Friday, December 19, 2014

Read-Watch-Listen 2014

I have tried to do this every year, more or less - and it's always fun to look back to see the things I've enjoyed over the past year. Some years there are more or less books, most years I can't remember what I watched last week much less throughout the whole year. This year I attempted to keep an ongoing list in Evernote (which a very handy website/app that I highly recommend) and that has helped but there were plenty of movies I watched this year that I haven't bothered mentioning and a few that I vaguely remember loving but forgot to write down. So here we go. Year in review read/watch/listen.

This year I finally got into a groove with reading. I requested tons from the library and only finished a handful. But there were Saturdays here and there on the couch with a book I just could not put down and occasionally found myself up till 2am because I simply had to find out how this book ends. It was great. Here are a few of my favorites.

Veronica Roth
The essays at the end of Insurgent made me love this trilogy even more, especially the one about writing secular young adult fiction as a Christian. The series was a quick easy read for me, and I especially liked the first book - it is so much richer than the movie. 

Rainbow Rowell
This was one of those sit-on-the-couch-all-Saturday reads for me. I loved it so much. It's about two kids in high school in 1986. It is about comic books, a walkman, batteries, and mixed tapes. It's about step-dad's and poverty and bullying and about two people who fall in love sitting next to each other on the school bus. It was a little dark without being totally creepy, it was sweet without being like cotton candy sweet. I loved it. It reminded me of the time in which I grew up (without cell phones or email... till I was a teen anyway) and it reminded me about how it felt to fall in love. I also read FanGirl by Rainbow Rowell. Not quite as good but I still enjoyed it as quick light read. It's about a freshman in college who writes Fan Fiction, and the highs and lows of her first year away from home. I enjoyed this peek into a young writer's mind and the begining stages of romantic interest were really sweet. It went downhill midway but recovered enough that I am still mentioning it here.

Maze Runner
James Dasher
This book had one of the best first chapters in any Young Adult book I've read this year. If I'd had more time to read I definitely would have read more of it. (p.s. I just watched the movie and it was so scary!!! and so pessimistic. Now I'm kind of glad I didn't read the whole book... also I'm pretty sure it's a series and not one I really want to get sucked into right now.)

Gregor - Underland Chronicles
Suzanne Collins
Before she wrote the Hunger Games Trilogy Suzanne Collins wrote The Underland Chronicles. Book one is called Gregor the Overlander Beth read all of the books in this series this year. I tried to read book one. It was good and like the Maze Runner I would have loved to have finished it - I just ran out of time (and renewals at my library).

Dandelion Wine
Ray Bradbury
This is an easy-breezy collection of loosely connected short stories about a boy during summer of 1928. I read a chapter or two every night and enjoyed it quite a lot.

Gayle Foreman
I read this one in about 24 hours. It's about a teenager, her boyfriend, her family and her out-of-body near-death experience. I didn't read the last couple chapters because when I watch the movie I don't want to know how it ends. (P.S. I watched the movie last night and I didn't think it was as good as the book.) There is a sequel called Where She Went that I want to try to read sometime next year, maybe over the summer.

John Greene
Like everybody else (right?) I read this over the summer. I let Beth read it too and then we went to go see the movie together in the theater. I cried. Oh how I cried. I loved reading this book. I attempted to read An Abundance of Katherines and Looking for Alaska (also by John Greene) and didn't get very far. This one was so so so good though. 

David Levithan 
This was one that the young adult book club at our library was going to discuss. I read it to see if it was appropriate for my almost thirteen year old Beth to read. I decided not to let her read it yet but I will definitely request it for her in a few years, it will be a terrific book to read and discuss with her once she is a little older. It is about a soul who wakes up in the body of someone new every day. It was totally weird, emotionally gripping, incredibly well written and had a satisfying ending, but yeah - like I said, very very weird.  

