Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Authors I've Read The Most Books From

Hi everyone! Happy Tuesday!

For this week's Top Ten Tuesday, the folks over at The Broke and the Bookish are asking us to name the top ten authors we've read the most books from! At first I wasn't sure if I could answer this question, but after looking through my reading log and Goodreads, I'm pretty sure I got the big ones. :)

Let me know below if we have any in common, or if there is an author you think I should check out.

1. John Flanagan: I actually wasn't that surprised since I currently have......16 of his books on my shelves and I just finished rereading them not that long ago. His middle grade/young adult series, The Ranger's Apprentice, has long been a favorite of mine. It's just....fun reading.

2. William Shakespeare: I'm not surprised by this one either. To date, I've read more than half of his plays, all of his sonnets, and have plans to read everything at some point. I love the bard.

3. Edith Wharton: Considering my obsession with her fabulous work, I knew she would be on this list. I've read a good majority of her novels, but I still have a small chunk to go. I keep meaning to pick up A Backward Glance, but never seem to make the time.

4. Charles Dickens: AH! My arch-nemesis....oh, I'm kidding. I consider Dickens to be a frenemy at this point. And I have read a good chunk of his work. I planning on launching into a Dickens fervor when school picks back up, so I'll be adding on more titles to my read list.

5. Willa Cather: I still have so many Cather titles to read, and The Song of the Lark has been sitting on my nightstand for far too long.

6. J.K. Rowling: Another one that I'm not surprised by. I actually want to do another reread....too soon?

7. Andrew Smith: When I saw his name in my top ten on Goodreads, I was bit shocked, but I do have a bunch of his novels on my shelf, and not one of them is unread. He's fabulous.

8. Rick Riordan: Another one that popped up on my Goodreads list that I was surprised by! I still need to read The Blood of Olympus (after I went and bought it the day it came out.....) and the Kane Chronicles!

9. Bill Willingham: Oh, you author of Fables you...it's easy for his titles to rack up since they're comics, but I love them. So much. I can't wait to read the rest of the series!

10. Sara Douglass: I haven't read a book by Douglass since before I started blogging, but I've read everything she published. If you're looking for a great fantasy writer, give her a try. I loved her books. :)

There you have it! I like that my list has a lot of diversity! What does yours look like?

Friday, August 7, 2015

Reads and Randoms for July 2015.

This post is going up a little later than I would like considering that it's August already, but it's here!

Every month I'm doing a little recap of the books I read, as well as other random things that are highlights from the month. It's a fun way to grab everything that happened in a condense version, and allows me to give little reviews when I don't have time to write about everything (that's something I'm learning to come to terms with as I know I'll always be busy with school commitments, etc).

Anyways, July was a great month for both reading and general life excitement. Let's get into the fun stuff.

July Reads:

I ended up reading 9 books this month, which wasn't what I had planned on, but I'm happy with it. :) I read 3 more comics, listened to a full audiobook, and read a diverse chunk of fiction.

Fables Volumes 9-11 by Bill Willingham

I am still making my way through the Fables series. I did get through a big story arc, so I'm okay with waiting another month or two to continue the series. I know the last volume (22) just came out, so I do want to finish this series this year! If you like comics, this is definitely a great choice!

100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith

I love Andrew Smith, and with each book of his that I read, I fall more and more in love with his style of storytelling. I did manage to write a full post on this one, so feel free to check it out for my thoughts. I'm anxious to read the rest of his books (I have 3 to go), so they're on my wishlist to acquire. 

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Truthfully, this is not a title I would have picked up on my own, but there is a fellow English/Social Studies teacher at school who is also a huge reader. She reads a lot more contemporary fiction than I do, as well as memoirs, and sometimes our tastes are not the same. But I decided to give this one a go, and I'm glad I did! It's a very fast read with an interesting premise-woman faints at the gym and hits her head, and when she wakes, she thinks she's 29, not 39. It's a great story about our decisions in life and the "how did I get here?" question. I enjoyed it and have another of her books on my shelf (checked out from our media center). I'm hoping to get to it by the end of the summer. 

To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

I didn't put in my pre-order for GSAW until 3 days before it was released...mainly because I wasn't sure if I wanted to read it. But, in an impulsive moment, I decided to reread TKAM and order GSAW. I read both within 4 days and posted my thoughts shortly after finishing (read them here). I'm still not fully sure how I feel about GSAW, but I'm glad I read it. 

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

After being incredibly indecisive about what book to read next, I took to instagram (follow me @alliedanielson) and this was the pick! I'm really glad you all bullied me into reading it because I loved it! It was a great story about a little known piece of American history, and it had a lot of elements I really love in a piece of historical fiction. My thoughts will be up in the next week. :)

The Martian by Andy Weir

This was probably my favorite book of the month! I gushed about it in a blog post already, but I want to restate that I REALLY enjoyed this (to the point where I'm thinking of listening to it again on vacation next week). I think the audiobook really did it for me, so if you're hesitant, go that route! I'm also super anxious for the movie to come out...just overall, phenomenal. 

