIG 5-0, the cafeteria ladies always set aside 2 breakfast pizzas for me every Wednesday because they know how much I love it.

What have you been up to lately?

Linking up with:

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

My Christmas Not To Do List

Bake cookies
Don't get me wrong, I'd love to, but I just can't resist them once they are baked.  They are ticking time bombs and reek havoc on my relatively new weight management lifestyle.

Wear an ugly Christmas sweater
I don't think I've ever even owned a Christmas sweater, ugly or pretty, for that matter...

Watch any Christmas movie that was made for Lifetime or the Hallmark Channel
I just can't...

Wear matching pajamas with my husband and step kids and pose in front of the Christmas tree for a picture
These are cute and all, but I think this Christmas trend has finally run its course.  And besides, my husband would think that I had lost my mind.

Send Christmas cards with glitter on them
Trust me - glitterless Christmas cards are few and far between! It's all fun and games until someone gets glitter in their eye.

Shop 'til I drop
I don't like shopping even under the best of circumstances, let alone in the midst of the frenzy of the holiday shopping season.

Attend a performance of The Nutcracker
I saw the abbreviated kid-version of The Nutcracker some years ago.  That's when I realized I had never seen the full-length version so I made plans to see it the following year.  I am glad that I saw it, but that experience taught me that ballet just isn't my thing. I know some people make it an annual tradition, but I'll pass.

What are some things on your Christmas Not-To-Do List?

Inspired by Jana @ Jana Says

Friday, December 1, 2017

Thoughts on Matt Lauer

When Bill O'Reilly's employment with Fox News was terminated in April of this year after it was revealed that he paid millions of dollars to various women in order to settle sexual harassment lawsuits, I thought, "The arrogant Fox News guy (whom I had only seen on TV a time or two when visiting my aunt and uncle)?" 

When Harvey Weinstein's name hit the national media in October after The New York Times published allegations of sexual harassment and assault against the Hollywood movie director, I said, "Who is this guy?"

When allegations against comedian Louis C.K. came to light a few weeks later, allegations that he says are true, I asked my husband who he was.  I eventually had to Google him just to figure out if I knew him from anything.

Last week, when Charlie Rose was fired from CBS based on allegations of sexual harassment and unwanted advances, I thought, "The old guy from the CBS morning show?"

With each passing month this year, it seems there are at least two or three more names added to the ever growing list of men accused of sexual misconduct.  As I learned of each new name, I would shake my head, think briefly to myself, "Man, what were you thinking?", then I'd go on about my merry way.

But, on Wednesday morning, around 9:30 a.m., that all changed.  When I saw the news headline Matt Lauer Fired from NBC on a news app on my work laptop, I said out loud reflexively and in complete disbelief, "What?!?" I then immediately clicked on the link and read the report.   I was stunned and remained that way for the rest of the day and much of the next.  

This latest incident in a seemingly endless, head-spinning series of  powerful and influential men abusing their authority or status and falling from grace may seem to many as just another link in the chain: Weinstein - Affleck - Price - Savino - Steele - Richardson - Spacey -  C.K. - Franken - Thrush - Rose - Lauer.  But, the last name in that chain is different for me.  The allegations against Matt Lauer have really bothered me, even more than I care to admit. 

Here's the thing about Matt Lauer, I don't know him, but in this weird way, I feel like I did once upon a time. Over the years, I've spent a lot of time with Mr. Lauer, even though our friendship, so-to-speak, was completely one-sided and via television screen.

When I was in my 20s, I was a regular watcher of the TODAY show. I would even say that I was a fan. I spent many a morning with Katie (Couric), Matt, Al (Roker), and Ann (Curry) in the late 90s. I welcomed them into the living room of whatever college apartment I was living in at the time and watched as I got ready for class or for practicum. 

I vicariously traveled the world with Matt during his annual five-day, top-secret Where in the World is Matt Lauer globe-trotting adventures.  He made me want to see the Great Wall of China.  He introduced me to Dubrovnic, Croatia and Bhutar, both places I had never heard of before.  His visit to Sydney, Australia made my life-long yearning to visit the land of kangaroos, koalas, and Vegemite even stronger.  Matt Lauer inspired me to explore this big, wide, amazing world we live in. 
As a self-proclaimed fan, I stood out in Rockefeller Plaza in the summer of 1999, sign in hand, hoping for a chance to meet the hosts of the show and to maybe be on TV, even if only for a second or two.  Matt Lauer, after noticing my sign, came over to greet me and we spoke briefly about Huntington, WV, where he began his career at WOWK-TV and where I was attending graduate school at Marshall University.

