2018 Book Challenge Results


Happy New Year! I hope everyone is having a great start to 2019. In spite of a few hiccups, I’m happy to say that so far my 2019 Happiness Project has been going well! How are you sticking to your resolutions?

Every year, I aim to make time for reading. My perfect weekend day involves a trip to the river walk by my apartment with a cup of tea and a good book. Because of graduate school (and then my subsequent recovery from graduate school), reading was sadly not as big of a priority for me in 2018. However, I did reread an old childhood favorite and discover some amazing new page turners. I’ll mark the best books of 2018 with a * below!

Books I Read in 2018

  1. Negotiation Genius by Deepak Malhotra and Max Bazerman (3/8/18)
  2. Every Day by David Levithan (4/7/18)*
  3. Total Leadership by Steward D. Friedman (4/14/18)
  4. Woman Enters Left by Jessica Brockmole (4/20/18)*
  5. The Diary of Darcy J. Rhone by Emily Giffin (4/22/18)
  6. Damned by Chuck Palahniuk (4/30/18)
  7. How To Be Well by Frank Lipman (5/26/18)
  8. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty (6/9/18)
  9. Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis (7/4/18) – Girl, Wash Your Face: Three Lies We Need to Stop Telling Ourselves
  10. Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen (7/31/18)*
  11. The Idiot’s Guide to Ayurveda by Sahara Rose Ketabi (9/8/18)
  12. The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron (11/16/18)
  13. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (11/30/18)*

To keep up with my current reading list for 2019, visit the Book Challenge page on my top menu or click here. (Click for recaps from 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 20152016, and 2017!)

Have you read anything good lately? Share your recommendations in the comments!

Link Love Wednesday: Happy Halloween!

Im-a-mouse-duhWith Halloween just around the corner, I couldn’t resist pulling a few spooktacular links from the blogosphere! I may not have a Halloween costume just yet (is there still time? Please tell me there’s still time!), but I still have my memories of trick-or-treating in princess costumes and pouring out pillowcases of candy at the end of the night. In honor of what was once my favorite day of the year, please enjoy this week’s Link Love, and share your own favorites in the comments section below!

Any great links you’ve picked up this week? Share in the comments below!

The Friday Five: High School Experiences I Wish I Had

Every week, as I turn on the latest episode of The Hard Times of RJ Berger, I am reminded of how formulaic and unrealistic society’s portrayal of high school life really is. My school never had quite the same divisions when it came to cliques (they did exist, but there were a lot of gray areas and it was possible to be a part of more than one), and I can’t think of a particular It Girl who “ruled the school” a la Regina George of Mean Girls. In other words, while many of pop culture’s portrayals of high school have some grain of truth, few really capture the essence of my high school experience (or that of anyone else I know).

Having said that, although I enjoyed high school to an extent, I wouldn’t mind borrowing some elements from the movies and television shows that seem to capture it all. And so this Friday, I bring you five fictional high school events I wish I could relive, had my life been a movie, TV show, or book.

The Friday Five: High School Experiences I Wish I Had

1. Attending a school where it’s okay to break into song no matter what.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a jock or a nerd, because on Glee, everyone gets their chance to shine. In a school with boundless musical talent, you can sing about anything (really!) — whether it’s the student who has a crush on her teacher, the baby you’re giving up for adoption, or the boy you liked that you thought had feelings for your friend but was actually gay. While my abilities in song and dance are extremely limited, I would have loved being a part of the Cheerios cheerleading squad with Sue Sylvester as my coach. Yes, she can be sadistic, but as a former cheerleader myself, I know it would have been amazing to perform with a team of such talent (and with pyrotechnics included… gasp!). I could do without the whole “slushie in the face” routine though. : )


2. An 80’s/90’s movie prom night.

Much to my friends’ dismay, I hate to dance. For all of my high school dances, I always felt like I wasted a perfectly good dress on a night of watching sweaty people practically have sex on the dance floor — for me, the night might as well have taken a break after my pictures were taken and then continued a few hours later at the after party. However, had my homecomings and prom resembled more of an 80’s or 90’s event (such as Pretty in Pink or She’s All That), I probably would have enjoyed them a lot more. A fun, choreographed dance to Fatboy Slim’s The Rockafeller Skank or a slow dance to The Spandau Ballet’s song True would have made the night that much better… instead of listening some hip-hop artist I couldn’t even understand.


