2016 A Year in Books

This year was “The Year of the Series”; for me at least.

This year my reading goal was to read at least six book series, from start to finish.
I experienced a loss last year that seemed to drain my passion for reading from me, so while I started the year reading six books each month, it slowly dwindled to much less.
I am happy to report that although my reading rate may have dipped in the middle of this year, I still managed to meet (even exceed) my goal.

1 year. 48 books. 16,448 pages. Roughly 4,087,000 words.

Here is my list, reviews/recommendations:

Series #1 Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepherd
(Books 1-16 for the Year)
Upon the recommendation of a friend, and the convenience of Netflix, I found myself watching Pretty Little Liars and quickly getting sucked into their lives in Rosewood. Just like how I discovered my love of Craig Johnson’s Longmire Mysteries, I noticed each episode had the lovely line of text, “Based on the book series by Sara Shepherd” after the title credits. My sister/enabler gave me the first four books for my birthday in 2015 and I saved them for the year of the series…
I do not understand how the writers for the show keep coming up with new twists, new turns and new As. I can say the same for the books the hit show is based on (loosely based I’d say.)
The target audience for this series is teenage girls. Each of these sixteen books builds on the stories of the last one, and they are easy reads. I found myself questioning the characters at times, thinking, “If you did not do that you might not be in such trouble.” Some of the scenarios the four main characters, Spencer, Aria, Hanna and Emily wound up in seemed very unlikely to me (but I was a good teenage girl who never would have dreamed of pushing a person off of a roof in Jamaica, so what would I know). I enjoyed the unpredictability of the storylines, the pace, and the characters, no matter how unrelatable I found them. Recommendation: Read the books if you are looking for a fun easy read that also has twists and turns you do not expect.

Series #2 Hannibal by Thomas Harris
(Books 17-20 for the Year)
I started the series by reading Hannibal Rising (which was actually the last book Harris wrote about Hannibal Lecter, but it is the first book when reading in chronological order). By reading Hannibal Rising first I saw the circumstances that made Hannibal the villain that people know from the movies and television show. Knowing Hannibal’s childhood and upbringing paints him in a different light, for me at least. I am not saying I would duplicate Dr. Lecter’s actions, but I saw most of his actions as justified (please don’t think I am creepy). While I would not think that his actions would put him in the “good egg” category, there is a very strong archetypal Good vs. Evil presence throughout the whole series.  As usual, the movies do not do Mr. Harris’ work justice. Sir Anthony Hopkins is a far cry from the “lyth, dark haired” Dr. Hannibal Lecter described in these books (as far as casting goes, I believe Jodie Foster and Julianne Moore who both play FBI Agent Clairice Starling were not quite right (although of the two, Foster was the more convincing), but Edward Norton as Will Graham and Ralph Finnes as Francis Dolarhyde were good), but enough about my casting notes. Recommendation: Read the books. As usual (99.9% of the time) the books are better than the movies.

Series #3 The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth
(Books 21-24 for the Year)
I must admit I sort of saw this series as a “Poor Man’s Hunger Games”, I do not know why I thought that because in truth I knew nothing about these books. What I was doing was worse than judging a book by its cover; I was judging a book by its movie trailer. (GASP!)
I received a box set of this series for a gift (what can I say, my family knows me well). I am so glad I read these. I truly cannot say much about this series without major spoilers, so I will go straight to my recommendation instead… Recommendation: READ THESE BOOKS! DO NOT watch the movies instead. The books are very well written, they have good character development and you get sucked into the story. The movies are another story. Literally. The first film follows the first book, Divergent, fairly well but there is that usual discrepancy you get when trying to create the author’s imagination on the silver screen. The second movie had almost nothing to do with the second book, Insurgent. Because of the almost completely different plot I did not bother seeing the third movie which was the first part of the third (and final) book, Allegiant. The fourth book, Four, is not really a part of the series… It tells select parts of the series from the viewpoint of the second main character, Four. I really liked The Hunger Games trilogy, but I also really enjoyed the Divergent series too. They are not as similar as I had been afraid they were; however they do have some similarities: both are dystopian series (a popular genre these days), both are classified as YA (Young Adult) Fiction, both focus on a young heroine facing big decisions, family, friends, love and loss. I recommend both series.