Overall, July was a great reading month!

The Randoms:

My new planner. I know that's kind of ridiculous, but I love being able to organize myself in one location. I used to use planners religiously in college, but fell out of the habit a few years ago. It feels great to have a place to organize myself and set realistic goals for each day. I know it's going to help so much once school starts. 

Turning 30. Yep, hit the big 30 this month. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, and my mom made that awesome cake. haha. We celebrated my sister, my sister-in-law, and my birthday on the same day! I also went out with friends and family the night of and had a great time. It wasn't as traumatic as I thought it would be. ;)

I actually did 2 painting nights this month. The painting above comes from an evening with the English department. We went out to dinner and then painted. It was a lot of fun to be out and away from school together. I also went with my mom and sister a couple weeks later. :) Torrie had never been, so it was pretty hilarious.

Spending a lot of time with family. Here I am with my sister and husband at a wedding. I spent a lot of time with Torrie this month while she was home (she left a week ago to go back to LA), and it was great. Sometimes I started to kick myself for not getting some school work done, or reading, or blogging, but family came first this month. 

My 30th birthday present from my husband. :) He custom-painted a bass guitar for me in my favorite color. I'm slowly learning how to play, and I love it. 

We took a few days to go up north to Matt's family's cabin and a group of friends came with. Torrie came, as she had never been up there, and it was a fabulous few days of good food, taking pictures, reading, and just having a great time being together with friends. Torrie is above taking some pictures in one of the fields. 

Torrie and I also took Zoey, my goddaughter and niece, to the zoo one day, It was really hot on the day we went (94??), but we had a great time with her. She's a riot and so sassy, and I love spending time with her. Our new thing is that I call her a weirdo and she tells me I'm a weirdo. :) 

Probably the biggest thing that happened all month was this. My first tattoo. :) Matt took me on my 30th birthday, and I was happy to get this-something I've wanted for a very, very long time. This line comes from Homer's The Odyssey, and is a great reminder that I can find inspiration and hope in anything.

Well, that was my July in a nutshell. Looking back at it, and all those pictures....I had a fabulous month. I've been so happy the last few months. It goes to show you what changing your mindset can do. Here's to a great August (which is already underway!). 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

“He pushed her in. And then he pulled her out. All her life, Lydia would remember one thing. All his life, Nath would remember another.” 

This book gave me a serious book hangover. It hit me very deeply, and I'm still not sure I've processed it enough to actually write about it, but I'm going to try.

The book opens with the knowledge that Lydia, daughter of Marilyn and James Lee, has died. Her body is pulled from a nearby lake, and while the authorities believe it to be a suicide, her parents are not ready to let her go that easily, especially Lydia's mother. Her siblings, Nath and Hannah, are in shock, and secrets begin to surface.

Prior to her death, Lydia was a good student and her mother had large dreams for her to go into medicine, something she had given up years before when she met and married James, and got pregnant shortly after. Lydia is her mother's beacon of a successful and happy like, and Marilyn would do anything to guarantee her daughter's success. James, on the other hand, really knows nothing about his family. He's a ghost in his own family as he focuses on his work at the local college. And while he wants the best for his children, he's not sure how to go about it. He wants them to be popular, to be successful, but has no experience with either given his own struggles growing up.

As for Lydia's siblings, little Hannah is all but forgotten by the other members of the family. She is pushed aside and often lingers in the shadows. Nath was probably Lydia's best friend until recently, but thinks she was hanging out with the wrong kind of guy. 

The book slowly unravels the secrets of the Lee family as the investigation continues and each of the family members comes to term with their own grief. It's heartbreaking. 

But as the characters grieve, we learn their secrets and that not everything is as it seems. It's a book about those secrets and the fact that even though you live with someone, talk to them, doesn't mean that you understand them and their struggles.

“The things that go unsaid are often the things that eat at you--whether because you didn't get to have your say, or because the other person never got to hear you and really wanted to.” 

I think that stood out to me the most about this book. That family's do have secrets. I know there are things that I went through in my life that my siblings probably didn't, and still don't, know about. And vice versa. And I'm sure that there were times when my parents heard and felt and saw what they wanted to see from each of us. Or that we pretended to feel, see, or hear just to satisfy my parents. I think that's how family works. And this story solidifies that.

It's a powerful story, and one that I'm still thinking about a month later.

“All of that will be gone by morning. Instead, they will dissect this last evening for years to come. What had they missed that they should have seen? What small gesture, forgotten, might have changed everything? They will pick it down to the bones, wondering how this had all gone so wrong, and they will never be sure.”

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Martian by Andy Weir.

“He’s stuck out there. He thinks he’s totally alone and that we all gave up on him. What kind of effect does that have on a man’s psychology?” He turned back to Venkat. “I wonder what he’s thinking right now.” 

LOG ENTRY: SOL 61 How come Aquaman can control whales? They’re mammals! Makes no sense.” 

