Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Book Review: "Etta and Otto and Russell and James" by Emma Hooper

I'm going to be real honest with you all. I stopped my 25 before 26 memoir/biography challenge. I made it through 11 books - some I really enjoyed and some that weren't my favorite. I stopped..because I was bored. I needed something else to read besides adventures other people have had. Maybe I'll read 25 before the end of 2016..who knows. I just know that it wasn't something I was enjoying any longer, so I thought stopping would be easier. At least for now.

And with that, I bring you:

From Simon and Schuster.com: "Eighty-three-year-old Etta has never seen the ocean. So early one morning she takes a rifle, some chocolate, and her best boots and begins walking the 3,232 kilometers from rural Saskatchewan, Canada eastward to the sea. As Etta walks further toward the crashing waves, the lines among memory, illusion, and reality blur.

Otto wakes to a note left on the kitchen table. “I will try to remember to come back,” Etta writes to her husband. Otto has seen the ocean, having crossed the Atlantic years ago to fight in a far-away war. He understands. But with Etta gone, the memories come crowding in and Otto struggles to keep them at bay. Meanwhile, their neighbor Russell has spent his whole life trying to keep up with Otto and loving Etta from afar. Russell insists on finding Etta, wherever she’s gone. Leaving his own farm will be the first act of defiance in his life.

Moving from the hot and dry present of a quiet Canadian farm to a dusty, burnt past of hunger, war, and passion, from trying to remember to trying to forget, Etta and Otto and Russell and James is an astounding literary debut “of deep longing, for reinvention and self-discovery, as well as for the past and for love and for the boundless unknown” (San Francisco Chronicle). “In this haunting debut, set in a starkly beautiful landscape, Hooper delineates the stories of Etta and the men she loved (Otto and Russell) as they intertwine through youth and wartime and into old age. It’s a lovely book you’ll want to linger over” (People)."

I found this little one in the Half Price Book's clearance section - I go there from time to time and choose books that sound "okay". That way, if I don't like them, I only spent 2 dollars at the most. This one surprised me. 

Beautiful and heartbreaking. That's really my thoughts on it. It talks of memories, of loss, of adventure, and of finding. Finding yourself, finding a new world..I mean, it's one that I just think you have to read to understand. And quite possibly, have to do to understand. Have to decide what's best for you, maybe at the risk of someone else - and then live with the consequences.

It broke my heart, but it also brings home something that I've been thinking about as this year ends - deciding. Trying. DOING. Something that I don't do. I live in fear. I crouch in the corner and pretend that my little life is all I'm destined for. And that's not true. A life worth lived isn't little at all - even if you're not a daredevil or someone in the spotlight. 

In 2016, I don't want to live in fear. I know everyone makes these big life changes and doesn't follow through with them all the time - that's what December becomes. But it isn't even about that for me. It's more about becoming the person that I already am..but with less chains. Less holding back. And I'm looking forward to it. Terrified, I am..but hopeful.

1// "We're all scared, most of the time. Life would be lifeless if we weren't. Be scared, and then jump into that fear. Again and again. Just remember to hold on to yourself while you do it."

A reinforcement of what I just said above. Choosing to live within the fear. To go at it, guns blazing - or even just one step at a time. But the choice is to go at it. That's what I choose. What I'm going to choose.

2// "If we're doing we're living and if we're living we're winning, right?"

I'm pretty sure that one is on an inspirational poster somewhere. Or the Rock said it. Either of the two. In all seriousness though, we all like to win. We all like to do something. And if we're making effort, there's no loss in that. Doing something is always better than nothing. And in life, you can't exactly do nothing. No one's given that luxury.

Read it for the sole purpose that it is wonderful. The characters are beautiful and very vulnerable. They've known each other since childhood and are forced to confront each relationship at once - something they've never had to do. Read it because it's original. It's ending - equal parts "throw the book against the wall and scream WHAT THE HELL" and "oh. I don't know what to think about that" and "that's not how I thought it would end, but sweet..I liked it" - will leave you with questions, but also questions answered. Adventure, unending love, coyotes, and the wildness that life hurtles at you - this one has it all. I definitely recommend it.


Monday, December 28, 2015

Monday's Mixtape: The Best of 2015

As the final Monday of 2015 (what? When did that happen?) is here, I thought I'd talk a little bit about my favorite songs from the year. I realize that my favorites probably have nothing to do with yours, or how many times they were played on the radio - but, they're worth talking about. In no particular order..

1// 24 Frames by Jason Isbell 

You'll be surprised that the first on this list wasn't talked about on my blog before. Jason started his career with the band, The Drive By Truckers until 2007 when he left for a solo career. His gravely voice and vivid story telling is what brings this song home for me. You relate to it.