Series #4 The Royal Wedding Series by Rachel Hauck
(Books 25-28 for the Year)
I am not really sure how I stumbled upon this series, other than that I found them in my wonderings at the Flagship Half Price Books store in Dallas (I probably was drawn to them thinking about THR the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, what with a title “The Royal Wedding Series” and having read “The Royal We” by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan last year). Rachel Hauck has written several series in the Christian Fiction/Christian ChickLit genre, this is the only one I have read so far, but I like her writing style. The characters in this series are all very relatable, they all have internal struggles about what they want vs. what God wants for them. The series opens with Prince Nathaniel of Brighton Kingdom and Georgian (USA) landscape architect Susanna. You get to see how their individual stories and struggles become intertwined and what becomes of a fairy tale in real life—
The second book takes on a more political tone when a long lost princess is found in Southern USA and finds out she is the key to ending a one-hundred year old treaty and establishing independence for a nation, although she has the training of an accountant and the passion of a car mechanic. Once Regina, “Reggie”, has some divine intervention everything works out as it was always supposed to.
The third book picks up with the brother of a familiar character from the first book in the series. Prince Stephen of Brighton Kingdom (former member of his country’s military) and his past love Corina del Rey (an American heiress) are the focus of this book; their complicated history and equally stormy futures get some magical assistance and understanding. This book addresses tough topics like guilt, confusion and loss without being depressing.
The fourth book rejoins supporting characters from the first book again, Susanna’s little sister, Avery and a prince of her very own. It is a book that features true love, tradition and divine intervention.
I enjoyed these books. They are easy reads with parts that will you make you laugh, sigh, and cry (not too much crying though). These books are wholesome romance books that focus on the fairy tale lives little girls imagine. Recommendation: Read them and hope Rachel Hauck writes some more.

Series #5 Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
(Books 29-35 for the Year)
I must confess, this one might have been cheating a little, I had previously read the first five books of this series when they were first published in the United States. I did not care for some of the happenings in Year 5 – The Order of the Phoenix (Harry’s attitude and the overall darkness of the book) and I stopped reading them. I liked Harry Potter but I did not see all of the movies, feeling as I did about the fifth book I did not see the point. I decided to add this series to my list of series this year and read it book one through seven. I am so glad I did! I had forgotten what an amazing writer J.K. Rowling is. The first five went rather quickly for me, since I was familiar with them already and the last two where beyond expectation. Again, I do not want to give anything away, plus most of you have probably already seen the movies. Recommendation: Read the books. I have seen the movies since completing the series, but they cannot compare with the awesome way Ms. Rowling transports you to her magical world in her writing. The movies skip things (i.e. an obstacle to the Sorcerer’s Stone). Recommendation: The books are definitely worth a read, or a reread.

Series #6 The Night Trilogy (Night, Dawn, & The Accident (re-published as Day)) by Elie Wiesel
(Books 36-38)
These three memoirs by Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel cover his time in Auschwitz/Birkenau, and Buchenwald, the actions he took after liberation, his survivor’s guilt, and faith. These are dark pages, but a true story that needs to be both told and heard. With the conspiracy circulating of late that the Holocaust never happened accounts of survival, like Mr. Wiesel’s, need to be read, shared and discussed. Recommendation: The subject matter is dark, but I highly recommend that everyone reads Night, if not the whole trilogy (I believe Night should be required reading for all high school students).

Series #7 Casino Royale, Live and Let Die, Moonraker, Diamonds are Forever by Ian Fleming
I intended to complete Ian Fleming’s whole James Bond series this year (minus Dr. No, which I read in 2012) but extenuating circumstances this year kept me from completing this series. I did manage to get the first four read this year, and I will read the remaining nine in the future. I have always enjoyed the 007 franchise, and while I found it difficult to get into each of the five books I have conquered, once I got into the books I really enjoyed them. Recommendation:  I recommend this series to any fan of James Bond.

I had the pleasure of also reading the two latest Longmire books by Craig Johnson, The Highway Man and An Obvious Fact. I have previously read the other eleven Longmire books, and these did not disappoint. Humor mixed with the sleuthing Sheriff of Absaroka County, and the Cheyanne Nation, make for a great story every time. The show is losing my favor (since it has switched to Netflix from AMC it has changed), but the books always deliver.