3. Having full access to my friend’s basement hangout.

Let me just preface this by saying that basements are a rare commodity in Florida… and basically impossible to have if you live as far south as I did. Therefore, finding yourself in a basement is a very cool thing. Okay, so maybe I wouldn’t be doing quite the same things that the characters from That 70’s Show did, but if I had an Eric Forman in my life whose basement was always up for grabs, there’s no telling what I would do. It doesn’t matter if Eric is out of the house or even on the same continent; his friends still have a place to call home — no knocking or calling ahead of time required! The basement is their safe haven for dealing with the pressures of life and growing up. While my friends and I did have a few places we frequented, there was never one that meant all that much to me. Many of the locations we went to were easily replaceable, and none of them ever felt to me like a home away from home.


4. Taking bets and then falling in love because of them.

Growing up in the 90’s, I was surrounded by images of boys who accepted money to date dorky and socially awkward but still obviously pretty girls, but ultimately ended up dropping the bet/deal and falling in love with them. Take 10 Things I Hate About You as a prime example. Patrick Verona (played by a young Heath Ledger, who really stole the show – rest in peace) is paid by Joey Donner (the narcissistic popular guy… yay stereotypes!) to date Kat Stratford so that Joey can have a chance with Kat’s sister and eventually sleep with her. Patrick gets Kat all the way to the prom but falls in love with her along the way, to the point where he even serenades her with Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You and pays the band to perform at her soccer practice. Of course these things never happen in real life, but 90’s movies make the argument that if you start to date someone for the wrong reasons (such as a bet or the fact that you’re being paid) then you’re destined to fall for them. Case closed.


5. Learning magic and defeating the most evil wizard of all time.

I still maintain that my Hogwarts letter got lost in the mail almost nine years ago… and while the seven years spent in wizarding school overlap middle and high school, I would be willing to erase my middle school years in favor of becoming the next Hermione Granger, minus all the hormones (besides, middle school really sucked). Although I doubt I’m brave enough for Gryffindor, I think I’d find a happy place for myself in Ravenclaw, hopefully not among know-it-alls but just among people who like to question and learn new things. I’m convinced that I would love my Charms and Transfiguration classes, hate Potions due to my aversion to chemistry, and struggle a little with Defense Against the Dark Arts because I’m a bit of a passive person but nevertheless would learn a lot from the class and love being there. I might not have been on the frontlines fighting against Voldemort, but I would still find my place in the cause and work toward the equality of all magical creatures!


So, what high school experiences do you wish you had?!

Fictional Characters Are Not Our Soulmates

Every girl has said it at one point or another: I’m looking for my Prince Charming. Mr. Darcy. Edward Cullen. Noah Calhoun. Jake Ryan. Seth Cohen. Regardless of what we look for in a partner, most of us have idealized a “soulmate” some time in our lives, and often that image is based on a fictional character that appeals to us. If we’re realistic about everything and we don’t let our thoughts run too wild, the idea of a real-life Zack Morris or A.C. Slater probably isn’t the worst thing we can think up. However, sometimes the line between fiction and reality becomes blurred, and we begin to hope for something that doesn’t actually exist.

In my first entry on A Paper Town for a Paper Girl (my previous blog), I discussed the dangers of taking romantic comedies too literally, because we are often disillusioned by the way relationships work on screen. The entry dealt mainly with the plot of these movies as a whole, but not so much about the specific characters that we fall for every time.

The thing is, romantic comedies aren’t the only ones guilty of deceiving us. The books we read and the TV shows we watch can also present those same male leads that we can’t get enough of. And isn’t that every writer’s goal — for the audience to become invested in the characters and their fates? So maybe it isn’t the creator’s fault; maybe that lies in the way we absorb what’s in front of us.

In his book Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, Chuck Klosterman illustrates this point with Lloyd Dobler (played by John Cusack) from the movie Say Anything. Although Lloyd Dobler is completely fictional, the actor who plays him is not, and therefore according many women (including Klosterman’s then-girlfriend) transferred their love for Lloyd to John. Even when Cusack took on grittier roles, those women still perceived him to be exactly as Lloyd Dobler was. They would always see him as the hopeless romantic who held a boombox over his head and played Peter Gabriel for the girl he loved… even though he was really just John Cusack, an actor who merely did a good job delivering a role.

So then, what happens to those girls who pray for a Lloyd Dobler in real life? I’ve blogged before about the dangers of building our significant others up to be something they’re not, but what about the dangers of those comparisons between fictional heartthrobs and the ones in our own lives? If you always have the manufactured image of that boy with the boombox in the back of your mind, and you can’t replace it with something tangible, then you may never be totally satisfied in your love life.

Ultimately, if we’re ever going to have healthy relationships, we need to ditch our fictional “soulmates” and go with the people in our real lives who will make us happy just by being themselves. 🙂