Thursday, August 4, 2016

52 Book Challenge Update

Hey guys! Now that we're a little over half way through the year I figured it was time to check in on my 52 Book ChallengeI never set out to finish one book a week since that's just not my reading style/pace, but I did expect to be more on track by this point in the year. So far I've finished 19 books on my list and am currently reading 3 more.


1. A book you meant to read in 2015, but didn't -- The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan *
2. A book set in a different continent -- Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon*
3. A book from the Goodreads Choice Awards 2015 (winner or nominated) -- The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins *
4. A book by an author you discovered in 2015 -- The Dumb House by John Burnside*
5. A book with a title beginning with the 1st letter of your name -- Silver Linings Playbook by Mathew Quick
6. The highest rated on your TBR -- Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
7. A book about books -- The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller
8. A classic book with less than 200 pages -- Candide by Voltaire
9. A book that was mentioned in another book -- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee*
10. A book by an author you feel you should have read by now -- The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
11. A book from the Rory Gilmore challenge -- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll
12. A childhood classic -- The BFG by Roald Dahl*
13. Reader’s Choice -- Just Kids by Patty Smith (currently reading)
14. A book with one of the five W’s -or H in the title (Who/What/Where/When/Why/How) -- Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling*
15. A book set in the past (more than 100 years ago) -- Persuasion by Jane Austen
16. A book from the top 100 mystery novels -- Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
17. A book with a beautiful cover -- Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (Vintage Classics Bronte Series edition)
18. A book on a summer/beach reading list -- Bridget Jone's Diary by Helen Fielding*
19. A non-fiction book -- Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion 
20. A book with a first name in the title -- Anne of Avonlea by L. M. Montgomery*
21. A book from the Goodreads Recommendations page -- Fifth Avenue, 5 AM; Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman by Sam Wasson
22. The first book in a new to you series -- Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (changed to City of Bones)*
23. The next book in a series you are reading -- Voyager by Diana Gabaldon (currently reading)
24. A "between the numbers" book of a series (0.5, 1,5, 2.5, etc.) -- Four by Veronica Roth *
25. A book whose main character is in a profession that interests you -- The Art Forger by Barbara A. Shapiro*
26. A book everyone is talking about -- Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (a bunch of Youtubers are currently buddy reading this)
27. A book with a beautiful title (in your own opinion) -- The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
28. A biography, autobiography, or memoir -- Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein*
29. A book by an author who writes under more than one name -- Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling*
30. A fairytale from a culture other than your own -- Angela Carter's Book of Fairytales
31. A work of young adult fiction -- Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins*
32. A historical fiction book -- East of Eden by John Steinbeck
33. The 16th book on your TBR -- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon*
34. A book about mental illness -- Brain on Fire by Susannah Calahan
35. An award winning book -- The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
36. An identity book - a book about a different culture, religion or sexual orientation -- A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hossieni
37. A book that you've seen the movie of but haven't read -- The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
38. A book about an anti hero -- A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess*
39. A previous suggestion that did not make it into the list -- The Road by Cormac McCarthy (Read an Oprah Book Club book)
40. A novella from your favorite genre -- Animal Farm by George Orwell
41. A book about a major world event (fiction or non-fiction) -- Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges (changed to Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow which I'm currently reading)
42. A top 100 fantasy novel -- The Princess Bride by William Goldman
43. A book about a thing that goes bump in the night -- The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
44. A book you're embarrassed to read in public -- Summer Sisters by Judy Blume (I wouldn't say I'm easily ashamed of reading books in public but this was on one of the lists they suggested)
45. A book related to a hobby or passion you have -- A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
46. A crime story -- In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
47. A book with a type of food/drink in the title -- The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
48. A dystopia -- Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro*
49. A book with a great opening line -- 1984 by George Orwell
50. A book originally written in a language other than English -- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
51. A short story from a well-known author -- The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury
52. A book published in 2016 -- When We Were Alive by Chelsea Fisher (changed to The Yoga of Max's Discontent by Karan Bajaj)*

As you can see I've changed a few of the books from the original list out of convenience and mood, but I'd like to stick to the original list more closely for the second half of the year.

Are you participating in the 52 Book Challenge? How are you doing? Any books you'd recommend I read next?

-S

Monday, July 11, 2016

BICYCLE, BICYCLE!


Today I went for a bicycle ride with my dad along the trail near my house that goes out towards Suttons Bay. We did not ride the whole trail but managed about eight miles out and back, sixteen miles total. Today was only my fourth time riding my road bike this year. A few years ago I had accomplished weeks worth of frequent riding time by this point in the summer. Sixteen miles would have been an easy ride for me back then, but it certainly wasn't easy for me today.