I also read the long-awaited Frogs and Kisses, the eighth novel in (Texas author) Shanna Swendson’s Enchanted Inc. series. I have loved this series since I found the first four books at Half Price Books in 2011. I quickly became hooked and completed the series. For years I (along with many other fans) have been waiting for more about Katie Chandler, Owen Palmer and friends (and their various nemeseses (nemesi?)). Frogs and Kisses was long-awaited and well worth the wait. If you enjoy chick-lit that has a unique kind of magic involved, I highly recommend the Enchanted Inc. series.

Not as a part of the series part of this year I also read three pieces of classic literature:
Paradise Lost by John Milton
Utopia by Sir Thomas More
The Prince by Niccolo Machiaveli
All of them are worth reading (they all earned a spot on my Literary Tree). Word to the wise- make sure your copy of Paradise Lost has an appendix of notes to help you when you get lost in this epic poem.

To see a full list of the titles (with links to get your own copy) of this year’s books click here. 2017 is my “A-Z Year” (I will be reading a book for each letter of the alphabet). As I finish reading books I add them to my “My Reading List” page; a link for which can be located at the top of the site or on the right hand margin.

P.S. I attempted to include The Maze Runner series in this year’s “Year of the Series” but I had a terrible time getting into the first book. At one-hundred pages in, I decided to call it quits, set it aside and may try again sometime later. Did anyone else have this issue? Does it get better? I understand the confusion was part of the beginning of the book, but I found it off-putting. Hopefully I will have better luck next time.




2015 A Year in Books

[My alternative title for this post was, “My Longest Blog Post Ever”.]

One of my goals for 2015 was to read 36 books. I did it! And then some!
1 year. 46 books. 14,830 pages. Roughly 4,147,599 words.

