Friday, July 31, 2015

#SCSBC15 August 1 Check-in (I'M FINISHED!) and Reflection

The third official check-in (my second since I joined the challenge late) for the Semi-Charmed Summer Book Challenge is tomorrow and I am happy to announce that after 3 months, 12 books, and 4,719 pages, I am FINISHED!


Below is my final compilation of books I read for this challenge.  (If the book title appears in red, click on it and it will direct you to my review of that book.) 


10 points: A book you have never heard of before.
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (470 pg, 5/5 rating, completed 7.3.15)

20 points: A book with an animal on the cover.
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (368 pg, 5/5 rating, *cat on cover, completed 7.7.15)

15 points: A book with "light" or "dark" in the title.
The River is Dark by Joe Hart (223 pg, 2/5 rating, completed 7.15.15)

10 points: A book that has been on your TBR list for at least two years.
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris (272 pg, 4/5 rating, completed 7.16.15)

10 points: A book that won a Goodreads “Best Book” award in 2014

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr 
(531 pg, 4.5/5 rating, completed 7.26.15)


25 points: A book that is part of a series with at least four books.

The Last Detective by Robert Crais 
(337 pg, 4/5 rating, *book #9 in Elvis Cole/Joe Pike series, completed 6.2.15)

5 points: Freebie! 
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain 
(225 pg, 2/5 rating, completed 6.5.15)

25 points: A book that is 500+ pages long.
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon 
(850 pg, 5/5 rating, 2nd reading, completed 6.20.15)

15 points: A book by an author you have read before. *No re-reads!
Grey by E. L. James 
(576 pg, 3/5 rating, completed 6.26.15)

20 points: A book with name of a real city/state/country in title.
Looking for Alaska by John Green 
(221 pg, 3/5 rating, completed 6.29.15)

30 points: A book with an alliterative title

*All words in title must begin with the same letter.
Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich
(305 pg, 2/5 rating, completed 6.30.15)


15 points: A book by an author who is completely new to you.

Wicked Ties by Shayla Black 
(341 pg, 3/5 rating, completed 5.13.15)

July Points – 65
June Points – 120
May Points - 15
TOTAL Points – 200

This was my first ever experience participating in a reading challenge such as this.  Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience for several reasons:  

1) I love a good challenge.  

2) Participating in this challenge pushed me to read a few books that I already owned but hadn't gotten around to reading yet (Explosive Eighteen, Me Talk Pretty One Day, All the Light We Cannot See, and The River is Dark.)  

3) Participating in this challenge encouraged me to read a book that I otherwise might not have read (Looking for Alaska).

Here's a few things I learned about participating in category based reading challenges:

  • Look at your own library first.  Chances are, you have books or audiobooks that you've already purchased or downloaded, but have not read or listened to yet.  See if any of those will fit into the categories of the challenge.  This is a great way to finally read some of the books you've been meaning to get around to reading.
  • Be flexible.  I thought I knew exactly what book I was going to read for the category of "on your TBR list for at 2+ years."  But, when it came time to actually start reading that book, I just wasn't able to get into it right then.  Instead of forcing myself to read something that I just wasn't ready to, I switched tactics and went with a different book instead.  
  • Don't take the whole "winning" concept so seriously.  I started this challenge late, so I was not under any delusion that I would earn 200 points by July 1.  I can easily see, however, how easy it would be to fall into the "Oh, Lord!  I have to hurry up and read this one and read that one so I can try to win this thing!" mentality.  I don't think that is a good mindset to be under because it skews one's focus.  Instead of focusing on the act of reading and enjoying what is being read, the focus is on the fast consumption of a book simply to get it over with so that you can move on to the next book.  But, on the flip side, some people may thrive under that mindset, so this really comes down to "whatever floats your boat."
Kudos to Megan @ Semi-Charmed Kind of Life for organizing and hosting the challenge!  It was a pleasure! 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Guilty Pleasures 1.4 - My Top 20 GP Songs

If someone asked me, "Hey, Ericka, what have you been listening to lately?" I could easily rattle off the last dozen audiobooks that I've listened to without hesitation.  Chances are, however, that they wouldn't be asking about audiobooks, but rather about music.  My answer would then be, "Whatever shuffles up on my iPhone or is playing on the classic rock station."  Yeah, for the most part my music listening preferences are still stuck in the 20th century.

