Friday, December 29, 2017

Best Books of 2017

I love this annual post. It's so fun to look back and reflect on the best books I read over the course of the year. You can find the 2012201320142015, and 2016 versions in the archives (or by following the links). I know some of you have been reading since the very beginning and I hope you enjoy this yearly tradition as much as I do.

If you're interested in this kind of post, I would also encourage you to go back and read the post I did for a Top Ten Tuesday mid-way through the year. I listed my ten favorite books of the year thus far and I used Meryl Streep gifs to represent them all. It's awesome. I also did a great post in August when I finished the 100 Best Novels challenge about my favorite books from that.

A note of procedure, I only ever select new reads for this post. I love rereading books and I have done more of it in the past couple years, but so often I reread books because I love them. It doesn't feel fair to include them in these "awards" because they've already made enough of an impression on me to be reread.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Crown - Robert Lacey

The Crown
Title: The Crown: The Official Companion, Volume 1: Elizabeth II, Winston Churchill, and the Making of a Young Queen
Author: Robert Lacey
Publication Date: 10/17/2017
Pages: 322
Genre: Biography / Historical / Royals / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
Date Completed: 12/15/17

Summary: Going episode by episode, this book covers the history, writing decisions, and production behind each episode of Netflix's hit drama, The Crown.

What I Thought: When Netflix announced they would be creating a drama based on the life of Queen Elizabeth II, I was so excited. As you well know, I am a huge fan of the British royal family. If you've watched the show, you know the production values are huge, the costumes are gorgeous, and the acting is absolutely top notch. It's received well deserved recognition.

I really enjoyed the first season of the show. The Fug Girls raised some very legitimate concerns in their recaps of the show, mainly that for a show about one of the most powerful women in the world, there's an awfully large focus on the men in the story. It's something I'm hoping they rectify in future seasons, although the promotions I've seen for the second season (which just came out!) do not have me optimistic on that front.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!

Last year, in my Christmas post, I mused that, even in the darkest world, there is hope and love. 2017 has been evidence of that for me. This has been a long, hard year for us in a plethora of ways. And yet, I am much more hopeful than I was a year ago.

It's a beautiful thing to feel this time of year. I'm sure the days leading up to that first Christmas did not feel very hopeful. Personal upheaval and political oppression were certainly at the forefront of Mary's mind as she traveled to Bethlehem with Joseph. I imagine she cursed the Romans a few times under her breath as she rode a donkey across the country at nine months pregnant just to be counted in a census. And I have no doubt they had some thoughts when they got to town and found no rooms available. Had they had to make too many bathroom stops for the pregnant lady? Or maybe one of them was chronically late and they didn't leave Nazareth when they planned. Whatever the reason, they must have felt exhausted and at the end of their rope.

And then....

Hope. Joy. Life.

The world didn't see it that night. Jesus did not come as a political victor or a military warrior. The biggest change began in the most humble of places. That's the hope I'm leaning on this year. Change is coming from quiet conversations, silent acts of kindness, the daily grind of hard work toward equality. Change starts small because it starts with a change in each of us and what we prioritize. Even the world-altering change Jesus brings begins in individual hearts and lives.

I hope that this Christmas you find hope in the small change.

I hope you feel safe and valued.

I hope the hurt in your heart, whatever it is, feels smaller than the love.

I hope this coming year is life-giving and shapes you into an even better version of yourself.

And, I hope you can find time and space for books at some point this season.

Merry Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Upstairs at the White House - J. B. West

Upstairs at the White House
Title: Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies
Author: J. B. West
Publication Date: 1973
Pages: 381
Genre: Historical / Memoir / Political / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I love presidential history.
Date Completed: 12/11/17

Summary: West worked at the White House for twenty-five years. He reflects on his time serving some of our most memorable first families. 

What I Thought: I've loved reading presidential history, specifically first family history, since I was in elementary school. I think it feeds the same part of me that loves the royals. It's not just celebrity culture; there's a layer of historical import that gives it that added interesting bonus for me. 

