Yes, I know I haven’t written since March but I couldn’t NOT make a post recapping and recommending my reads from this year. It was a record breaking year for books due to many flights and also using audible while traipsing up and down the road to Saigon. I finished 57 books, 5 ahead of my goal of 52.
First let’s start with my favorites:
Book I couldn’t stop recommending: A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman. I absolutely loved everything about this book. It made me cry.
Favorite Series: The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. It’s a futuristic telling of classic fairy tales. I thought it was a really fun take and I didn’t even notice that the final book was over 800 pages long.
Favorite Truth: Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach. This was a hard choice since I find reading non-fiction to be utterly fascinating. Truth to the saying “you just can’t make this stuff up”! Mary once again brought her humorous approach to researching interesting things about War that frankly I never think about.
Favorite YA: The Serpent King Jeff Zentner. Confession: I was planning a book club reunion/ girls trip to Nashville and wanted us to read a local author. My brother mentioned a book a friend recently had published so I choose it sight unseen. WHAT A GREAT CHOICE, which has also been reflected in many “Best of 2016” lists.
Favorite Book Published in 2016: Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly, historical fiction I found this one very interesting and wanted to learn more about the history behind the real life characters.
5 Star Books
- The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal by David E. Hoffman, non-fiction
- Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, non-fiction
- Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach, non-fiction
- Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, fiction
- A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman, fiction
- My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Frederik Backman, fiction
- Britt-Marie Was Here by Frederik Backman, fiction
- Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly, historical fiction
- Salt to the Sea by Ruta Septets, historical fiction
- My Name Is Resolute by Nancy E. Turner, historical fiction
- Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1) by Marissa Meyers, YA fiction
- Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles, #2) by Marissa Meyers, YA fiction
- Cress (The Lunar Chronicles, #3) by Marissa Meyers, YA fiction
- Winter (The Lunar Chronicles, #4) by Marissa Meyers, YA fiction
4 Star Books
- Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever by Bill O’Reilly, non-fiction
- Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin, non-fiction
- This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection by Carol Burnett, non-fiction, memoir
- Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance, non-fiction, memoir
- The Only Pirate at the Party by Lindsey Stirling, non-fiction, memoir
- Just Kids by Patti Smith, non-fiction, memoir
- Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl, non-fiction, memoir
- Home going by Yaa Gyasi, fiction
- The 5th Wave (The 5th Wave, #1) by Rick Yancey, YA fiction
- Home going by Yaa Gyasi, fiction
- The Sword of Summer(Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, #1) by Rick Riordan, YA fiction
- Red Queen (Red Queen, #1) by Victoria Aveyard, YA fiction
- Fairest: Levana’s Story (The Lunar Chronicles, #3.5) by Marissa Meyer, YA fiction
- The Serpent King Jeff Zentner, YA fiction
- The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Phillip Sender, fiction
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One and Two(Harry Potter, #8) by John Tiffany, fiction
- The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick, fiction
- The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, fiction
- When the Moon is Low by Nadia Hashimi, fiction
- The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, #1) by Alexander McCall Smith
- Tears of the Giraffe (No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, #2) by Alexander McCall Smith, fiction
- Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike, #3) by Robert Galbraith, fiction
- The Sympathizer by Viet Tan Nguyen, fiction
- Good as Gone by Amy Gentry, fiction
- Glass Sword (Red Queen, #2) by Victoria Aveyard, YA fiction
- The Royal We by Heather Cocks, fiction
- Killing Patton: The Strange Death of World War II’s Most Audacious General by Bill O’Reilly, non-fiction
- The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way by Bill Bryson, non-fiction
- The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe, non-fiction, memoir
- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo, non-fiction
- In the Dark, In the Woods by Eliza Wass,YA fiction
- Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, YA fiction
- Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty, fiction
- All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, fiction
- The Life We Bury by Allen Eskers, fiction
- Gray Mountain by John Grisham, fiction
- Jackaby (Jackaby, #1) by William Ritter, fiction
- Black & Blue (Detective Harriet Blue #0.5) by James Patterson
- Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty, fiction
- Zoo 2 (Zoo, #2) by James Petterson, fiction
I’ve been feeling a bit crafty lately and was looking for a small project that would be a fun gift for friends. After a bit of Pinteresting (that’s a verb right?) I found the perfect piece. Us women folk are always needing to bring a dish somewhere – a dish with food. There’s always a potluck or a picnic or just a group of people who will surely die if there isn’t 7-layer dip around. Sometimes it can be a bit tricky to try to transport the dish, especially if it is on the warm side.