  1. What A Girl Needs (Kristin Billerbeck)
    I love the Ashley Stockingdale series by Kirstin Billerbeck. Like Billerbeck’s other books this one is classified as Christian Chick Lit. I had a hard time liking this book in the beginning, but as I continued reading I liked it more. I recommend the whole Ashley Stockingdale book series, What A Girl Wants; She’s Out of Control; With This Ring, I’m Confused.
  1. War of Wings (Tanner McElroy)
    I wanted to read this book for a while and my wonderful sister bought it for me for Christmas last year… It started out a little slow, background and character building, but then it sped up and i really enjoyed it. It is told from the opposite perspectives of the archangel Gabriel and Lucifer. I recommend it for all who enjoy reading biblical fiction.
  1. American Sniper (Chris Kyle)
    I finished this book before going to see the movie in theaters. I would file the movie into the must see category, but the book is even better. First off it is an autobiography, and you can really hear Chris Kyle’s voice throughout the book. I highly recommend this one to all Americans (and/or Texans) who appreciate the sacrifices our military members make for our freedom on a daily basis.
  1. The Power (Rhonda Byrne)
    This is the second book in the The Secret series. Again, another Law of Attraction book, but I felt that this one better explained some areas I had trouble grasping/applying from The Secret. This book is stand alone… You can understand the concepts without reading the Secret first, but I recommend both.
  1. May Cause Miracles: A 40 Day Guide (Gabrielle Bernstein)
    I read this book as suggested, a day at a time.  This was an interesting read that discusses the fear we perceive that keep us from loving ourselves, others and how to let the good roll into our lives.
  1. Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (Gregory Maguire)
    I enjoyed this “fantastical” story about a girl with green skin. It has everything from its basis in a classic, talking animals, robots, romance, to affairs, and more. It is a long book but I enjoyed the twist of perspective on a long loved story.
  1. The Wizard of Oz (L. F. Baum)
    This is a relatively short children’s chapter book. It is a quick and easy read. This is the same basic story as the Technicolor musical movie we all love, but with several rather large differences (for instance certain colors).
  1. Chess for Beginners (I.A. Horowitz)
    One of my goals for 2015 was to learn to play chess… This is a simple and straightforward how to book. It is short and makes a complicated game easy to learn.
  1. My Man Jeeves (P.G. Wodehouse)
    The dry British humor of these short stories about Bertie and Jeeves will keep you laughing throughout. It is a short book, and there are more collections of Bertie and Jeeves stories. The comedy “Jeeves and Wooster” (featuring the comedy stylings of Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry) was based on these stories.
  2. unPHILtered (Phil Robertson)
    This book was another Phil-Tells-It-Like-It-Is book, just like Happy, Happy, Happy. If you like the Robertson family and share similar beliefs you will enjoy this book.
  3. When the King was Carpenter (Maria von Trapp)
    Unlike the other books I have read by Maria von Trapp, this one is very heavy on research. It is interesting and very informational, but it is also very dry and historical. I am glad I read it; it answers some questions I’ve had about Jesus’ childhood.
  4. The Magic (Rhonda Byrne)
    This is another thought provoking Law of Attraction book from Rhonda Byrne. This one, in particular, focuses on the importance of gratitude; it provides several “exercises” for you to better feel and become aware of gratitude in your life.
  5. Raylan (Elmore Leonard)
    A set of stories featuring the rule bending U.S. Marshal, Raylan Givens. The hit FX show “Justified” is based on Mr. Leonard’s stories of Raylan’s adventures in law enforcement. The book was an easy and interesting read (not enough Boyd Crowder though).
  6. As You Wish (Cary Elwes)
    I enjoyed this tell all from behind the scenes of the classic film, The Princess Bride (I read the book, The Princess Bride by William Goldman in 2013). It was another easy read and it was amusing. If you enjoy the adventures of Westley, Buttercup and gang in the 1987 comedy, you will enjoy the behind the scenes secrets revealed here, by Westley himself.
  7. Unbroken (Laura Hillenbrand)
    After seeing the Angelina Jolie film version of this true, World War II, story of survival last December, I wanted to read the book (because we all know – the book is always better). The movie was good, but the book was even better. The book goes further in the life of Louis Zamperini after he returns home to America after being a POW for years in Japan. It is a good book about an inspiring life that survived difficult times and triumphed through grace and forgiveness. I wrote a full post about the book/film earlier that you can read here.
  8. Hero (Rhonda Byrne)
    This is the last of Ms. Byrne’s books related to her first, The Secret. I enjoyed this book, but to be honest, I enjoyed it the least of her other books I have read (The Secret, The Power, The Magic). I believe the reason this was my least favorite is because it did not really present any new information, I felt like it boils down to a pep-talk by some very successful people. I would still say it is a good book and everyone can use a good pep-talk from time to time.
  9. Devil at My Heels (Louis Zamperini)
    This is Louis Zamperini’s (Unbroken) story, in his own words. He had just published this book when Laura Hillenbrand approached him to write Unbroken. This too is a great book, despite the fact I had already seen the film and read one version of his story; it was nice to read it from his perspective, in first person.
  10. Don’t Give Up, Don’t Give In (Louis Zamperini)
    Yes, another book about/by Louis Zamperini. This one is different though… This short one is more of filled more with advice than memories.
  11. Dry Bones (Craig Johnson)
    The latest installment of Walt Longmire adventures arrived in May! As usual, this book is full of adventure, mystery and funny quips. I have enjoyed the whole Longmire series so far, and look forward to more!
  12. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (Jenny Lawson)
    Jenny Lawson is a blogger from Texas. She also happens to be pretty hilarious. While she does cover some sad topics in this memoir she also shares funny and memorable stories too.
  13. Shutter Island (Dennis Lehane)
    Again, better than the movie. This book draws you in and keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole way through; it is a great psychological thriller.
  14. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
    This is my new favorite book. I like the 2002 film adaptation of this classic French story of justice, revenge, love and life, however the film took some liberties/artistic license with the story line. I wrote a full blog post earlier this year about the book and film differences, you can read it here. I highly recommend this book!
  15. Bossypants (Tina Fey)
    As expected, this was full of funny stories from the life of Ms. Fey. It is an amusing and easy read.
  16. The Road (Cormac McCarthy)
    I think I am helping future readers by saying that it is set in a post-apocalyptic America. This story of a father and son traveling across the continent jumps right into the story. It is dark. It is thought provoking. It is a good book. (I have not seen, and probably will not see, the Viggo Mortensen film adaptation of this book.)
  17. To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
    This one was a re-read. There is a reason this book is required reading in high school (if you did not read it when you should have read it now), it is good (solidly in my top two favorite books). The Gregory Peck movie is good, but no film will ever be able to do this book justice. It covers weighty topics like prejudice, love, right and wrong, honor and respect and so much more. I read it in preparation for the release of the Harper Lee’s new/old book and I was so glad I re-read this treasure. You will laugh, you will cry and you will never forget it.
