Sunday, January 4, 2015

2014 Books

1. Attachments - Rainbow Rowell
I loved this... right up until the end, not that I hated the end, but it was just too shmoopy for me. I expected it to wrap up neatly, I WANTED that, but it wrapped up too sweetly, I guess, for lack of a better word. It was light chick-lit, but it was smart and witty too.

2. Someone Else's Love Story - Joshilyn Jackson
Ugh, I really wanted to like this, but I just didn't. I really hated Shandi, and didn't really like any of the characters until the end when I came around to the William/Bridget storyline which I enjoyed. I loved A Grown-up Kind of Pretty so much, I had high hopes for this one, but I wouldn't recommend it.

3. Me Before You - JoJo Moyes
I have many undeveloped thoughts on this. I really liked it, a lot, but wouldn't say I loved it. I had no idea what it was about before I started it, which I think was good in this case. It was sad and heartbreaking and I think the arch of falling in love was perfectly written. I guess I'm struggling with my feelings toward the Will character, because I know I can't possibly understand where he was coming from, but I was disappointed in how selfish he stayed throughout the book (hope I'm not giving anything away), although maybe that was the point?

4. Cartwheel - Jennifer DuBois
This was a loosely based on the Amanda Knox story. It was interesting to read someone's idea of what could have happened and how all of the characters surrounding the case reacted, but I wasn't really INTO it. It was long and took me a long time to read. 

5. Domestic Violets - Matthew Norman
Light, easy read that reminded me of Jonathan Tropper. I enjoyed it, but it wasn't life-changing. 

6. The Rosie Project - Greame Simsion
Everyone raved about this, and I enjoyed it, but again, it wasn't life-changing. It seems there are to be sequels to this book, but I don't know if I'd read them. 

7. One More Thing - BJ Novak
I listened to this on Audible while painting and running on the treadmill and I really enjoyed it, especially since Novak himself narrates most of it and it's great to hear exactly how an author wants his own words read. Also, Rainn Wilson, Jenna Fisher, Lena Dunham, Mindy Kaling narrate parts. Fine holiday fun. 

8. Defending Jacob - William Landay
So good. This is the point in my year where I realized I wanted to read mystery/suspense/thrillers almost exclusively. Enjoyed the hell out of this. 

9. We Were Liars - E. Lockwood 
Another mystery that I LOVED, one of my favorites of the year. I had no idea how it was going to end, which is rare. It was spooky and creepy and wonderful. 

10. The Interestings - Meg Wolitzer
Ugh, long and I had to force myself to finish it. I WANTED to love it. I loved the writing, but I just spent the whole book wishing Jules would just GET OVER IT already and stop living in the past. I just wanted her to be satisfied with her own life, and I hope I'm not spoiling anything by saying she NEVER IS. It's nearly 500 pages of a middle-aged woman wishing she were 16 again. I suppose that was the point, but to me it was bit torturous.

11. Tell The Wolves I'm Home - Carol Rifka Brunt
Enjoyed this one too. The narrator and the time period and events all felt authentic. 

12. The Storied Life of AJ Fikry - Gabrielle Zevin
Oddly light and quick read despite how depressing some of the subject matter might be. I didn't love it, but enjoyed it enough. 

13. The Girl With a Clock For a Heart - Peter Swanson
Another thriller I burned through. Another one I enjoyed. (I'm getting sick of typing the word "enjoy," but it's the truth, so many of these books were good and I had a good time reading them, but they weren't transcendent). 

14. Landline - Rainbow Rowell
So many people hated this. I'm not sure what they were expecting - Rowell is not Hemingway (and doesn't set out to be). I quite liked it! Sure, it had flaws, but I thought it was cute. I read it in 48 hours, so that's a testament because I don't usually have a lot of time to myself to read.

15. One Plus One - Jojo Moyes
Meh. I'm kind of surprised I finished this. I skimmed a lot of it. It did not have the depth and struggle of Me Before You. It was like Little Miss Sunshine in a novel. 

16. Big Little Lies - Liane Moriarty
Again, I enjoyed it. It's chick-lit but with a bit of a darker tone. 

17. Dirty Love - Andre Dubus
Short stories. I loved the first 3 stories, but the fourth one took me many months to get through. Devon's voice lost me. I don't think Dubus's calling is to write from a teenage girl's perspective. (And, frankly, it made me terrified for my daughters to become teenagers, but that is not the fault of the author.)

18. The Good Girl - Mary Kubica
Loved it. The ending was a total mind-f*ck (for lack of a classier word). I almost want to read it all over again knowing the ending. Kubica wrote from 4 different points of view and managed to have distinct voices. The only thing holding me back from 5 stars was probably what I perceived as editing issues - sentences I had to reread several times to understand who the narrator was referring to or issues with past and present tense. I worry that people might read this as some cheesy 50 Shades of Grey-esque love story, but it went a lot deeper than that.

19. The Paris Wife - Paula McCain
Fictionalized account of Ernest Hemingway's first wife. My favorite book of the year. I just loved this book so much, I didn't want it to end. The writing is so so beautiful and authentic and it was just so fascinating.

20. Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel 
Another one I enjoyed. It was a bit hard to read a dystopian novel that feels like it could actually happen. 

21. The Husband's Secret - Liane Moriarty 
Similar in feeling to Big Little Lies, and in hindsight I'm confusing the two a bit because the characters were kind of similar, but I enjoyed it. 