So, I must warn you, my guilty pleasure song list is going to seriously date me. These aren't necessarily my favorite songs, but they are songs that I really like and might not be willing to readily admit to just anyone.  You gotta promise not to laugh.  Oh, and a little FYI - unlike my previous guilty pleasure posts, these are in no particular order.

(Click on the song title and it will direct you to the YouTube video.  I assume no responsibility for the quality of the videos nor do I know how long each video will be active on YouTube.)

Into the Groove - Madonna

Till the World Ends - Britney Spears

You Dropped a Bomb on Me - The Gap Band

Return of the Mack - Mark Morrison

Last Christmas - Wham!

Girls, Girls, Girls - Motley Crue

Suspicious Minds - Dwight Yoakam

MMMBop - Hanson

September - Earth, Wind, and Fire

Poison - Alice Cooper

I Like It - Enrique Iglesias (ft. Pit Bull)

You're the One that I Want - John Travolta and Olivia Newton John

One Night in Bangkok - Murray Head

I Was Made for Dancin' - Leif Garrett

Your Love - The Outfield

Evacuate the Dancefloor - Cascada

Down - Jay Sean (ft. Lil Wayne)

Cryin' - Vixen

Shut Up and Dance - Walk the Moon

So, there ya have it...  Remember, you promised not to laugh!  Ah, that's OK.  I have broad shoulders, I can handle it.  LOL!  

What songs do you consider as guilty pleasures?  Feel free to comment below. Thanks for stopping by!

Previous posts in this series:
Guilty Pleasures 1.1 - TV Shows
Guilty Pleasures 1.2 - Books
Guilty Pleasures 1.3 - Movies

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

All the Light We Cannot See - A Review

All the Light We Cannot See is the story of two childhoods that were stolen by the Nazis during WWII.  Marie-Laure is a blind French girl who lives in Paris with her father.  Werner is German boy living in a children's home (for orphans) with his sister.  Their lives run parallel until 1944, when their lives converge in the walled, coastal city of Saint Malo, France a few months after the Invasion of Normandy (D-Day).  Unbeknowst to them, they shared a connection long before they met.

I can honestly say that All the Light We Cannot See is one of the most beautifully written books that I've ever read.  Doerr's beautifully crafted prose illustrated the people, the places, and the events in such wonderful detail that the images played out in my mind like a motion picture.  Several of my favorite lines were:

"A cook book lies face down in her path like a shot gunned bird."
"A blizzard of dandruff..."
"Upholsters himself in his uniform..."
"Four disconnected strands of gray smoke melt into a white sky."
"The moon sets and the eastern sky lightens, the hem of night pulling away, taking stars with it one by one until only two are left."
"Memories cartwheel out of her head and tumble across the floor."

The only fault I can find is the book's organization.  The story not only alternates between Marie-Laure's life in France and Werner's life in Germany, but also alternates between the present (1944) and with flashbacks that begin around 1934.  In addition, the activities of Nazi treasure hunter Sergeant Major Rienhold von Rumpel are also interjected throughout the story. Given my unfamiliarity with German and French names, it was sometimes hard, especially in the beginning, to keep everyone straight.  I listened to the All the Light We Cannot See in audiobook format, so I was at a disadvantage since I was unable to flip back for clarification.

Despite the organizational flaw, I still consider this book as a very good read.  It was a little slow to start, but after several chapters the momentum and pacing picked up.  I gave All the Light We Cannot See a rating of 4 on Goodreads, however, I would give it a more precise rating of 4.5 if Goodreads allowed fractional ratings.

Have you read All the Light We Cannot See?  If so, what do you think about the book?

Please feel free to comment below and thanks for stopping by!