About half way out towards Suttons Bay the trail runs into Lakeview Hills Road. Before they paved the middle section of the trail a few years ago this was the turn off point for road bikers. You could take Lakeview Hills down and around and eventually connect back to the paved trail. This alternative route was slightly longer and a lot hillier, so when they finally paved the entire trail choosing to stay on the straighter, flatter path became the easier choice. Before I noticed, I had gone months and then years without taking the Lakeview Hills route. So today my dad and I decided to ride up the first two hills before turning around to head home.

Guys, I forgot how hard it is to climb hills. Years ago, after riding the same hills all summer I started to feel like I could climb anything. Unfortunately, time quickly erases those physical talents we once worked so hard to achieve. The first hill was deceptive and I conquered it pretty easily, but that second hill almost killed me. I was about one third of the way up the second hill when I started slowing down and felt a little like everything inside of me was falling apart. You know those cartoons where the character is driving along in a car and suddenly parts start falling off until the car is just an axel with wheels and a seat? Well that's how I imagined my ride up that second hill. I downshifted until I couldn't anymore and then all I had was the pedals and my feet. The entire time I was panting and kept thinking, "just keep going, just keep going." We have two choices when confronted with a challenge, we can either give up or keep pushing forward.

Eventually, I made it to the top of the second hill. As I tried to regain my breathe I was able to look out over the bright blue water and distant tree cover hills thankful that I didn't give up. Sometimes being able to see the world a little better is worth the pain of climbing a hill, especially if you haven't done it in a while. I finished today's ride with sore muscles and an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment.

-S

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Music For May


I haven't made a playlist for this blog in a while so I figured it was about time for something new. Despite the majority of the songs on this list having been released prior to 2016, I tried to stay true to the music I've been listening to the most this month. The list is full of catchy pop songs and rounded out with the occasional folk and rock track. Pop songs tend to be my spring time jams since they're great at getting me pumped for summer. You can also tell my KOL phases is still going strong this month. I made a full playlist on Youtube for anyone who wants to enjoy!

Birthday by Kings of Leon

Angela by The Lumineers

God Only Knows by The Beach Boys

The Sound by The 1975

If I Could Change Your Mind by Haim

Ain't No Man by The Avett Brothers

Dust in a Baggie by Billy Strings and Don Julin

Molly's Chambers by Kings of Leon

Dig Me Out by Sleater-Kinney

UGH! by The 1975

Soundtrack by Catfish and the Bottlemen

Cleopatra by The Lumineers

Wouldn't It Be Nice by The Beach Boys

I Ain't Gonna Work Tomorrow by Billy Strings and Don Julin

Please Pardon Yourself by The Avett Brothers

Forever by Haim

Stop Desire by Tegan and Sara

Fans by Kings of Leon

Can you believe it's been 50 years since The Beach Boy's album Pet Sounds was released? (That makes it sound like I was there 50 years ago... I was not) Those songs never get old. It took me a long time to figure out the track order for this playlist so hopefully it turned out alright in the end.

-S

What have you been listening to in May?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Only By The Night

So I've been doing a bit of digital spring cleaning and rerating of iTunes music recently after things got so messed up at the end of last year. The part I've been loving the most during the whole process is rediscovering old artists and albums I haven't listened to in a while. When you have a digital library of over 20,000 songs it's easy to lose bits in the shuffle. Even though my taste in music is constantly evolving and changing I rarely (if ever) get rid of music after I grow tired of the sound. In a way I think of my collection of music as a scrapbook, something I can use to piece together different places, people, emotions, and periods of my life.

Some of the music on my computer is only there for nostalgia purposes while other songs provide constant background noise to my daily routine; they don't represent a single point in time but many. There's quite a few playlists dedicated to high school and college favorites, songs that got me through some of my happiest and saddest days. I still listen to those playlists on occasion, not to relive the past but to remind myself of the different directions my life has taken so far (that and the music is still good in it's own right). My musical tastes change at the drop of a hat but things tend to come back around sooner or later.

***

I honestly can't remember when or where I first heard of Kings of Leon. I don't think it was before 2008 but I could be wrong. I lay no claim on knowing the band before they were "discovered" or anything like that. As far as I can remember I found them somewhere between the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009 (probably along with everyone else in America). I had heard Sex on Fire and Use Somebody on the internet somewhere (I know it was before the songs blew up on the radio) and in my enthusiasm downloaded everything of theirs I could find online at the time.