2// Fight Song by Rachel Platten


Say what you want about this girl power anthem (my dad likes to make up his own word to the tune..), it is powerful. And it came out during a time this summer when not a whole lot was going right for me, and the phrase "I've still got a little more fight in me" resonated heavily in my world. I'm thankful for it.

3// Love Yourself by Justin Bieber


Yup, it's here again. My love affair with this song doesn't end. Which surprises me a bit, because I had every intention of loving all of the radio singles more - but I don't. I love the subtleness of the lyrics - that if you think you're so great, you should just love yourself and leave me alone..and by the way, you really aren't that great. Genius.

4// Little Bitty Dreams by Will Hoge

I've never heard this one on the radio - and I think it's a damn shame. Will's little ode to a high school love - one that changes everything - is beautiful. It's the kind of song you want a cute boy singing to you at the end of the day - because that means he only sees you. And that's all we all really want anyway.

5// Hello by Adele

But really, girl KILLS it..and I'm not even a big Adele fan. Never have been. But this "love lost" tune has me wanting to buy her album ASAP.

6// I Really Like You by Carly Rae Jepsen


I know.."real music fans" hate her. But you cannot tell me that you can listen to this song and not be in a better mood after?! It's catchy and cheesy - but it's fun. We all need a bit more fun in life.

AND TOM HANKS. Obviously makes it better. It's 100% Hanks approved. You can't fight the Hanks train, yall..you just can't.

7// Chrissie Hynde by Butch Walker


Butch is an incredible singer-songwriter by himself, but he actually brought along Ryan Adams for this one - and it shows. Quality, quality music - and Butch just brings it. His soft melodies and powerful lyrics (this one, I've heard, is about a man who has been convicted and is going to prison. He's enjoying the last few moments before freedom is no longer an option. Wow.) are nothing to be messed with, people.

8// Blank Space by Ryan Adams


Speaking of, we have to talk a little about Ryan's take on Taylor's album, 1989. When I first heard this was happening, I was excited (because Ryan is awesome) and skeptical. There were some questions - like, how was he going to present these songs? Well, he did. Easily and in a totally different style. Taylor is a fabulous song writer, even if you aren't a fan, you have to admit that - and I think this album proves that a good song is a good song - regardless of the singer. Bravo.  

9// Ain't Worth the Whiskey by Cole Swindell

Reserving your good mood, drinks and company for something worth it? Our troops, old friends? It's a good message and a song sung by a great voice. I have no complaints.

10// Alive by Sia

This album doesn't drop until next year, but this song NEEDS to be talked about. My utter affection for Sia and everything she does is magnified in this song. You may just think of her has the weird lady who never shows her face - but she's a powerhouse and deserves much more credit than she receives.

11// Amnesia by Josh Abbott Band

EASILY the best song JAB has EVER put out. The heartbreak, the desire for something different..it's all there. It's been played and played out, but JAB's rendition is far and away the best.

12// Want to Want Me by Jason DeRulo


There is nothing I dislike about this song. The catchy beat, the wickedly talented falsetto of Derulo - nothing. I just added this version with Luke Bryan because I like a good mash up of genres. And these two are just about as far apart as you can get. 

Try not to smile. I dare you.

13// Renegade by X Ambassadors

I honestly don't know any of their other songs, but if they're anything like this..sign me up.

14// Photograph by Ed Sheeran


I mean, I love "Thinkin' Out Loud" as well as the next girl..but this one takes the cake. The video puts it 100% over the top. He is the CUTEST.

15// Mess Is Mine by Vance Joy

This video, as I've said before, is the worst. So weird - so, you're more than welcome to hit play and minimize it. I know I will. The video shouldn't deter you from this song though - it's worth listening to. And then hitting repeat several times. Several thousand times. He's coming to town at the beginning of next year, and after seeing  him open for Taylor Swift - I'm definitely in!

I'm sure I left some out, but these are songs I truely enjoyed this last year. I can't wait to see what 2016 brings musically..I'm just hoping The Weeknd quits. Just falls off the planet.

Here's hoping,

Monday, December 21, 2015

Monday's Mixtape: Christmas Edition!

Hi friends! I hope your weekend was fun. I spent mine mostly with my best friend - we saw STAR WARS (a post will be done about that, don't worry!) and Sisters (same..). We shopped and ate and had a great time.

Today I thought I'd mix my two favorites: Christmas music and movies! Here are some of my favorite Christmas songs from some of my favorite Christmas movies..enjoy!

