*drum roll* The 2015 Book Review!

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.

5 stars

  • 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

4 Stars

  • 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

3 Stars

  • 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

2 Stars

  • 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

1 Star

  • 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

 

Traveling Internationally? Tips Here.

Periodically I’m asked tips for traveling internationally so I figured with the onslaught of flights lately that I should formalize these. Hopefully you find at least one of them to be helpful!

  1. Airline selection – go foreign. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud to be an American but not when it comes to my in-air care. Each year the top airlines are noted through various awards and I can attest that each one is great and that’s including economy seating – and at a comparable cost to American based airlines. Some of my favorite are Qantas (if you’re heading down under), Singapore Air, Cathay Pacific and Qatar.
  2. Don’t Book Through 3rd Parties. There are a lot of search engines available and they are very useful in researching prices and routes, but don’t book through them. These same prices are available through the airline site. The issue arises when you need to make a change to your booking. Third party sites fares and deals have different codes and the airline can typically only rebook on flights that have seats with these codes available (which often times are a limited number per flight). This is even more difficult if there are multiple airlines involved which tends to be the case for International flights.
  3. Plan your in-flight experience. Once your flight is booked stay on the website and manage your booking! It’s common (and recommended) to select your seat but did you know there’s more you can do? I always select a special meal. Let’s face it, airline food is never a foodie experience but there are ways to eat better. I always choose a fruit platter meal, that way I can get something healthy while in the air (and keep the cankles down) but they also have low – sodium, kosher, vegetarian etc. You an also look at what movies and TV shows will be available during your trip.
  4. Research Your Airport Connections. Let’s face it, travel isn’t always so glamorous (says the girl who once spent 18 hours in the Madrid airport during college). Airport amenities have come a LONG way since that long Spanish night in 2001. Regardless of your connection time do a little research. If it’s a short connection you can find the best route to run to your next flight, if it’s long you can see how to keep yourself entertained. Sometimes I even book routes based on the airport. Singapore has multiple free movie theaters, a butterfly garden and amazing shopping, Doha has a fantastic gym that if you book a spa appointment (who doesn’t love a good massage) you have complimentary use of the gym and it’s impressive lap pool, it also has quiet rooms, massive play areas for kids, and amazing shopping, Dubai has amazing shopping (do you see a trend yet?). Most airports have a pay per use lounge complete with food, quiet rooms, TVs, business centers and most importantly showers.
  5. Plan Your Carry On. This is just as important of planning your layover. First, always carry your charges with you and bring a multi-country adaptor. This is important as you never know where you may end up if there are travel delays (I’ve been stuck in both Doha and Hong Kong and rerouted to Germany – glad I was able to charge my phone!)
    1. Compartmentalize. I use cute zipper bags for each category in my carry on. Electronics, Medicine, Toiletries/ Cosmetics etc. If you’re developing a cough half way through your 16 hour flight you want it to be easy to reach.
    2. Clothes. Once Qantas upgraded me to business class (a mistake they never made again) and they give you a pair of pajamas to change into. This way when you land your clothes are still nice and fresh and feel slightly more human. I have run with this by bringing a light pair of black pjs with me to change into and it makes a huge difference.
    3. Make up. It’s amazing how much make up disappears while just sitting around for 26 hours. Pack the minimal that you need to feel your best. I bring basic eye shadow, liquid eyeliner pen and tinted lip gloss to freshen up.
    4. Medicine. Nothing is worse than being in a foreign country and getting sick – and planes are a hotbed for germs. I carry a mini walgreens with me because no one wants to go on a wild goose chase in another country looking for mucinex, excedrin, Nyquil, pepto and so on and so forth.
    5. Travel Comforts. Take anything with you that will make you more comfortable. My FAVORITE investment in the last year was an inflatable foot rest. It has honestly been the best $20 I’ve ever spent.

What tips would you add?

2014 Was a Good Year for Reading!

I’ve always been an avid reader, which I’d like to attribute to my mother – as she used to pay me 1 penny per page of books read (Rob is unwilling to continue on with this tradition).  Four years ago I made a New Years resolution to read 1 book per week for the year and this is still going strong.

I felt like 2013 I read a good number of books that I felt a bit ho-hum for but 2014 made up for it with what seemed like a record breaking 4 & 5 star rated books.  Here are all 52 books, please feel free to click on my Goodreads widget (or friend me on Goodreads!) to see the full reviews!

