Monday, December 30, 2013

End of the Year Book Survey 2013!

A couple of weeks ago I came across The Perpetual Page-Turner's 4th Annual End of Year Book Survey- 2013 Edition! and immediately thought, "I need to do this!" Then I accidentally forgot all about that post until I saw it in my likes on Bloglovin. Thank goodness for Bloglovin! So here goes...

1. Best Book You Read in 2013?
It's a tough choice, but I'm going to say The Book Thief by Markus Zusak was my favorite book. I read a number of books this year that I would add to my top favorites of all time. I think what puts The Book Thief above others is the combination of story line, writing style/quality, and having death as a narrator. The book has everything going for it and I never wanted it to end. I will definitely be reading more books from Markus Zusak.

2. Book You Were Excited About and Thought You Were Going to Love More but Didn't?
It's a tie between Ender's Game and Franny and Zooey. I was really excited to finally read both books this year, but they ended up only being so/so for me.

3. Most Surprising (in a Good Way!) Book of 2013?
I was really surprised by how much I loved Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. When my friend brought over a stack of books to loan me I took one look at the cover and thought, "nah, definitely not my kind of book." I'm so glad I decided to give this book a chance anyways, because it turned out to be much better than I was expecting.

4. Book You Read in 2013 That You Recommended to People Most in 2013?
The Book Thief, although for the first half of the year I recommended The Art of Racing In the Rain to quite a few people as well.

5. Best Series You Discovered in 2013?
The Shatter Me series.

6. Favorite New Author You Discovered in 2013?
In terms of authors I had no idea existed before this year, I'd say Tahereh Mafi.

7. Best Book That Was Out of Your Comfort Zone or Was a New Genre For You?

I never in my life thought that I would read and enjoy a romance novel, but I actually liked the Losing It series by Cora Carmack.

8. Most Thrilling, Unputdownable Book in 2013?

Angels and Demons by Dan Brown. 

9. Book You Read in 2013 That You Are Most Likely to Re-read Next Year?

Anna and the French Kiss. I was ready to re-read the book 10 minutes after putting it down, but I am forcing myself to wait until next year. I want to re-read Looking for Alaska as well.

10. Favorite Cover of a Book You Read in 2013?
I love the cover for The Ocean At The End Of The Lane.

11. Most Memorable Character in 2013?

I think it's a tie between Alaska Young and Hans Hubermann. The feels. Both of these characters had a major impact on me and I was not prepared.

12. Most Beautifully Written Book Read in 2013?

The Book Thief. Not only was Markus Zusak's story writing extraordinary, but his use of language was beautiful. It's like each piece of the puzzle was beautiful on it's own and then he put it together to make something even more dazzling.

13. Book That Had The Greatest Impact on You in 2013?

And no surprise here. The Book Thief, again. Seriously go read the book if you haven't. It's more than just a story about Nazi Germany, it's about family and personal struggle and everything. This book will make you feel all the things.

14. Book You Can't Believe You Waited Until 2013 to Finally Read?

I read so many books this year that have been on my shelf or my to-read list forever, but I'm really happy I finally got around to reading The Hobbit. I can't believe my mom never read me this book as a kid! I loved it!

And because I can't just pick one book; I also can't believe I waited so long to read Anna and the French Kiss and Looking for Alaska.

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From a Book You Read in 2013?

“No matter how careful you are, there's going to be the sense you missed something, the collapsed feeling under your skin that you didn't experience it all. There's that fallen heart feeling that you rushed right through the moments where you should've been paying attention.
Well, get used to that feeling. That's how your whole life will feel some day.
This is all practice.” - Chuck Palahniuk (Invisible Monsters)

16. Shortest and Longest Book You Read in 2013?
Life Without Principle by Henry David Thoreau was the shortest book I read with 48 pages, and Angels and Demons was the longest book I read with 569 pages.

17. Book That Had a Scene in it That Had You Reeling and Dying to Talk to Somebody About it? (a wtf moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc. etc.)

I think Losing It had a lot of wtf moments in it for me or times when I just couldn't stop laughing. *Spoilers* When Bliss first attempts to lose her virginity and uses her non-existant cat as an excuse to get out of the situation last minute, I nearly died. I laughed for a good 10 minutes and immediately texted my friend who had already read the book to discuss it.

18. Favorite Relationship From a Book You Read in 2013 (be it romantic, friendship, etc.)?

These questions are hard. I'm going with Enzo and Denny because there is something extra special about the relationship between a man and his dog.

19. Favorite Book You Read in 2013 From an Author You've Read Previously?

Looking For Alaska by John Green.