  18. Go Set a Watchman (Harper Lee)
    My review for this book- DO NOT READ IT!
    To Kill a Mockingbird is so good and this book flies in the face of the lessons that classic taught us. This book turns an honorable, righteous and respectable character into a completely different person. I have read some very bad books (some high school required reading) but this one takes the cake. The story behind it is that Harper Lee wrote this book first and her editor advised her to focus on a very small section of it, expound and expand it and the result was To Kill a Mockingbird. HarperCollins Publishers should have left this manuscript buried in an attic. My final comments on this waste of trees is – save your money and time. (I expressed my disappointment in this book in an earlier post, you can read it here.
  19. Slaughterhouse-Five (Kurt Vonnegut)
    I have wanted to read this book since I first fell in love with Kevin Bacon as Ren McCormack in Footloose… I tried to read it before, but it is weird and I was too young. I read it this year and I still believe it is weird, but it is also riddled with good quotes that make you think.
  20. The Finishing Touches (Hester Browne)
    I have enjoyed the other Hester Browne books I have read (The Little Lady Agency; Little Lady, Big Apple; The little Lady Agency and the Prince) so I was excited to read this one, on the recommendation of my sister. Although I found it difficult to get into this book (it starts out at a funeral) it does get better and I did enjoy it.
  21. Maybe Someday (Colleen Hoover)
    I really enjoyed this book. I don’t want to give away too much because it has a huge surprise in it. It is heartwarming and funny. It revolves around the topics of music, relationships and love. Another plus is that is it written by a Texas author.
  22. Confess (Colleen Hoover)
    I enjoyed Maybe Someday so much I dove into this one next. I liked this book (not quite as much as Maybe Someday). It deals with art, secrets, relationships and love. It was a fairly quick and read.
  23. Why Quantum Physicists Don’t Get Fat (Greg Kuhn)
    This is another book about the Law of Attraction; this one presented the same information in new ways that made you think. It is a short and easy read.
  24. Saint Anything (Sarah Dessen)
    I read The Truth About Forever (also by Dessen) a long time ago and really liked it… I also liked this book. It falls solidly within the Young Adult category. This book focuses on family dynamics, forgiveness, love and friendships.
  25. Everything Everything (Nicola Yoon)
    This is the debut novel from Nicola Yoon. It too is YA, and it was interesting with a surprise twist at the end. The main female character is allergic to the world and her new neighbor suffers under the hand of his father; an unlikely friendship to say the least.
  26. Trouble From the Start (Rachel Hawthorne)
    Many years ago I found Rachel Hawthorne books and fell in love with her (YA) writing style. I liked this newest book as well; good girl, daughter of a cop, falls for a bad, leather wearing, motorcycle riding bad boy. (Rachel Hawthorne is also a Texas author.)
  27. If I Stay (Gayle Forman)
    This book was adapted for the big screen in 2014, and I must confess, like “Unbroken”, I saw the movie first. I really liked this book (I was disappointed in the movie ending and I was sure the book had a better one… I was wrong, but there is a sequel to take care of that). I read this book in two days. It tells the gripping story of a teenage cello player whose family has been in a horrific car crash. It is told from the perspective of Mia Hall (cello player) as she is having an out of body experience while her body lays broken in an ICU room. Her decision to wake up (or not) is the idea behind the book title.
  28. Where She Went (Gayle Forman)
    This is the sequel that made the ending to If I Stay This book is told from the perspective of Mia’s boyfriend, Adam, several years after her accident. I read this one in two days too. I really liked Forman’s writing style and I hope she has a new book soon.
  29. Good Call (Jase Robertson)
    Another in my collection of Robertson family books. I like reading the books the Robertsons write, I like the honesty with which they share their pasts, faith and beliefs. In this book Jase gives a candid look into his life and shares how God has been a constant through all of his ups and downs.
  30. Dumplin’ (Julie Murphy)
    This is a heartwarming book about not fitting a social norm and learning to love it. It is based around a girl, Willowdean, who shared a bond, through the love of Dolly Parton, with her late aunt. “Dumplin’” (as her mom calls her) faces her fears and accepts herself, even though she is not “perfect”.
  31. Dreaming in Black and White (Laura Jensen Walker)
    Pheobe Grant loves movies and her red leather couch. This Christian Chick-Lit book follows Pheobe through her career, family and faith ups and downs. Despite her history of bad dates, she won’t give up on her silver screen, fairytale ending. I liked this one, the writing style makes Pheopbe very relatable.
  32. Dreaming in Technicolor (Laura Jensen Walker)
    We catch up with Pheobe Grant again in this sequel. In this book she takes a trip to jolly ole England to visit her boss, who also happens to be her boyfriend. Will her fairytale ending hit the silver screen or end up on the cutting room floor?
  33. Blessed, Blessed…Blessed (Missy Robertson)
    In her book Missy Robertson discusses the early years of her relationship with Jase, their wedding, time as newlyweds, as young parents and as the parents of Mia, and how she and her family have continually been blessed by God (with his grace and love, wonderful and supportive friends and family and gifted doctors). This book really hit home in some ways (I had medical issues when I was younger, nothing like Mia’s but my family too has been ‘Blessed, Blessed…Blessed”.)
  34. A Little Princess (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
    I have always loved the 1939 Shirley Temple film, “The Little Princess”, so when I found the book at Half Price Books I had to add it to my basket. Although the book had some good quotes (some even “Secrety”/LOA like lines) I think this may be the one case where the movie is better than the book.
  35. The Royal We (Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan)
    Loosely based on the fairytale romance of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, this book was a delightful read from cover to cover with several funny quips and squeal worthy lines throughout.
  36. E-Squared (Pam Grout)
    Another Law of Attraction book. This one has 9 experiments for you to try and to prove to yourself that the science behind the Law of Attraction works. Personally, I like the research, examples and science behind the experiments better than the experiments themselves.
  37. The Stand (Stephen King)
    I enjoyed this Stephen King novel very much. It is incredibly long (1,138 pages – I read the complete and uncut version). I had some issues with a few of the characters (which I believe was an intentional reaction. I think if I had read the original print (some four hundred pages shorter – edited for printing purposes) I might have liked the ending better, but the ending as it was left me thinking about it for a long time after I finished reading it. This is an extremely detailed epic adventure that showcases the classic archetype of good vs evil. I enjoyed reading this and would recommend it to anyone looking for a good, long, story that was set twenty-five years ago but still has many thoughts and questions applicable to the world we live in today.
  38. The Way – Living Bible
    I grew up in a Christian home and I have read parts of the Bible throughout my life. This year I read it from cover to cover. I recommend that everyone read it all the way through at least once (also, I suggest you read it with someone that way you have someone with whom to discuss it).