I admit that I haven't watched TODAY in several years (I just don't watch that much TV in general anymore).  So, it's fair to say that my electronic friendship with Matt Lauer had transitioned to that of an acquaintance some years ago.  But, I still spent numerous Thanksgiving mornings with him as he hosted the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Watching the parade with him was like viewing it with an old friend.

I read somewhere that this kind of connection, the feeling of knowing someone whom you clearly do not, is typical, especially with morning show news hosts. After all, for many years, I allowed this man into my home. I listened to him, I learned from him, I laughed with him. He inspired me and I trusted him. Even though I haven't watched the TODAY show in years, when I learned of his alleged misconduct, the bubble burst. In that instant, the electronic, faux-friendship I had with him was clearly over. 

Today, I am sad and I am disappointed. But, I am also optimistic. I hope that, as Megyn Kelly expressed, “We are in the middle of sea change in this country, an empowerment revolution in which women who for years have felt they had no choice but to simply deal with being harassed at work are now starting to picture another reality, to feel that change is within their grasp."

Mr. Lauer, on the completely off chance that you're reading this, I want you to know how deeply disappointed I am in you. I know you're human and I know we humans make mistakes. We make tremendous, sometimes grave mistakes. But, I truly thought you were one of the good guys, I really did. I thought you were better than this. I thought you were better than the creeps I dealt with in college who groped my breasts without my consent and who stalked me on campus. I thought you were a champion of women, a stand-up man, and an honest, integrous journalist. You have proven me wrong, but worse, you have lost my trust and my admiration, two things that are extremely difficult to regain. I hope you use this time to truly do the soul searching you mentioned in your written apology and, for goodness sake, seek professional help. Your career may be over, but it's never too late to change your ways and become a better human being. You owe that much to your kids.

Were you as shocked as I was to learn of these allegations against Matt Lauer?  What has your reaction been?

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Top Ten Books on My TBR

Today I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish and participating in their weekly Top Ten Tuesday feature post. (To learn more about TTT, click here.) This week's theme is -

  1. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid - Why?  Well, because I have yet to read anything from TJR that I didn't like.
  2. My (Not So) Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella -  Why?  Because so many people I know in the blogosphere has really enjoyed it and I think I will, too.
  3. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls* - Why?  Because the author spent part of her childhood in Welch, WV, which is approximately 20 miles from my hometown and where my paternal grandparents once lived.
  4. Wonder by R. J. Palacio - Why?  I want to see the movie, but I want to read the book first.
  5. The Sentry by Robert Crais - Why?  Because it is the next one in the series that I've been reading for the past three years.
  6. Little Fires Everywhere by Celest Ng - Why?  Because I loved Everything I Never Told You and though the writing was superb.  I've heard nothing but good things about this one, too.
  7. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Meera Syal - Why?  Because it sounds cute and funny.
  8. Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It by Elizabeth Gilbert - Why?  Eat Pray Love had a significant impact on my life many years ago.  I'm just interested to read how it impacted the lives of others.
  9. The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan - Why?  Someone within the past couple weeks, probably for the mostly Show Us Your Books linkup, had read this and shared her thoughts on it.  I immediately added it to my TBR list on Goodreads and I bought it.
  10. Every Anxious Wave by Mo Daviau - Why?    Because I got it cheap and the premise has me intrigued.

*Already in progress. 

What are some books on your TBR?  Have a great day!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Tuesday Topics - Two Holiday Flicks and One Favorite Thanksgiving Dish

I must admit that I do love me some Christmas movies, which I'm assuming today's topic, Holiday Flicks, is inferring to.  After some careful contemplation, I've whittled down my favorites list to two.  Basically, I asked myself, "If I were stranded on a deserted island but had access to a device that would allow me to watch movies, which two Christmas movies would I want on the island.  I chose:

I know most people find A Christmas Story annoying, but I absolutely love it.  I love the simplicity of it, the nostalgia, and it reminds me of when I first saw it when I was a kid.  As for Home Alone 2, I think NYC at Christmas is absolutely stunning with all the decorations and lights, so I thoroughly enjoy the New York scenes in the movie.

As for my favorite Thanksgiving dish, it is hands down, no contest, my grandmother's turkey and dumplings, which I don't have a picture of so I'm improvising with these:

What are two of your favorite holiday movies and your favorite holiday dish?

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Linking up with Jenn @ Quirky Pickings (even though she's on hiatus at the moment)
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