20. Best Book You Read in 2013 That You Read Based Solely on a Recommendation From Somebody Else?

There's a few books that I read for school earlier in the year that I would have never picked up myself. In terms of non-school related books, I don't think I would have ever read Adulting if my friend hadn't recommended it to me.

21. Genre You Read The Most From in 2013?

Does general fiction count? I don't think I read any genre within that category more than another.

22. Newest Fictional Crush From a Book You Read in 2013?

Etienne St. Clair from Anna and the French Kiss. It seemed inevitable, besides the fact that I totally envisioned him looking like Olly Murs, St. Clair makes you feel all the emotions. He's the kind of character you want to help, but not the bad boy kind you want to change, the good kind that just need a hug. Plus he's British and i can't help myself.

23. Best 2013 Debut You Read?

Adulting by Kelly Williams Brown. Based off Brown's successful blog, the book is a compilation of steps on how to conduct your life as an adult. The book is perfect for any post-grad and/or anyone who's in their early-20's.

24. Most Vivid World/Imagery in a Book You Read in 2013?

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman contained some fantastic imagery. The story really jumped out at me and I still feel the need to make something artistic based off of the novel.

25. Book That Was The Most Fun to Read in 2013?

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was quirky and quick, just what I was expecting. It was a fun read.

26. Book That Made You Cry or Nearly Cry in 2013?

Oh man, I cry so easily, there's definitely more than one book. Looking For Alaska, Everything is Illuminated, The Art of Racing in the Rain, The Last Lecture, The Book Thief, Faking It, Anna and the French Kiss. I feel like I cried/almost cried during other books, but I really can't remember at this point.

27. Book You Read in 2013 That You Think Got Overlooked This Year or When it Came Out?

None that I can think of. I tend to read books that are/have been popular.

And out of the optional questions...

- New Favorite Book Blog You Discovered in 2013?

I haven't read many book blogs before this year. The Perpetual Page Turner (who made this survey) has probably been my favorite discovery in that genre.

- Did You Complete Any Reading Challenges or Goals You Had For 2013?
Yes! My goal for the 2013 Reading Challenge on Goodreads was 30 books and I've read 34 books at the moment. I'm currently reading The Da Vinci Code and Something Blue, which will both hopefully be finished before the first of January.

Friday, December 20, 2013


I can't believe it's already the 20th of December. Where has this month gone? Where has this year gone? Luckily, I have the majority of my Christmas shopping over with (there's only one person left) so I haven't felt the pre-Christmas pressure as much within the last week. Tomorrow is our family Christmas for my dad's side of the family. Unfortunately I'm on call for work, but I'm hoping that it doesn't become one of those rare days I actually have to work. Hopefully tomorrow I can sit back with the family and....

It's been non-stop snowing outside for what seems like the past couple of weeks. I love when everything is white and pretty outside but I'm definitely sick of shoveling the driveway every day.

Tonight I have plans to see White Christmas at the State Theater with my friend Sandy. We had dinner the other night and both decided we couldn't miss out on our holiday movie tradition. You know there's nothing I love more than seeing Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye pretending to be the Haynes sisters.

Do you guys have any holiday traditions with friends? Do you have separate Christmas (or other holidays) for your different families?


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Baking Cookies

There has been a long standing tradition for my brother and I to bake sugar cookies with my grandparents for the holidays. When we were younger it would end up being an all day ordeal of baking and decorating, followed by hot dogs roasted in the fireplace and a ride around town to see all the lights (complete with popcorn). We take traditions very seriously in my family (can you tell?) Over the years things have changed. My grandparents would bake the cookies before we got there and we no longer packed into the car for a night drive, but we always managed to make cookie decorating happen.

We cheated and bought the Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie mix.

Why does dough always have to be such a challenge?

This year we hadn't planned anything, until I casually mentioned making cookies to my mom one night. Personally I favor peanut butter cookies over the sugar cookies when it comes to taste, but you don't decorate PB blossoms. It wasn't the same without my grandma there. Even though the last few years she has needed lots of help making the dough, her decorating skills were still spot on. Nothing is quite the same after you lose someone, but it's nice keeping up traditions even in their absence. I'm incredibly thankful I have so many wonderful memories with her from years past.

I'm bummed I didn't get any pictures of after we decorated the cookies. I was too busy licking frosting off my fingers. My grandpa must have gotten rid (or we used up) some of the sprinkles from years past because we typically have a surplus of decorating options, but we could only find a few different kinds of sprinkles this year. Instead we improvised with M&M's and some food coloring. Our cookies definitely looked different than anything we'd made in the past, but sometimes deviation leads to the best surprises.