Expectations (Great or Otherwise)

a belief that something will happen or is likely to happen
-a feeling or belief about how successful, good, etc., someone or something will be

Sometimes things go perfectly (swimmingly, if you will).
Sometimes things don’t go your way.
Sometimes things just don’t go as you expected.

One year ago (yesterday) I launched this blog, with the goal for OKW to have 50 followers by the end of one year (a goal I expected to meet, if not exceed). As of now this blog has 46 followers. I do not see this as a failure; I see it as an opportunity to be grateful. I am thankful for each of those 46 followers who find interest in the quotes and thoughts I share.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” is one of my favorite books. I re-read it last week to gear up for the release of Harper Lee’s new (old) book, “Go Set a Watchman”. To say the least (the very least) I did not enjoy “Go Set a Wachman”. To be honest, it simply did not live up to the expectations that one has after reading an American classic that can stir various emotions in you, make you cry, laugh, think, a book filled with wisdom and a wonderful role model. I would not recommend “Go Set a Watchman” to anyone; without giving too much away, it challenges the vivid and inspirational characterization of Atticus Finch and changed my view of Miss Jean Louise (Scout) Finch. If you want to read some of Harper Lee’s writing, do yourself a favor and re/read the story that will exceed your expectations, “To Kill a Mockingbird”.

Thirteen years ago last Wednesday I was out running errands with my mom. We were having a good time and would never have expected that we would end the day in the ICU of Children’s Medical Center of Dallas (now Children’s Health). My mom never expected to be told that she should tell her 11 year old daughter “good bye” (because that little girl was not expected to live through the night)… But I defied expectations, had a nephrectomy a month later and have now lived more than half of my life as “The One Kidney Wonder” (hence the name of this blog).