5 Stars

  • The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. Fiction – Top recommended book of 2014
  • As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride by Cary Elwes. Memoir
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. Fiction
  • At Home by Heston Blumenthal. Cookbook
  • The First Fifteen LIves of Harry August by Claire North. Fiction
  • The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henken. Youth
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio. YA
  • Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Fiction

4 Stars

  • Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free by Hector Tobar.   Non-fiction
  • Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris.  Memoir
  • All the LIght We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Fiction
  • We Were LIars by E. Lockhart. Fiction
  • An Astronaut’s Guide to LIfe on Earth by Chris Hadfield.  Memoir
  • Empty Mansions: The Mysterious LIfe of Huguette Clark and the Spending of Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman. Non-fiction
  • What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. Fiction
  • Legend (Legend #1) by Marie Lo. YA
  • Prodigy (Legend #2) by Marie Lo. YA
  • Champion (Legend #3) by Marie Lo. YA
  • Running for My Life: One Lost Boy’s Journey from the Killing Fields of Sudan to the Olympic Games by Lopez Lomong. Memoir
  • Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway. Fiction
  • The Lightening Thief (Percy Jackson #1) by Rick Riorden. YA
  • The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson #2) by Rick Riorden. YA
  • The TItans Cure (Percy Jackson #3) by Rick Riorden. YA
  • The Battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson #4) by Rick Riorden. YA
  • The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. FIction
  • Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik. FIction
  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. YA
  • Dark Places by GIllian Flynn. Fiction
  • The House at Riverton by Kate Morton. FIction
  • Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

3 Stars

  • One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak.  Short stories
  • Yes Please by Amy Poehler. Memoir
  • The Selection (The Selection #1) by Kiera Cass. YA
  • The Elite (The Selection #2) by Kiera Cass. YA
  • The One (The Selection #3) by Kiera Cass. YA
  • Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCeight. YA
  • The Devil’s Grin by Annelie Wendeberg. FIction
  • The Cuckoo’s Calling (Cormoran Strike #1) by Robert Galbraith. Fiction/ Mysetry
  • If I Stay by Gayle Forman. YA
  • Landline by Rainbow Rowell. Fiction
  • Lost and Found by Brooke Davis. Fiction
  • The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson #5) by Rick Riordan. YA
  • Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. HIstorical Fiction
  • The Husband’s Secret by LIane Moriarity. Fiction
  • The Last Runaway by Travy Chevalier. Fiction
  • Labor Day by Joyce Maynard

2 Stars

  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt.  Fiction
  • Mermaids in Paradise by Chris Hadfield. Fiction
  • Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. Fiction
  • The CIrcle by Dave Eggers. Fiction
  • The Triple Package by Amy Chua. Non-fiction

1 Star

  • The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Walker.  Total suck-dom

28 Days Later

For the record this is not a review of the Movie “28 Days Later”. If it was it would go something like this: What a stupid horrid movie, don’t see it. Even the “Hugh Grant effect” (you know of forgetting what a stupid bloke they are because of an endearing British accent) could save this film and it’s zombie-like-mutant-disease-ridden plot. Also, if you were looking for a film review of “28 Days” here’s my 2 cents (inclusive of Aussie exchange rate): Once again another stupid Sandra Bullock movie. Yes I’ll acknowledge that she was good in Blind Side but every other role she plays I swear she looks like Fiefel the mouses’s love interest in the 1980’s An American Tale “film” franchise.

Onto what this entry is really about – we’ve officially been here 28 days – which I believe makes living in Perth a habit (although I’m still trying to get the hang of it). To celebrate this milestone here are 28 divided by 2 things I’ve learned so far living here.

*Drum Roll*

  1. Perth is the most remote city in the world (also for those calling me – it’s 13 hours ahead of CST)
  2. I can get almost everywhere I need to (Ikea) by some form of public transportation (bus, train, or ferry)
  3. If you get on the correct bus it will take you exactly where you are intending to go
  4. If you get on the incorrect bus you will have to walk 1 km to the movie theatre
  5. McDonald’s is Macas; Burger King is Hungry Jacks; KFC is still disgusting (unless you’re talking to Rob)
  6. Don’t be fooled by anything labeled as Mexican food – it should really be called Mexican’t (unless you fancy a nice pita burrito)
  7. Never assume someone is homeless because they aren’t wearing shoes – people here just don’t wear shoes
  8. People also don’t like wearing clothing. If your bum isn’t hanging out of your shorts they are too long; if your dress if longer than a tube top than it’s not short enough.
  9. Cheese is the correct colour here (meaning the colour of the animal’s milk – although we have yet to locate a Velveeta cow herd)
  10. Most people ask if I’m Canadian before asking American
  11. Don’t ask the child seated near you at a match who they are “rooting” for.  Root/ rooting means “having sex with”. That is also a good time to shrug your shoulders and mention it must be a part of your Canadian background …
  12. Footy is awesome – it’s like a tackle-basketball-soccer-keep the ball away from <insert name of youngest sibling>
  13. If you’ve wondered where Law & Order has been disappearing to, Australia has been siphoning episodes to create 24 hour series coveraged
  14. I look like an idiot every time I open my mouth to exclaim “what a beautiful day!!!” because that’s what it’s always like here