Alan Bradley
This is a murder mystery set in the 1950s and is a tale told from the perspective of a young, precocious girl named Flavia de Luce. It was riveting, well-written, and I agonized waiting to find out what had really happened and who had really done it. Next year I definitely want to try to read another book Alan Bradley.

Ann Patchett 
After reading the book This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Anne Patchett (which turned out to have very little to do with marriage and was simply a collection of auto-biographical essays - which I loved.) I requested as many books of hers as I could get my hands on. Confession: I just could not get into State of Wonder. But I just loved The Patron Saint of Liars. It's about a woman, only a few weeks pregnant, who leaves her husband to live at a Roman Catholic home for unwed mothers and then marries the groundskeeper and stays at this home to raise her daughter. It is told from the perspective of the mother, her second husband and her daughter. I felt like it lagged just a little in the middle but overall I really enjoyed it. The characters were amazing and the ending was worth it.

Laine Moriarty 
Because I have seen this book everywhere I requested it from my library along with The Husband's Secret. Both were highly un-put-down-able. I liked them both equally well, though I found it highly annoying that they are both written in the form of triplicate female perspective. It's cool the first time, super-annoying the second time and from what I can see it is a format she writes in regularly. Otherwise both books were very enjoyable, also these books are set in Australia - how cool is that?

What Alice Forgot is about Alice who hits her head and forgets the past ten years. It's also about her sister who is suffering from infertility, and her older female relative who is sweet but pretty much irrelevant to the story. It really makes you think about the impact of our choices and attitudes, especially compacted over time. It's the kind of story that you think about for awhile after you've put it down. 

The Husband's Secret is kind of like a murder mystery. There's the mother of a teenage girl who was murdered many years ago (but was never solved) and also two other women in the community, one of which is a young woman who's husband has had an affair with her best friend so she has moved back into town with her mother and strikes up a relationship with the P.E. teacher at her son's school, who was one of the suspects in the murder and then the third woman who's husband has a secret. It's not like your typical mystery but it's also not just a strait up romantic drama either. I enjoyed it.

Mandy Kaling 
One word: hilarious. Short chapters that are autobiographical. Awesome.

Myquillin Smith 
Every bit as good as it as been hyped up to be. 

Anne Morrow Lindbergh
I try to read this every summer. Such a good reminder to keep things simple.

Anne Lemott
My favorite book on writing that I've read so far.

Natalie Goldberg
I really liked her Zen approach to writing. Very helpful.

Ann Patchett
I checked this one out of the Library twice. I didn't read every single essay but overall I really enjoyed this collection, especially as a wanna-be one-day writer. 

77 Reasons Why Your Book Preposal Was Rejected (and how to make sure it won't happen again)
Mike Nappa
If you are thinking about some day getting published and know nothing about the process (like me) this is a terrific book. The guy is really nice, despite the terrible title it's a great, interesting book. I ate it up and then the Hubs bought it on the Kindle for me. Can't wait to read it again next year. 
I have become such a fan of Jen Hatmaker. This book was very easy to read and super-helpful. 

I just watched this a couple weeks ago but it tops my list of movies I enjoyed in 2014. I didn't think I'd enjoy watching it as much as I did. It's an amazing story about leadership and real love in a time of high tension. It's about doing what is right despite what is expected, it's about the importance of every life and the immense difference just one can make when that one person has vision. I also loved the sign language in this movie, it looked so expressive and genuine to me. You might also want to watch the movie that came before this one Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

X-Men Days of Future Past
I almost never watch movies in the theater anymore. I only watched a few. This was one of them and I think it is my favorite X-Men movie so far. The cast is simply epic.

Mia Wasikowska & Michael Fassbender 
I liked this movie so much I watched it two or three times then checked the book out of the library. The book was very hard to get through, there were fantastic moments but the pace was so slow it was impossible for me to get very far very quickly. This adaptation of the book is SO GOOD! I think it helps of you already know the story or have at least seen an adaptation or two already. This is cinematically exquisite and Michael Fassbender is my favorite Mr. Rathburn by a mile. 