The mixer also broke while we were making the frosting so that was an added challenge. We had to adapt to the old school ways of hand mixing. Not as fun as it looks, but my right arm got a great work out today.

Do you have any cookie making traditions? What holiday cookies are your favorite?


Thursday, December 12, 2013

My Favorite Christmas Movies

I love holiday movies and luckily there's plenty of places to find them on TV this time of year. Many Christmas movies hold special memories for me (as they do for many), so I decided to share a few of my favorites. Besides White Christmas being at the top of the list, I wouldn't exactly say these are in any particular order.

1. White Christmas: I love this movie for many reasons. One: the music, two: the dancing, three being that my grandparents introduced me to the movie. There were certain things I could only do at my grandparents' houses growing up, mostly because they owned something my family did not. The limit of those things helps make them extra special through the years. Growing up, my grandpa and grandma Strong were the ones who owned White Christmas on VHS and once I had seen its magic there was no tearing me away. I fell in love with the dancing, the dresses, and their voices. I spent hours contemplating Vera-Ellen's tiny waist and the tone of Bing Crosby's voice. The movie is everything I love wrapped into a wonderful Christmas package.

2. Elf: This movie is always good for a laugh. There are so many hilarious quotes come from this film. Plus I love Will Ferrell.

3. It's a Wonderful Life: What better way to remind yourself how wonderful life really is. Value the life you have! An amazing movie that will warm your heart in the winter cold.

4. The Year Without a Santa Claus: Let's face it the Misers and their little song and dance is what puts this movie above the other holiday claymation movies (at least in my mind). I wanted to add all the wonderful claymation and animated holiday movies like Rudolph and Frosty to this list, but there just wasn't enough room. Also, Santa is important.

5. The Santa Clause: It came out when I was a kid and we have watched it as a family a lot over the years. Some good memories are tied to this movie as well. I wish they would have stopped after the first one though, 2 and 3 aren't that great.

6. Home Alone: This was another movie I could only watch at my grandparents. Home Alone was the one movie I always (literally every single trip) watched when we visited my grandparents in Grand Rapids. I have no idea how many times I have watched this movie (or really any of these) but it's a lot. I always tear up at the end, it never fails.

7. Love Actually: Speaking of crying, this is another movie that gets me going. Love, man. There's so many good aspects to this movie. I mean it's a bunch of famous English actors with lovely story lines. Love Actually is the type of movie that makes you simultaneously laugh and cry, it does stuff to your emotions.

8. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (Animated Short): I'm not the biggest fan of the newer movie with Jim Carrey, which is why I felt the need to be specific about this choice. The animated movie is another classic in my house. It was one of the movies we had taped on VHS along with a bunch of other holiday movies. I wish we still had a VHS player because one of my favorite things about watching our old tapes instead of them on TV now is the old commercials.

9. Miracle on 34th Street: I'm putting the newer version on this list mostly because it was the one I watched as a child (even though it is equally as good if not slightly better). I didn't actually watch the original version until a few years ago. Anyway, another great movie about the importance of Santa Claus, as a symbol for hope, faith, and all the good that can happen during the holiday season.

10. The Polar Express: There's a lot of Christmas traditions in my family, and one of those special traditions is my mom reading The Polar Express on Christmas eve to my brother and I. My mom has done this ever since I can remember. We still do it, even though both my brother and I are in our twenties and no longer believe in Santa. When the movie came out we all went to go see it together. I love Tom Hanks and everything that was added to the story.

Honorable mentions include,

- The Holiday: I love this movie (it might even rank up there with all time favorites), but I watch it all year round. I don't limit this movie to the holiday time period like most of the movies listed above, so I'm putting it here instead.

- It Happened on 5th Avenue: I just watched this for the first time last week and felt the need to include it on the list.

What are your favorite holiday movies? Is there anything I need to add to the list?


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Have Courage

We've all heard the phrase, "life is what you make of it," but I like to believe that life is what you dare to make of it. Any person can live, but not all people experience life to the same extent. The things that scare us are often the things we have the least regret doing. By living courageously, we are constantly expanding our view of the world and diminishing the fears that hold us back.

I'm not saying being courageous is easy or at all comfortable, but the outcome is usually worth it. You can't let fear hold you back. Whether you're afraid of a job, or a roller coaster, or going out with friends, or running a 5k, whatever it is, face those fears head on.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Calming Effect

I discovered London based artist Sam Garrett via Youtube recently and have loving the mellow vibe of his music. Garrett's sound reminds me of musicians like Ben Howard and Mishka, landing comfortably between the two.

If you like these songs, Sam Garrett's EP is available on iTunes and is definitely worth buying.