J. B. West's memoir is well known among people like me who are into this stuff. Really, I'm not sure why it took me so long to pick it up. His career at the White House spanned from the Franklin Roosevelt presidency to the first weeks of Richard Nixon's. He saw some momentous times and interacted regularly with some of American history's most fascinating players.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The 39 Clues - Books 5 & 6

The 39 Clues: The Black Circle
Title: The 39 Clues: The Black Circle
Author: Patrick Carman
Publication Date: 8/11/2009
Pages: 168
Date Completed: 11/16/17

Title: The 39 Clues: In Too Deep
Author: Jude Watson
Publication Date: 11/3/2009
Pages: 206
Date Completed: 11/26/17

Summary: The Cahill hunt for clues continues through Russia and the Pacific.

The 39 Clues: In Too Deep
What I Thought: Part of me finds it baffling that we are still reading this series. It's just so....bad? That's not the right word. Ridiculous. That's the word. These books are no masterpiece literary works. And, yet, they are so fun and crazy. They are short and make for perfect road trip books for us. Sometimes we get weighed down with long books and we never end up finishing them. These audiobooks are only about four hours each, so that's much more manageable for us and still leaves us plenty of time for podcasts. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Fierce Kingdom - Gin Phillips

Fierce Kingdom
Title: Fierce Kingdom
Author: Gin Phillips
Publication Date: 7/25/2017
Pages: 288
Genre: Thriller / Fiction
How I Found It: I can't remember.
Date Completed: 11/25/17

Summary: A mother and her young son find themselves trapped in the zoo, trying to avoid becoming victims of a mass shooting.

What I Thought: I read this book in a day. It's not long and it goes quickly. It's hard to put down at points. You just want to know the characters' fates. 

To me, this is a perfect book to pick up if you want a quick thrill and aren't as worried about character development or a perfect plot. It's not perfectly crafted, but it's does it's job. 

I was a little disappointed by the lack of animals in this book. I know that sounds weird, but it takes place in a zoo. It seemed like there should have been more presence of the animals and their keepers. Most of the book felt like our characters were running around a basically abandoned zoo and that did not ring true to me. This really could have been the story of a mass shooting just about anywhere (ugh...I hate that these events are so frequent they seem commonplace) and I wanted more of the zoo-specific element.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Three - Sarah Lotz

The Three
Title: The Three
Author: Sarah Lotz
Publication Date: 5/20/2014
Pages: 471
How I Found It: Unabridged Chick reviewed it a few months back.
Date Completed: 11/25/17

Summary: Four commercial airlines crash on the same fateful day. In three of the crashes, a young child miraculously survives. The premise of the book is a reporter investigating the events and what followed. 

What I Thought: I picked up this book because one of my favorite fellow book bloggers, Unabridged Chick, reviewed it a while ago. I was looking for something creepy to read around Halloween. While I didn't get this around the holiday, it still made for a creepy read over Thanksgiving. She has a fabulous review of the book, so you should definitely go read that (link above). 

I started this with Kevin as an audiobook. He lost interest really quickly and we switched to another option. I was intrigued, though; enough to keep reading the ebook version. Having experienced both formats to an extent, I definitely think the print version worked better for this book. The audiobook dragged, something Unabridged Chick warned. 

Friday, December 1, 2017

November 2017 Chapter

Welcome to the Read.Write.Repeat. monthly wrap-up.  Every month, I give a quick overview of what books I read, the progress made on my reading goals, a few book-related links, and general blog news.  

November News 

It's been a busy month. As we near the end of the semester, it always feels as though everything is happening at once and it all needs my immediate attention. I am so ready to be done for the semester. Just another week and a half to go! Of course, I already have a long list of things I want to accomplish over the break. What kind of person plans out and schedules their relaxation activities? Me. That's who.

As predicted, November proved too crazy to really do much NaNoWriMo work. I did pretty well for the first ten days or so. I didn't have a concrete idea, so I dug out the very first manuscript I ever wrote as an pre-teen and attempted to rework that. I actually got pretty excited about it; it's surprisingly not terrrible. Well, it's terribly written, but the bones of the thing are decent. Half way through the month, however, Kevin snagged me a temporary part-time job in his office reading applications. They only need extra help for a few weeks this time of year, but it's basically as many hours as I want for that time. So, I dropped NaNoWriMo and starting reading applications in every spare moment. I decided, though, to make a 2018 goal to write consistently. I'd like to finish 2018 having written the equivalent of 500 words per day. That's 182,500 words. If I can stick to it, I should be able to work through several projects and ideas I've had for ages.