Sometimes your expectations are not met.
Sometimes your expectations are exceeded.

2015 Goals (1st Quarter Update)

As the first quarter of the year draws to an end I thought I would share my status on the goals I shared earlier this year.

  1. Complete dollhouse construction (wiring, painting, etc)

I have acquired most of the materials I need to complete my dollhouse, i.e. lights, wire, wallpaper, stair railing…

I have completed the painting the majority of the outside of the house (excluding trim).

I hope to have a better update on this goal next quarter.

  1. Learn to play Chess

I have read Chess for Beginners by I.A. Horowitz (the first 24 pages for all that complete novices really need to start with). I have downloaded a chess app to practice playing alone until I can get a friend or family member to learn and play with me.

I have surprised myself, although I have the difficulty set on easy, I have won several games, and many games have ended in a stalemate or draw.

  1. Read more books than I did last year.

Of the 36 books I aim to read this year I have already read 12 (three ahead of schedule!). As long as I continue the current trend of three books each month I am sure to meet this goal in the next nine months.

  1. Master a minimum of 6 songs on the piano.

I have yet to master any new songs this year… I HAVE polished the songs in my repertoire. I do have several songs I am working on mastering. I hope to have a better update on this goal next quarter as well.

  1. Be positive.

I think I am making some progress with this goal. Why is it easier to remind/help others stay positive than it is to keep yourself from stumbling over negativity?

As expected, some days are better than others, but I consider myself in good standing on this one.

Goals for 2015

I do not set new year’s resolutions, I set goals. Goals to improve certain areas of my life, i.e. health, wealth and happiness…

I read an interesting article from Forbes about setting and successfully meeting goals. The article reiterated something I was told in college, “Writing down your goals, sharing them with friends, and sending your friends regular updates about your progress can boost your chances of succeeding.”

So, this year I thought I would share a few of my goals with you!

  1. Complete dollhouse wiring, construction and painting.

In 2002 I received an “easy” DIY dollhouse kit for my birthday. For years I had admired these beautiful, fancy, detailed dollhouses resting high up on the shelves in Hobby Lobby… Finally I convinced my parents that was all I wanted (or would ever want, at the time at least). Fast forward to 2014 and it has barely been touched, it is still snuggly, unassembled, in its box under my bed at home. This year that is going to change. I have expensive taste and miniature furniture is not exactly cheap so my goal is simply to complete construction, not furnishing.

  1. Learn to play chess.

I have always loved games, much to the dismay of my family… I have been interested in learning to play chess for quite some time now, but it was mentioned quite a lot in a book series I read last year and that is what motivated me to make it a goal for this year.

  1. Read more books than last year. (I read 35 books in 2014 [the goal for that was 30] so this year I am aiming for a minimum of 36 books.)

I was dyslexic and reading was never fun for me as a child. I learned coping strategies that got me through school and university and now I love reading. Correction: I love reading what I want to read. The goal of 30 books I set for myself last year was reaching far, but I was ecstatic when I not only met that goal but surpassed it! So this year I am pushing myself even further. Look forward to my book report next year.

  1. Master a minimum of 6 songs on the piano.

Last year I wrote a post about how I was returning to the piano after years away and that I would finally teach myself the left hand. I am very pleased to share that I memorized “Edelweiss” (from The Sound of Music), “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” (from The Lion King) and my favorite Christmas song, “The Little Drummer Boy”.  Last week I loaded up on sheet music for some of my favorite songs at Half Price Books (“OH, LOOK! The complete Backstreet Boys Millennium album! Oh and some Jimmy Buffett songs too!” I told you I have an eclectic taste in music). The bad part was I did not examine the difficulty of said sheet music before purchasing it. I am ok with that though, it will be an added challenge. I am eager to tackle these songs!

  1. Be positive.

Being positive is very important to a healthy, happy life. After reading The Secret last year I realized that my tendency to bogged down in the day to day “bad” things had grown deeper than I ever should have let it… There is always a silver lining; there is always another side of the coin. After all, “What you appreciate and give thanks for will increase in your life.” –Sanaya Romen.