Here is the solution – a fancy casserole dish carrier. (That fits your standard pyrex dish or smaller – but who ever brought something small???)
I can’t take credit for the idea, I found it here on Little Bit Funky (if you want to make one yourself) but I can take credit for the hours of sewing while binging on Gilmore Girls. My friend Taunya tipped me off on a quilt fabric shop in Ho Chi Minh City where I found the perfect pair of prints (very Cath Kitdson style) to start this endeavor. After I had finished them I realized there was a very very good chance the ladies who were gifted these would end up going to the same bring-a-plate soirees so I took it one step further and put name labels to make sure they would make it home safely. Now how many of y’all want one?
Look at all the things you can put in there!
I might’ve made one for myself
The stack of finished beauty!
Out of all the clothes in my closet jeans are the hardest to part with. I think about the struggle that occurred when buying them – the juice cleanse before shopping, the tears running down your face, the squats in the dressing room before seeing how they really look and the victory strut to the register when you finally find a winning pair. There is however a time in which they fall out of fashion *gasp*. I distinctly remember realizing that skinnies had replaced all previous type of cuts that Oprah had dictated were the most flattering style of each year. As my fingers ran down the beautiful stack of folded denim (a skill I honed while working at the GAP in high school) I reminisced of all the various girls nights out, cute summer wedges and even a tripping over of a wide leg with a crock pot in hand while in these denim delights. There was no way I could get rid of them, I would SAVE THEM FOR CAMPING!!!
Yes, camping! Even though my boot cut True Religions no longer looked good on a dance floor they were perfect for a weekend in the woods. Who doesn’t need a good pair of camping jeans. It doesn’t matter if they’re in style. Camping jeans end up smelling of camp fire, getting coated in melted marshmallow and keep the stank of not showering encased. I tried this for a while but after our time in Australia I went camping for a total of four nights – and you know what? I wore my in style skinny jeans so I could fit my gumboots over top of them …
So with this move I was left with a stack of 17 pairs of jeans that I knew with my heart of hearts that I would never wear again. I did what any respected quilter would do, I started cutting away to make a jean quilt. Okay I’ll be honest Robbo had wanted one for a while and I was having jean attachment issues – obviously. I spent last week cutting and measuring and sewing and un-sewing and bingewatching the Biggest Loser and ended up with a cute pattern using 6-inch and 8-inch squares and backed with a lovely red and white flannel. I chose red thread for the stitching because I think it was a nice contrast to the jeans themselves. Rob is now rugged up and happy to have his jean quilt and I’m stuck with trying to figure out what I’ll wear camping.
All rugged up and nowhere to go
Great for a picnic!
With the New Year approaching (yes, the Lunar New Year) our town is teeing up some very helpful public service announcements to have great start of the year of the monkey. I’ve taken pictures and since I do not speak Vietnamese here is a very loose translation of what they say.
“A rubbish bin’s job is a lonely job if you throw your trash in the grass. Put it in me and I’ll be happy again!” *please note stick drawings are not to scale.
“Make sure everyone is wearing a helmet as they be crazy driving up in here!”
“These white lines are where you cross the street. Please stop walking into traffic wherever it floats your boat.” This sign is at all of the places people walk across with no crosswalk, basically everywhere.
“These are traffic lights, they each mean something different. Contrary to popular belief you do not have a 5 second leeway on either side of a green or red light”
Now that you are informed I wish you a Happy New Year – drive/ walk/ trash safely!
It’s resolution time and we all know the drill that if you write them down it increases that you’ll actually do it. So here is my attempt at 2016.
- I have really enjoyed my 52 books challenge so that will continue
- I will make an attempt every day to wear lipstick. I know, this sounds like quite a big task to complete but “my Texans” have made an impact and I don’t want to disappoint them.
- Quilting. With my increased free time in Vietnam I decided to do something with a little more purpose than hitting the gym every day. There is a great organization called Quilts of Valor. Their mission is to “cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor”. The patriotic quilts that are made are given to service members and veterans. Since it’s inception they have given 131,794 quilts. My goal is to make four quilts, one per quarter, and more if I can. After a bit of sewing and un-sewing and re-sewing I finished my first top. So here it is in all it’s glory. I can’t wait to get it quilted and give it away.