1// Carol of the Bells from "Home Alone"

This exact song is actually my favorite Christmas song. It's hauntingly beautiful and I'm glad it's only busted out once a year. It makes it that much better!

2// White Christmas (by Otis Redding) from "Love Actually"

Y'all, Otis Redding is a boss. His arrangement of this song and style is unlike any other. And it fits so well into this movie.

3// Frosty the Snowman (sung by Michael Keaton) from "Jack Frost"

Fun fact: this is my FAVORITE Christmas movie! 
Fun fact #2: It's the reason I want to name my future child, Charlie. 

Also, Michael Keaton is such a gnarly singer..I wish he would do another movie in which he sings a bit. This blues version of Frosty just screams awesome.

4// Gimme All Your Lovin (by ZZ Top) from "The Santa Clause"

Okay, okay..this song really isn't a Christmas song, but as the #1 reason I LOVE "Gimme All Your Lovin", it makes the list.

It's also my second favorite Christmas movie! Tim Allen is my spirit animal.

P.S. I just realized the kids name in this one is also Charlie. So..THAT MAKES IT EVEN BETTER. Charlie for the win, y'all.

5// "Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays" (by NSYNC) from "I'll Be Home For Christmas"

This 90's CLASSIC featured my favorite boy band of all time - so, of course, it made the list. And while we're talking about it..I'll just leave this here:


Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

At the Movies: 5 Lessons from "The Good Dinosaur"

Christmas is the best time of the year for movies, true or false? If you said false, you're wrong. Summer is close second, if you thought that - but no one beats Christmas. And truth be told, I'm probably going to spend most of my paycheck at the movies this Christmas. Judge me. Don't care.

I know I've already talked about "CREED", but today I wanted to talk a little about "The Good Dinosaur".  It is BY FAR one of the most stunning visual experiences I've ever had. It blows "Avatar" out of the water. Kudos, snaps, and high fives to whoever animated it. So awesome.

"The Good Dinosaur" introduces us to a world where dinosaurs are still living. The main character is  Arlo. And "The Good Dinosaur" is about Arlo, who, by mistake, goes on an epic journey - and finds out what he's made of along the way.

It's definitely a kids movie, but I think there are a few important lessons to be learned from kids movies. Here's a few I picked up while watching this one:

1// "It's never fair."

Whether we're talking about life in general, the ending of a sports game, or playing cards with your niece (who totally cheats..she's 8..it's fine, I'm fine.) - it's never exactly fair. Nothing will ever come out 50-50. Someone will always put in more effort, someone will always put in less. It doesn't mean that you stop trying or count yourself out - it just is what it is. And then you wake up do it all again the next day..because life is too cool not to.

2// "You don't know until you try."

You learn very quickly that Arlo is a little afraid, of everything. His father, like many fathers, tries to figure out a way to "rid" Arlo of the fear that infuses his life. There's a wonderful scene in which Poppa wakes Arlo up in the middle of the night and has him follow him outside. Poppa has Arlo follow him into deep grass, and shows him the fireflies that are heavy in the area. And then he tells Arlo: "You have to get through your fear to see the beauty on the other side." We are all always quick to run when fear has us in it's clutches, but if we do - we may miss out on something way better. There is always something better than fear - we just have to find the guts to stick around and see it.

3// "Sometimes you choose your family."

Arlo has a great family. The strong father, the kind mother, the rambunctious older brother and sister. He's got it made. But you know how Pixar/Disney movies work..something happens, and Arlo is forced on a solo adventure. Not exactly something he planned, and while he didn't plan it - it happens to be exactly what he needs. Sometimes people are put into your life exactly when you need them, and they become your family. You're never far from those who birthed and fed and raised you, but sometimes others are needed. Needed to grow and change you into the person you need to be - and they become your other family. The family you chose. Your tribe.

4// "You fight like hell or you lose."

On said journey, Arlo encounters several battles. Battles with bigger dinosaurs, with dinosaurs that do not have good intentions, and battles within himself. He's forced to see what he's made of in very real situations, and comes to the fact that you have to fight. You have to fight or you will lose. There are winners and there really are losers in this life. I know that your 4th grade teacher or your grandmother won't tell you that you can lose, but I will. And you're to blame for losing. It's not something you can sugar coat, but it is something you can beat. You never lose if you try. The attempt is always better than losing.

5// "Never eat rotten berries. You will go on an acid trip."

His journey has very real things that you can take from it. Things you should learn in your life, but there is also some very funny parts. Ones that remind you that not everything is serious, and that, like in "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" - laughter is a way to get rid of the darkness. It's fully ready for use in your arsenal, and you should use it..often.