22. American Wife - Curtis Sittenfeld
Loosely based on Laura Bush's life. Very interesting and compelling and I definitely spent a lot of time researching the Bushes while reading, but damn it was long, probably 200-300 pages longer than it needed to be. We don't need to know what every tertiary character looked like and was wearing, and the last 50 pages really seemed to be Sittenfeld waxing on about what it would be like be the First Lady.

2014 in Review

1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before? Pet a giraffe, watched my little brother graduate from college, sent my first-born to preschool, watched my second-born learn to walk, took my kids apple picking, took a long road trip with 2 kids and dipped Gracie's toes in the ocean. 

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? Last year I said, "I want to lose weight and be more frugal and save more money. I also want to be nicer to my husband." In 2014 I lost weight and gained weight and I'm probably not any lighter now than I was a year ago, but I'm definitely in better shape. I was not more frugal, but I tried really hard to be nicer to my husband. You win some, you lose some. In 2015, I want to continue getting in shape and losing weight, and I HAVE to be more frugal, there's no more trying.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth? A good friend had a baby in April, Jeff's cousin had a baby in October and a new friend/neighbor had a baby in early December. 

4. Did anyone close to you die? My sister-in-law's mom died in October. I wasn't terribly close to her, but was heartbroken for my sister-in-law and her boys.
5. Where did you travel? We took an awesome road trip with my whole family to the Outer Banks in July. I was so stressed about how Gracie would fare in the car and whether she would sleep all week, but it was great beyond my wildest expectations.
6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014? Last year I said, "I want to find our Forever House, specifically one where the floors don't creak and sound doesn't carry like a sonofabitch. Where I can get up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night or put in a load of laundry during nap time without worrying I'll wake everyone up." And, oh, we found it! I thought it would be so hard to leave our first house behind, but I love this new house so so much. The floors creak, but we have so much room, and we have a master suite so I can go to the bathroom any time I please! Anyway... back to the question at hand - in 2015 I'd like to have more clarity about whether I want to grow our family or whether I'm settled with 2 children. Other than that I do not feel I was lacking anything. 

7. What dates from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? April 16, the day we closed on our house. October 10, when Jeff's cousin had her baby, who will grow up as close as a cousin to Mia and Gracie.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Breastfeeding Gracie until 10 1/2 months when she abruptly wanted nothing else to do with the boob and surviving until July with some serious sleep-deprivation while we worked through Gracie's sleep issues.
9. What was your biggest failure? Overspending money. 

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Lots of colds and a urinary tract infection (tmi?)
11. What was the best thing you bought? Our new house, followed closely by paying someone to remove the wallpaper and paint the first floor of said house, followed thirdly by a king-sized bed and a huge sectional couch.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration? My husband
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? Walter White

14. Where did most of your money go? The mortgage.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Finding, buying, and moving into our new house. Going to the beach. Mia starting preschool. Gracie's first birthday.

16. What song will always remind you of 2014? "Shake it off" and anything by Iggy Azalea or Ariana Grande - Mia loves any good dance pop song.
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? Happier.
b) thinner or fatter? About the same
c) richer or poorer?
About the same

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?  I wish I'd been more frugal and saved more money. 

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? I wish I'd lost my temper less. (Same answers as last year...)

20. How did you spend Christmas? The weekend before Christmas we spent the night in Buffalo to celebrate with Jeff's family. Christmas Eve my family took all the kids to Skyzone, then everyone had pizza at our house. My parents and younger brother stayed at our house where we had Christmas morning, then Christmas dinner was at my older brother's house. It was so nice not to travel anywhere on Christmas day, and Mia was so into Christmas morning this year.
21. Did you fall in love in 2014? The same answer as every year, more and more with my little family.

22. What was your favorite TV program? The Good Wife, Homeland, Orange is the New Black, Scandal. We finished Breaking Bad, but I would not say it was a favorite. 

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? No.
24. What was the best book you read? The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, honorable mention to We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
25. What was your favorite music? I finally came around to Taylor Swift, something about her rubs me the wrong way, but damn if I don't love her music. And she's not such a bad role model for my girls.
26. What did you want and get? A house that fits our family perfectly and makes me so happy. And I got my husband back to working a normal 8-6, Monday-Friday schedule at a new job he loves rather than the 60 hour work weeks we had been enduring.
27. What did you want and not get? Same answer as last year - a new living room rug. Also, a smaller waist-line. And a mantle for my fireplace. 

28. What was your favorite film of this year? The only movies I saw in the theater this year were Frozen, Gone Girl and Annie. Other than that I'm drawing a blank on any other movies we watched, let alone good ones.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I turned 32. The night before my birthday Jeff and I went out to dinner with friends, drank Mojitos and laughed more than I have in a long time. On my birthday my family came over for brunch and cake. 
30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? If my husband's old company had sold so we could cash in on all our stock options.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014? Leggings or skinny jeans with long, flowy tops and boots or flats. 

32. What kept you sane? Sunshine. My family. Close friends I can vent to. Good books. HGTV. Wine. Netflix. My big, comfy bed. Chocolate. 

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Joseph Gordon-Levitt

34. What political issue stirred you the most? Hmmm, I'm burying my head in the sand a lot lately when it comes to the news, for the sake of my sanity.

35. Who did you miss? Anyone I don't see every day. 

36. Who was the best new person you met? New neighbors and Mia's preschool teachers and classmates.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014. I have to wake up every day and choose patience and kindness.