What are you goals this year?
I can barely believe it, five years ago I started my 52 books in 52 weeks challenge and this is the first time I finished before the 31st! Here is my annual read book list sorted by a very scientific star rating (click here if you missed the 2014 , 2013 or 2012 reviews). For full reviews on all of my books check out my Goodreads link on the side. My top recommendations for the year are:
The Martian by Andy Weir The movie adaptation was pretty darn close but I think if you saw the movie you’d still enjoy the book, it’s pretty funny even if there is a bunch of science.
The Pearl that Broke it’s Shell by Nadia Sashimi. Set in Kabul is the parallel stories of Rahima and her great-aunt almost 100 years earlier as they were dressed and treated as boys (bacha posh) until marriageable age is reached as per local customs.
Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman. This National Book Award winner tackles teenage mental illness drawn from the experiences of the Author’s family. It is also illustrated by his son.
- Momofuku Milk Bar by Christina Tosi (Cookbook)
- The Pearl that Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi
- The Martian by Andy Weir
- Circling the Sun by Paula McClain (previously read author, The Paris Wife) – Audiobook
- My Life in France by Juila Child – Audiobook
- The Wright Brothers by David McCullough – Audiobook
- The Book of Mormon
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Dead Wake by Erik Larson (previously read author, Devil in the White City, In the Garden of Beasts, Thunderstruck) – Audiobook
- Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
- The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
- Loving Frank by Nancy Horan – Audiobook
- The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
- The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
- Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
- Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
- American Sniper by Chris Kyle
- The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riorden
- Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
- Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
- The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
- The Lake House by Kate Morton
- I Must Say: My life as a humble comedy legend by Martin Short
- The Swimmer by Joacim Zander
- The Girl with all the Gifts by M.R. Carey
- The Paris Architect by Charle Belfoure
- Stronger by Jeff Bauman
- The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon
- The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen by Jacques Pepin
- Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
- Red Queen by Victoria Avenyard
- Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
- Boys in the Trees by Carly Simon
- The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)
- The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
- The Giver by Lois Lowry
- Yesterdays Echo by Matt Coyle
- Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
- Why Not Me by Mindy Kaling
- Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan
- The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion
- The Mind Readers by Lori Brigham
- The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
- The Good Girl by Mary Kubica
- Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
- China Dolls by Lisa See
- Will Grayson Will Grayson by John Green
- Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella
- Thirteen by Sebastian Beaumont
- Buried Giant by Kazoo Ishiguro
- The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel
I promise that is the last time I will ever use the Angkor (say) Wat pun (maybe). Robbo had to leave the country (again) so I went ahead and left to – for a girls weekend in Siem Reap. I met up with a few ex-Perth expats, and one Perthian, for the weekend of the Angkor Wat Half-Marathon/ 10k run. Girl’s trips are good for the soul, especially when they’re with girls as good as mine. I’m lucky (and tired) for this great weekend opportunity. It couldn’t be perfecter.
First things first we decided to sleep in, well get up just in time to eat the hotel’s breakfast buffet and then go back to sleep again. Then after being exhausted from some market shopping we laid by the pool for a few hours waiting for dinner time. After the much needed R&R we hopped on a tuk-tuk for temple day. We managed to sweat on a lot of amazing looking old temples – obviously not as much sweat as was put into building them eleventy billion years ago – but it was still impressive.
The next morning was race day. We didn’t have to leave until 5 am which means I got to sleep in until 4:15! Woo-hoo!! We joined to throng of tuk-tuks carrying runners tying up shoes and wiping sleep from their eyes. Thankfully we got there in time to wait in line at the port-a-loos long enough to make friends (other expats living in other SouthEast asian countries). I’ve never been at such a gorgeous race starting line – complete with the sun rising over Angkor Wat. This is the only race I’ve run in which almost everyone, including myself, kept stopping to take pictures. I mean come on, we literally got to run through the grounds of Angkor Wat! When we were done we loaded up on fresh coconut water (who needs it from the can) and our tuk-tuk driver found us in the crowd to take us home. We relaxed with the pool, massages and mexican food – the way it should be.
Sunrise over Angkor Wat
Ready, ready to run!
One of many tuk-tuk rides
Chilling, relaxin, acting all cool.