One last thing..it doesn't really fit into the lessons theme. One quote that stood out to me was one that Arlo's Poppa said to him. He says "you are me, and more." It's something my father has said to me, in one way or another. It's a reminder that you are the good things in those that you look up to, but you're also some things yourself. You see things in other that you wish you were yourself, but there's always going to be a situation that you're forced into - that reveals that very thing you wish you had. 

Be brave, friends. Don't forget - you are me, and more.


Monday, December 14, 2015

Monday's Mixtape: December 14, 2015

I'll spare you guys what I'm actually listening to this week (JUSTIN BIEBER) and post some throwbacks..because who doesn't love a good throwback?!

1// 5:19 by Matt Wertz

I feel like he's a bit of a John Mayer knock off, but in the best way. It's a good driving in the car, windows down, chill song.

2// Spanish Dancer by Patti Scaialfa

Bit of trivia for you: Patti is Bruce Springsteen's wife of 24 years! There's a ton of talent in that house hold, y'all.

3// Glitter in the Air by Pink

Don't worry..I don't know why I added this one to my list either..but I like it. It's my favorite Pink song. Possibly the only one I actually like..(she's definitely not my favorite.)

 4// He Wasn't by Avril Lavigne

My 8th grade self had just broken up with her older boyfriend over AIM around the time this song came out. So, obviously I knew what Avril was talking about.

P.s. I miss AIM. Anyone else?

5// Ocean Avenue by Yellowcard

Speaking of 8th grade. I always forget that Yellowcard is still making music (well, as of 2014) and they didn't stop with this album (they should have..). I played and played and played it until I played it some more. I just remember really digging the violin and the different style they had. *sigh..*

Hope you had a good Monday!


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

At the Movies: Five Reasons I Loved "CREED"

Friends, I love Rocky. I mean I really, really love Rocky. Junior year of college, I spent it in my college town. Mostly alone. It was a weird summer. But, it led me to spending some time with this guy and his roommate, and he introduced me to "Rocky". It really was love at first watch. I know they're cheesy and "Yo Adrian!" gets over-used, but I loved them. Love them. I love Rocky's swagger and his awkwardness. I love the relationship between Rock and Adrian - that he let's her know that he may not be a bright man, but he'll protect her and love her forever. And each time he gets into the ring, I love cheering for him. He's a good hero to get behind.

"CREED" really is no different. Only this time, you aren't cheering for Rock - you're actually cheering for Apollo Creed's son, Adonis (played by the FABULOUSLY TALENTED Michael B. Jordan). The story goes that Adonis, known as Donny, is a small time fighter - coming from a background of group homes and juvie - you could definitely say he has a chip on his shoulder. I won't spoil anything else for you, but here's 5 reasons I LOVED the movie (and you should too!):

1// Michael B. Jordan

To say that Michael is talented really would be an understatement. Every movie I've seen him in, he hits it out of the park. And I don't think I could see anyone else in this role. There's a line in the song "Live Your Life" by T.I. that I think sums up MBJ:

Immaculately polished with the spirit of a hustler and the swagger of a college kid.

He plays the fighter and the lover well. And looks really good doing both. (hey, he's easy on the eyes..there's no denying that!)

2// A strong and independent love interest

Tessa Thompson plays MBJ's love interest, Bianca. And she's anything but the typical sports movie girlfriend. She plays a DJ/singer - she has her own life, her own things. She challenges Donny in a way I don't think I've seen in a movie girlfriend in a long time, and it's definitely a breath of fresh air.

3// MBJ and Stallone's Chemistry

They're adorable. I mean, really. They have a touch of the same chemistry frienemies Rocky and Apollo had, which is sweet and gives the story the same "family" feel as the older movies. They play well off of each other and challenge each other. They have a "you fight, I fight" mentality and it shines through in this one.

4// It's a Throwback, Only..Not

When a film like this is made - not a sequel, and not a remake - you want it to pay homage. Just a little. And "CREED" does just that. There's a hint of the old Rocky - including the weaving of the "Gonna Fly Now" theme song throughout - and a particular scene with Adonis running (in those grey sweats!) up the hill and motorcycles following behind. If you'll remember, Rocky did that, only with children following behind. It's a nice homage, without taking away from the current story. It's a good mesh of the two.


If you aren't going to this movie for Sylvester, you've got your priorities wrong. The best part? Old man still has it. It's a bit slow, and you're worried he'll hurt himself - but he can still hang. And I love it!

Has anyone else seen "CREED"? What did you think?


Monday, December 7, 2015

Monday's Mixtape: BIEBER!

You all know my love for the Biebs - ever since "One Time.." I've been a fan! Maybe not of the driving ridiculously through the streets of Miami, buying monkeys and leaving them in other countries, and peeing in buckets - but, the kid is talented. And his latest album, PURPOSE, is no different.