Blah Blah Blah

It’s that time of my life where a lot of things are going on but nothing is actually entertaining to write about (and in turn – to read about).  Soooo, I figured I would provide a run down of “where we be” in this whole married and moving process.
  • We got married
  • We hit up San Diego for a week of R&R and shopping … and continued paperwork for the move
  • “Ob” had a surprise last-minute trip back to Perth (keeping my fingers crossed that he returns before the move)
  • Met with the movers. Yup, you read that correctly, real professional movers <insert applause from friends who have previously been coerced to move my piano through promises of donuts and pizza>
  • Sold all of the stuff we aren’t taking.  This happened a little faster than planned (i.e. we have no TVs just couches facing where TV once was) and will result in the commandeering of my friends’ DVRs to ensure not a single episode of Glee, Modern Family, or Hoarders is missed.

I have also started my “Goodbye Tour” (still debating limited edition T-shirts).  This is for both friends and food alike. It will begin in Omaha this weekend in which I will eat my Bagel Bin, Runza, Zio’s, and Hectors while saying adieu.  I really am not a fan of saying good-bye – especially saying it for an entire month.  I’d instead rather say “see ya later alligator” to which the response would be … come on, this is the interactive part … hmmm, no response? Really?  … whatever …

Book Review: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. Triumphantly lived up to its title.  Note: due to the wedding this took me both weeks 7 & 8.  I will make up for this during the long, long travel day(s) to Perth.

Look - we got married!

I may as well start my list now

I think Perth is going to be a blast – but I figured I’d start a list of things that I think I’m going to miss just to sound whiney and downplay my excitement for all those who may miss me …

  • Runza
  • College football Saturdays (they’ll be Sunday morning’s there)
  • Kansas City BBQ (oh how i’ll miss thee Oklahoma Joe’s)
  • Frigid cold winter
  • Working
  • Book club discussions – and hijacking of book club discussion by yours truly
  • Bagel Bin
  • Southwest ding fares – not that I actually use them but I like the option of flying to Detroit in January for $59 each way
  • Miles, Pounds, and all things American measuring (I wonder if my friend Miles thought at first this was about him …)
  • Pandora
  • Outback Steakhouse
  • My running friends – there’s a lot of bonding while running 20 miles at 6 AM on a Saturday mornings when it’s a 110 heat index
  • Testing my new cupcake concoctions on my co-workers on a weekly basis
  • Affordable clothing
  • Giant bin of cheeseballs from Target
  • Timely movie releases

Book Review: “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”. High recommeded.  If you are a parent or have ever had a parent you will be strongly opinionated about this book.

What a great week … in opposite land …

Stupid week.  Stupid week.  Stupid week.  Or unless you were watching my week from afar with a tub of popcorn you may have found this to be an enjoyable adventure.

Being consistent with my love of bullet points, here is a breakdown of my recent hoarding of stupidity …

  • Attempt to plan a wedding in six weeks … with my fiance leaving the country for the last three weeks of the planning.  (Don’t feel bad for him, he gets to head to Australia where it’s summer and they bumped him up to first class)
  • Concurrently redecorating the entire house with an end date of before the wedding.  This is including, but not limited to: repainting the entire main and second floors, removing wallpaper from four rooms, retiling the front entry, three bathrooms, fireplace and kitchen backsplash.
  • Spent entire day off (10 hours) painting the front entry (20 foot ceiling) myself because I was not happy with the painters’ bids ($500).
  • Decided to get monogrammed items for me and my fiance and realizing that our monogram actually spells out his name.  For everyone reading this who knows how pleasantly self centric I am, yes, I realize this is funny and a bit ironic.
  • While trying to remove wall paper from bathroom found out there were multiple layers involved … we’ll just chalk this up to one more thing I hate from the 80’s that are haunting me still today. (Like how I still remember every word to Debbie Gibson’s Electric Youth).
  • Finally thought I got better from all the 2010 sickness and then got a 24 hour flu bug. (Now that I think about it, they should’ve done a season of 24 about a 24 hour flu bug … )
  • Was trying to walk down the marble stairs at the gym and fell down them.  Giving me a bruise so large and obvious that people keep slipping me “safe house” cards.
  • Oh yeah, due to my inability to find the correct tools to remove above mentioned wall paper I have been forced to use my Pampered Chef mini spatula/ brownie cutter.

The only saving grace is that the featherbed I ordered from Overstock arrived today … which I will use despite the fact that all of the bedding I ordered from Pottery Barn is on backorder …

2011 Resolution: Book #2 Cutting for Stone.  ‘eh, it was okay I guess.