To me KOL has always sounded like a classic rock band with a successfully modern vibe, especially in the early years when their nods to the past were more than subtle. I like that you can pick out each individual instrument without the songs sounding like a hodgepodge of noise. Unlike certain pop or rock music these days, Kings of Leon is a band in whole. Much like rock bands of the past, each band member is showcased and not there simply to play backup to the lyrics. You can tell it's a collaborative effort.

Like most musical experiences my love and obsession went in phases. First the singles, then listening to entire albums on repeat, then slowly developing connections with each individual song. I went months, sometimes a year, without listening to KOL until eventually they'd release a new album or I would suddenly be in the mood for their sound again. I liked the edge I found in the songs, the sexiness of it and the angst. Only By The Night is the first album that I can remember loving every single song on the track list. Usually there's one or two weaker songs on an album; ones you aren't as inclined to listen to the third or fourth time around. That isn't the case for me with Only By The Night. When I did go back to their music it usually felt like returning home.

I studied those lyrics. Laying on my bed or on the floor of my room playing certain songs over and over again until everything started blending together. Their songs are like water to me. The music is fluid, it ripples and crashes in natural succession. Eventually it washes me clean, satisfying whatever it is that claws at my insides.

Last night when I was listening to the album for the first time in over a year I was amazed by how hard and fast I fell back into that music. Only By The Night, and Kings of Leon in general, was a staple throughout my college years. The album made appearances off and on but at least once a year I would go through a KOL phase. The band has amazing albums both before and after Only By The Night but my strongest connections are to those songs.

The live version of Manhattan reminds me of sitting around NMC during my first semesters of college, songs like Notion and Crawl put me back on the train to New York City in 2010, Frontier City returns me to the walks between classes on Western's campus with Biggby coffee in hand, I Want You reminds me of a certain crush I had during those years, and Cold Desert usually brings me back to all those nights I cried myself to sleep after drinking a bottle of wine alone in my room. For all of those reasons that album feel as much a part of me as those memories do. Only By The Night got me through all of that and I'm entirely grateful for the tiny moments of understanding I felt along the way.


So I can't tell you if Kings of Leon are the most talented band out there or if Only By The Night is one of the best album of all time. Music, like most artistic endeavors, is entirely subjective. These days it's enough just to play those songs again and add new memories to the list of old ones.

-S

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Passionate Style


So I was reading this interview recently with John Mayer where he discusses his style choices with GQ. When I first started reading the interview I kept thinking, oh man he's taking this so seriously. It was almost comical how intense he was about his sneaker collection, but as I kept reading that intensity became more admirable. Here's someone who makes a living as an artist and clearly living an artist lifestyle. John Mayer has completely accepted his evolving wardrobe choices as a part of himself. It's refreshing to hear someone actually taking their clothes seriously in a way that is relatable. He's not Lady Gaga defending her meat dress, he's just defending his desire to wear tibetan robes as a part of his every day wardrobe. He's not even ashamed of being called "worst dressed."

Some days it seems the whole world is taking itself too seriously while other times we're all too busy being sarcastic to genuinely like stuff anymore. Then here's John Mayer being ridiculously passionate about clothes he puts on his body and you just think, "why not?" Why are more people not passionate about the type of clothes they wear every day? Why do we obsess over what we look like on special occasions but act like we don't care on regular days?

I'm not saying people should always go out looking perfect and that no one should ever go to the grocery store in yoga pants and a sweatshirt, but it would be nice if our wardrobes were a better reflection of our personal styles. Of course I realize this type of thing takes time and our tastes, like our personalities, are ever evolving. Maybe people should just start wearing what they like more often than what they think other people like. Wardrobes should be built on an individual not on a societal norm. That way any time you put on jeans and a t-shirt or slip into a dress you feel those items comfortably represent what you're trying to say or the person you're trying to be.

So be passionate, if not about your wardrobe, about something.
Be daring. If you see something you like don't be afraid to try it out.
And most importantly, be yourself. Whoever that is.

-S

Monday, March 21, 2016

Hello Spring!

Hello and happy Spring everyone!



Spring is such an exciting time of the year. The snow is melting, the weather is getting warmer, the flowers are blooming, and the air just smells different. Typically in Michigan the first day of Spring is just another day of winter but this year we had green grass and sunshine to welcome the new season.

I don't know about you but I've officially caught Spring fever. I can't wait to get outside and my to-do list is getting longer every day. Here's a few things I'm looking forward to this season.

-Fresh flowers

-The farmers market

-Spring cleaning

-Bright colors

-Sunshine

-No more tights

-Lighter jackets

-The Dairy Lodge

-Saturdays in the park

-Fresh starts

-A wedding!


-S