Monday, July 27, 2015

#bisonselfie... Really?

Last week this headline caught my attention:

Bison injures woman posing for selfie at Yellowstone
Park officials say the 43 year old Mississippi woman turned her back on the animal Tuesday evening to get a photo with it on a trail near Old Faithful

My first thought was, "Are you kidding me?" because 1) I couldn't believe someone would turn their back to such a massive animal and 2) this is the 5th tourist vs. bison incident in Yellowstone this year alone.  Honestly, weren't the first four incidents of 2015 enough to deter this kind of behavior? Apparently not. Unfortunately, I seriously doubt this will be the last one either. 

When my family and I visited Yellowstone in 2006, upon entering our nation's first national park we were given a brochure and a map.  This flyer (pictured left) was also included. Yes, this is a photo of that flyer that I received in 2006!  I've kept it all these years in my photo album as a memento from that trip because, at the time, I couldn't believe that people lacked so much common sense that they needed a reminder to keep their distance from those behemoth beasts.  

Apparently not much has changed in terms of human behavior in the 9 years since I was there last.  It's probably worsened with the current selfie craze. 

So, let me ask the questions that have been on my mind since I first read the article.  
Is it just me or does getting within 6 yards (the distance the lady was from the bison) of a 2000 lb. WILD animal that has HUMONGOUS HORNS that can GORE you, can easily OUTRUN you, and whose species generally always appears to be PISSED OFF seem like a really bad idea?  
And, doesn't getting that close and then turning your back on that pissed off creature seem like an even worse idea?
After googling #bisonselfie (yes, that is a real hash tag, I didn't make that up), I realize that I may be in the minority because, apparently, people do it all the time.  Seriously, just google #bisonselfie and you can see all kinds of people pushing the envelope in pursuit of the almighty selfie.

I know I am completely dating myself here, but does anyone remember that 1990s song that featured comedian Bill Engvall and Travis Tritt called "Stupid People (Here's Your Sign)"? (Watch the YouTube video here.)  Perhaps an updated version needs to be created in which it features all the stupid things people do to capture the ultimate selfie.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not knockin' selfies in general, for I am guilty of taking a few here and there myself.  Selfies taken in stupid situations, however, are a completely different story.

Trust me, I understand how easy it is to have "photo envy."  That's what I call the overwhelming desire and yearning you get when looking at other people's photos.  Given the ease of capturing photos (since most cell phones contain a camera), the rising popularity of personal high-definition action cameras (GoPro, etc), and the massive reach social media possesses, our society is seeing more and more images of common, ordinary people much like ourselves doing adventurous, uncommon things (skydiving, snorkeling, mountain climbing, base jumping) or in uncommon places.  I think we, as a culture, view our photos as merit badges.  There's an old phrase, "Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt."  Some years ago, the t-shirt might have sufficed as proof of one's adventures.  That is no longer the case. Today, in lieu of the t-shirt, we must have the selfie, for we seem to have fallen under the belief that if the moment wasn't captured digitally with at least a small part of our face in it and if the picture wasn't then shared with the masses, then that moment obviously didn't happen.

Sure, that lady from Mississippi got a great picture for her Instagram, but at what cost did she almost have to pay in order to get that Kodak Moment? Realistically, that #bisonselfie very well could've been her #lastselfie.

So, what are your thoughts?  Feel free to comment below and, as always, thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Guilty Pleasures 1.3 - My Top 15 GP Movies

I've been thinking about movies for this post for over a week now and, honestly, it's been a bit tough.  Unlike the post on TV shows, I didn't have difficulty coming up with enough movies to write about.  My problem was whittling down the movies to a manageable number.

So, without further ado...  Here are my Top 15 Guilty Pleasure Movies:

#15  Cocktail (1988)
It’s part NYC.  It's part Jamaica.  It’s Tom Cruise before he weirded out and lashed out on Matt Lauer.  Oh, and the soundtrack is pretty awesome, too.  <cue music> Aruba, Jamaica, oooooh I wanna take ya.  Bermuda, Bahama, come on pretty mama...