Despite the awful name this was such a good movie. It's about a professional assassin who has decided to retire and attempt to reconcile with his ex-wife and estranged teenaged daughter. However he is poisoned and is forced to come out of retirement for one last job. It's a great date movie if you have an action-flick-loving hubs like I do. There is surprisingly very little objectionable material for this genre, there is subtle humor, a lot of great acting and best of all the good guy turns out to be a truly good guy even though he's being put in a difficult situation. 

Daniel & I watched this together a few months ago and I thought for sure he would fall asleep but he enjoyed it a lot, so did I. It's a little bit like Pride & Prejudice meets The Help. It is about slavery and race, wealth and status, family and love. It is based on this book and was a very good movie.

I watched this again a couple months ago and just had to mention it. The language in this movie is so bad but the acting, character and story are so good that in this instance it is forgivable. Daniel falls asleep every time I try to watch this movie with him. It's a character drama so it feels like it moves a little slowly sometimes. I loved it.

This movie was every bit as quirky and sweet as I'd hoped it would be. 

This year I watched a lot less TV than previous years which has been good, I think. This year has been all about "reality" shows at my house - mostly about cooking. We watched Chopped, Cutthroat Kitchen, D.C. CupcakesMasterChef, and this season of MasterChef Junior is proving to be just amazing as the first season. We've also been watching The Taste which is in it's 3rd season and is kind of like The Voice of cooking competition shows. We also watched a good bit of SharkTank as well as getting hooked on The Profit. Daniel & I watched The Newsroom together and I watched season one of The Hour by myself on Amazon Prime Instant Video. I loved it, though I thought season two was not at all as good. 

This has been the year of Spotify at my house. I listen to my playlists on Spotify almost every day. Here is what I've been listening to this year:

You may know them from the song "Beautiful Things" - my favorite songs on this album are I Am Mountain and Wandering

All Sons & Daughters
I listened to my All Sons & Daughters playlist all spring. The honesty and beauty of their music gets me every time. My favorite songs are Great Are You Lord and Called Me Higher

Meredith Andrews
She has been one of my favorite artists. Maybe you've heard her song Not For a Moment. Her newest album is so very good. Her song Strong God is one of my favorites

Her album If We're Honest was playing on repeat at my house pretty much all summer long.

Ellie Holcomb
Have you heard her song The Broken Beautiful? It is so good and the whole album is just as good.

I started listening to the Divergent soundtrack which features a song by Ellie Goulding. My kids also told me about her other songs Burn & Lights and they became my favorite songs on my get these kids out of the house with a smile playlist. 

I went through a major Ed Sheeran phase during the month of November where that was practically all I was listening to. Favorite song (obviously) is Thinking Out Loud but I like the groovy beat of Don't too.

Favorite song on 1989: Blank Space
And yes, I totally thought she was saying "Starbucks" which is why I totally love this parody so much. But if you're in the mood for watching Taylor Swift videos this one is also really fun. While I miss her older style I admit I've enjoyed 1989 every bit as much as I liked Red. Though I disagree that this is not a boy-centric album, to me it totally is. It's also even more of a sex-centric album than Red which is disappointing. 

She first appeared on the first season of the X-Factor as Besteice Miller and totally killed it until she was (cruelly) voted off. I would like to think that she would have done even better on the show if she'd been there while Demi Levato was a judge. Anyway - she finally has a single out with 4 tracks and it's awesome.

They won the latest season of X-factor (at least the last one I watched) and their new album is fantastic. The tracks they pre-released Scarecrow, Bumper Cars & Little Do You Know are my favorite tracks and are pretty much exactly what you'd hope they would have produced.

You might also be interested in: Read/Watch/Listen 2013 & Favorite Movies of 2011


  1. I LOVED the Nester's book! I also loved Silver Linings Playbook. What a fun list!

  2. I love these kinds of posts. I wrote down some of your recommendations!


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