The Martian was my most recent audiobook (I only listen to books when at the gym). When I was looking for a new book to listen to, I wanted something that would keep my attention and motivate me to go back to the gym to keep "reading." And I had heard good things about Weir's novel, and after the husband showed me the trailer for the movie, I bought it on Audible and started listening the very next day. 

In short, I loved this. Seriously, loved this. 

Mark Watney was left behind on Mars when the crew of the Ares 3 mission took him for dead during a dust storm and evacuated. His crew and NASA assumed him to be dead, when really, all he had was a small injury. Alone on Mars, Watney had to use all of his strength, courage, and knowledge to find a way to contact Earth and survive. The Martian is the story of Watney's struggle to contact Earth and survive using only the resources NASA sent with Ares 3. 

It's a fabulous novel. It's well-researched and detailed in the scientific aspects (I do wonder how I would feel about those pieces had I read and not listened to the novel-the narrator was excellent). While I'm not a scientist (far from it), I could follow the explanations, especially as Watney had quite a sense of humor about everything....

"The screen went black before I was out of the airlock. Turns out the “L” in “LCD” stands for “Liquid.” I guess it either froze or boiled off. Maybe I’ll post a consumer review. “Brought product to surface of Mars. It stopped working. 0/10.” 

I think that Watney's sense of humor and flippancy about his situation is what actually sold me on the novel. I've noted that in some of the criticism of the novel, many point out that he never gets down or depressed about his situation. That lack of emotion on Watney's fault somehow makes the novel better for me. Because instead of hearing how upset he is (and doomed), Watney is a man of action, and he is constantly looking for the best way to survive, and perhaps get rescued. His sense of humor is what made me want to keep listening. Take this...

“I can't wait till I have grandchildren. When I was younger, I had to walk to the rim of a crater. Uphill! In an EVA suit! On Mars, ya little shit! Ya hear me? Mars!”

It just brings a smile to my face. :)

Or this....

“I'm calling it the Watney Triangle because after what I've been through, shit on Mars should be named after me.”

The whole novel is filled with little gems.

I digress...

Really, the book is a modern day Robinson Crusoe and I love those types of survival stories. It's moving and inspiring and in some ways makes me want to go climb a mountain (if that makes any sense). And in contrast to Watney, we also get the story back on Earth. We see what NASA sees, hear their conversations about trying to save Watney, and the whole thing is heroic and thrilling and something I didn't want to stop listening to. 

So yes, I loved it. 

“If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally human that it's found in every culture without exception. Yes, there are assholes who just don't care, but they're massively outnumbered by the people who do.” 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

"I Have Been" July 2015

This is a little meme that I do from time to time. I don't remember where I initially saw it, but it's a fun little questionnaire that I see making rounds on the blogs from time to time. And since I'm spending a few hours tonight blogging, I thought this would be a great way to procrastinate some more. HA! :)

I have been:

Like I said, I'm in the midst of a blogging binge. I'm really struggling getting back into blogging. I feel like my writing is forced, which is why you've seen minimal reviews from me over the last few weeks. It's not that I'm not reading (I AM), but I'm struggling writing out my thoughts. I've lost my blogging mojo.

I just finished listening to Andy Weir's The Martian last night. It was my gym "read" but I had a couple hours left and spent two hours coloring just to finish it (I was in a tense spot and couldn't put it down...err...shut it off). I'm probably going to read volume 11 of Fables tonight, but I'm not sure what my next novel will be...maybe All the Light We Cannot See?
I've become a huge Spotify nut, and I'm currently listening to the Afternoon Acoustic playlist, which is a favorite of mine. :)
We have been meaning to watch the third season of Orange is the New Black since it came out, but we keep coming up with excuses! We are re-watching the entire South Park series at the moment...as my husband says....everything about me says I would hate it, but I seriously love that show. Feel free to judge.
At my screen? (I always think this is a weird question) If I look to the left, I can see my summer shelf...where I brought home a pile of things to work on....I should be doing that....
I recently bought a new planner (by Erin Condren) and I'm determined to get my life organized. I've been learning a lot about the planner community and how crazy some people get (really...just search it on YouTube). And while I would love to go all out, I don't have the time or money to buy all those stickers and such, So, I'm learning some other ways to organize my life and get my goals on track. 
Pretty good. We're going to the gym later and it's Abs day, so I know that if I had done this survey tomorrow, I'm sure I'd be complaining about my abs hurting. But really, I'm feeling pretty good. Truthfully, since giving up Diet Coke and all other pop in early April, I've felt pretty fabulous. Minimal headaches. Only minor Lupus flares. Hmmm.
I'm leaving in a couple weeks for a vacation with my husband, mom, and brother to Orlando. We're spending most of the time at the pool, and it'll be great to get away. :) And since we're staying at my parents' timeshare, it's free for us. ;)
For a longer summer...hahaha, no, I'm kidding. I do wish I could be a little more focused and on top of getting some planning done, but I know I won't start until August (I like to enjoy some of my summer), so it'll all get done before school starts. 
Spending a lot of time with my husband. I ask him periodically if he's ready for me to go back to work yet, and so far, he hasn't said yes. ;) But really, it's good to spend a lot of time together!