Let's talk about my TOP FIVE from the album, shall we?

1// Love Yourself

This one gets the top spot because it's SO catchy! It's fun to sing to - and the video is awesome. My favorite line is: "my mama don't like you and she likes everyone"..which essentially is what my mama's thought of some boyfriends in the past. Maybe that's why I like it..ha!

Also, it was co-written by Ed Sheeran. I love me some Ed.

2// Sorry

If you wanted to know which one I sing to (LOUD AND OFF KEY) in the shower..this would be it.

3// Purpose

The end of this song is beautiful. Listen to the song, but pay special attention to 2:40 and on. Justin gives a great testimony and great piece of his heart to the world, and I think it's time people give him a little credit for being a Christian..and for being a 20 year old boy. You mess up, but that's the beautiful thing about grace. He has an even bigger platform now, and I hope he keeps using it positively.

4// I'll Show You

The better video for this song can be seen HERE! 

This one is one that I bet many celebrities can relate to. The pressure, the constant field of people around you..I mean, can you imagine? And having to be on point ALL THE TIME? I would hate it. And we totally forget they're actual people too. 

5// Where Are U Now?

I've loved this one since it came out six months ago. It's catchy and different. It's a different side of the Biebs - thanks to Skrillex and Diplo. I never would have imagined Skrillex and the Biebs being friends and collaborating, but now I'm like: "aint mad atcha bro!"

What's your favorite Bieber jam off "Purpose"?


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Book Review: "Wildflower" by Drew Barrymore

In continuing with Blogger not letting me upload pictures - which I also have no idea how to fix - my book review will look a little different. Rolling with the punches, people.

The eleventh book in my "25 Before 26" is:

(WHAT? I have no idea how I did that..why won't you let me upload real things?! Blogger, you're mean.)


From Amazon.com: "Wildflower is a portrait of Drew's life in stories as she looks back on the adventures, challenges, and incredible experiences of her earlier years. It includes tales of living on her own at 14 (and how laundry may have saved her life), getting stuck in a gas station overhang on a cross country road trip, saying goodbye to her father in a way only he could have understood, and many more adventures and lessons that have led her to the successful, happy, and healthy place she is today. It is the first book Drew has written about her life since the age of 14."


From "Charlie's Angels" to "50 First Dates" to "Blended", I've had a girl crush on Drew. She's smart, caring and funny - and this book gives you a little taste of what she's been through in life. And boy, has she been through a lot.

Drew is from Hollywood royalty (her grandfather was a famous actor) and began acting at 11 months.   She grew up hard and fast, with hippie parents (who didn't quite know what to do with themselves, much less a daughter) and movie sets all around. She says herself that she is the ultimate "what not to do"..but I think the moral of her story is this: we're all going to go through things. We have a path marked out for us. There will be big things - big obstacles and small mountains to climb, but we'll all get there eventually. Wherever "there" is for us. And it's important to remember that the journey is the best part. It may not be the most fun, but it really is the where life truly begins.


1// "It is being alone that will actually set you up the best for being with someone else."

Now, I know you've heard this one before. I know I have. But it's a reminder that the times we spend alone have a purpose - even if we're bitter, unhappy and uninterested in them at the time. At least that's what I'm told anyway.

2// "But much more important, I had grown up a little bit more. Right at the point when I needed to."

This one may not stick out to anyone else, but it's the last part that made me stop and write it down. "Right at the point when I needed to"..not I grew up too much. Not I grew up too slow. Right up when you needed to. I think that's a big statement.

3// "Coco was extending herself and giving me a hug. I saw Arie over her shoulder with a big warm smile. I started to relax my tense body, and turn into a grateful girl who didn't feel judged all of a sudden. Maybe I had judged myself? I was worried about a possible preconception of the "actress girl" Will was bringing home, and that intimidation started to fall away and being my own person kicked in, and I was able to just be myself, which is always the best way to be. But it truly helps when people disarm you. Especially by taking you in their arms."

This is the story where Drew is meeting her future in laws - and I think it's a beautiful moment. And it's all of us when we're meeting important people for the first time. You go into it self conscious (if you don't, you're lying) and sometimes, the truly great ones, they surprise you. They take you full force into their embrace and love on you. Those are my favorite kind of people. The ones that are unashamed and force you to be present. To love right back. Those are the people that change your world.


Because Drew is beautiful. Plain and simple. I think these stories just confirmed what I already knew of her. She is wild and serene and confident. She is small and funny and full of joy. That's it. If you're a fan, I definitely recommend this one!