#14  Fools Gold (2008)
4 words:  Matthew McConaughey in paradise.

#13  Romancing the Stone (1984)
A favorite of mine since I was 11 or 12 years old, this movie might have been the first visual exposure to a foreign country that I had.  With just a touch of danger and romance, it is the ultimate treasure hunt adventure.

#12  Rock of Ages (2012)
Confession:  I saw the Rock of Ages (the Broadway musical) before the movie and I didn't really care for the motion picture adaptation at first.  But, with time, it kind of grew on me.  

As a self-proclaimed Child of the 80s, this movie is like a hodge-podge of all things 80s.  You have the gigantic cell phone, Donkey Kong, big hair, mini skirts, Tipper Gore-ish protesters, and 80s classics such as "I Want to Know What Love Is", "Wanted Dead or Alive", and the ultimate arena rock anthem "Don't Stop Believin'".

#11  Robin Hood:  Prince of Thieves (1991)
Yes, Kevin Costner's lack of an English accent was lame, but there's something so appealing about a man who can build adult tree houses in the forest, robs from the rich to give to the poor, and is willing to fight and die for the lady he loves.

#10  Sixteen Candles (1984)
How can you not enjoy a movie with a character in it by the name of Long Duck Dong?

#9  10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
This movie appeals to my inner misfit.  Despite disguising it well, I felt like a misfit in high school, so I get what it's like to be misunderstood.  I so enjoy seeing two highly misunderstood teens (misfits) find one another.  And the movie has some pretty funny moments, too.   

#8  Valley Girl (1983)
I have no idea.  I’d love to be able to give you a reason or at least attempt to defend myself, but I haven’t a clue.  I just know that every time this movie comes on, there is a 99% chance that I will watch it.  Maybe it's the stimulating vocabulary...

#7  Leap Year (2010)
Beautiful Irish countryside and Matthew Goode’s accent.  “Trow it in da’ wash, id' be grand!”  Sigh.  I could listen to that man talk for days.

#6  Titanic (1997)
Despite its weepy love theme song, despite knowing that ship is doomed before it even leaves the dock, despite knowing that Jack is going to needlessly freeze to death in the water even though there is enough room for he and Rose on that plank of wood, I will still watch this every time it comes on.  I may be a glutton for punishment.

#5  Coneheads (1993)
I'm not good at remembering, let alone interjecting movie lines into everyday conversation.  (My husband has the monopoly on that talent in our household...  Perhaps that's a blog entry for another day!)  This, however, is the one exception and it's not uncommon to hear me say these quotes from the movie:  

"Maintain low tones with me, maintain low tones!"
"I will enjoy it."
"May I have 55 words with you?"
"It is time for mid-day cessation of activities for carbo-protein intake."
"WARNING! Do not sear the top of your neck hole with the molten lactate extract of hoofed  mammals!"

#4  Weekend at Bernie's(1989)
Totally unrealistic.  Two cheese balls traipsing around the Hamptons with a corpse, who is the life of the party despite his deadness, and no one notices or suspects that anything is odd.  But, so much fun!

#3  Pretty in Pink (1986)
Duckie.  Need I say more?

#2  Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)
The time period of Desperately Seeking Susan is in the edgy, gritty, pre-Giuliani years of NYC in the mid 1980s, long before Times Square became Disney-fied.  Yes, the story is cheesy and the acting equally as corny, but as an 11 year old in rural Appalachia, this movie held so much appeal because it represented life in the BIG city.  I enjoy the fact that it's like a 1985 time capsule.

#1 Saturday Night Fever (1977)
You know, so many people consider disco music to be a guilty pleasure.  Maybe the disco element is responsible for my liking of this movie.  I just don't know why I like it, I just know that I do!

So, what do you think?  Do we share the guilt on any of the same movies?  What are some of yours?  Feel free to comment below.  

Thanks for stopping by!

Previous posts in this series:
Guilty Pleasures 1.1 - TV Shows
Guilty Pleasures 1.2 - Books
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