Tuesday, January 6, 2015

My Favorite Books of 2014!

I was inspired by booksandquill's YouTube video "My Top 10 Books of 2014," to write this post on my favorite books of 2014. As you would of known from my post about my 2015 resolutions, I read 25 books in 2014 and here are my favorite ones.

First is This Star Won't Go Back by Esther Grace Earl. Esther died when she was 16 years old from thyroid cancer. This book is a collection of her writings, and things that her friends and family have written about her. I heard about this book from John Green because he knew Esther and wrote the introduction to this book. I read it in about a day and nearly cried at the end of it. In my Goodreads review I talked about how Esther is an inspiration and how I encourage everyone should read it.

The second book is William Shakespeare's Macbeth. I read this for my AP Literature class and it quickly became one of my favorite Shakespeare plays. My other favorite Shakespeare play comes later in the list. I would love to see Macbeth on the stage, whether it be a classic adaptation or a modern adaptation. I also want to read more Shakespeare plays in 2015, I think Much Ado About Nothing is first on the list.

I first "read" this book in audiobook form. Neverwhere is by Neil Gaiman and it tells the story of Richard Mayhew who is thrust into the world of "London Below." After listening to the BBC radio play (starring James McAvoy, Natalie Dormer, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Anthony Head), I read the actual book. The radio play Neverwhere leaves some bits out from the book, but it is all in all a great adaptation.

Like Macbeth, I read Hamlet for my AP Literature class. Whilst reading the play, I also watched the BBC production of Hamlet starring Sir Patrick Stewart and David Tennant. Watching the play really helped my understanding of Hamlet. The soliloquies in Hamlet are beautifully written, especially Hamlet's "to be, or not to be" soliloquy.

The fifth book is Of Mice and Men. I read this novel after seeing the play on Broadway in July (you can read about it here) with James Franco and Chris O'Dowd. I loved the book as well as the play. When watching the play I did not know what was going to happen at the end, but when reading the book it was kind of nice to already know about the ending. I have read The Pearl by Steinbeck, but now I want to read his other novels.

This past semester of college I took a class about Jane Austen and how her six novels fit into their time periods regarding fashion, how they travelled, feminism, relationships between the sexes and between the classes, and the military. Two of my favorite books from this year were written by Austen: Persuasion and Mansfield Park. I like Persuasion because it is not about the heroine's "first love" and her "happily ever after." Anne Elliot lost her love and is past her prime age for marrying. It is like what would happen after the ending of Emma or Pride and Prejudice. It is also an insight on the year of peace (1814) during the Napoleonic wars. Mansfield Park is also a favorite because it is much more dramatic than Austen's other five novels. There are sexual innuendos, extramarital affairs, talk of slavery, and a look into the lower classes of the early nineteenth century. For homework we watched the Patricia Rozema film adaptation of Mansfield Park, which combined the novel's heroine (Fanny Price) with Austen herself. This made for an interesting between the film and the original novel. I love all of Austen's novels, but these two are the most interesting to me.

Fangirl and Eleanor & Park are both written by Rainbow Rowell, and they are both absolutely fabulous. They both sucked me into their worlds and they were almost impossible to put down. I read Fangirl first after buying it in Kramerbooks in D.C., and I read it in a day. I related so much to the main character, Cath Avery, and her struggles as a freshman at college and because of her love for fantasy novels. I saw Eleanor & Park in a bookstore in Newburyport (the same day Mom and I went to Ceia) and I knew that I needed to read it. Even though I was unpacking boxes, I still read the novel in two days. I cannot even describe how I needed to know what happened to Eleanor and Park. Rowell is a fantastic YA novelist and I now need to read Attachments, Landline, and her new book coming out in October called Carry On.

Last but not least is Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. While unpacking books from the den, I put aside all of the Anthony Bourdain books that we own. I love Bourdain's shows like No Reservations and Parts Unknown. This was his first nonfiction book and it is his stories of the restaurant industry. It is a gritty look into what happens in restaurant kitchens and the people in them. I found it really interesting and I think I will be bringing back some of Bourdain's other books to D.C.

What were your favorite books that you read in 2014? Any books that you want to read in the new year? As always, thanks for reading!


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Yummy Brunch in Newburyport

When I first arrived in Massachusetts three weeks ago Mom and I went to one of our favorite restaurants in Newburyport, Ceia Kitchen + Bar. We went for brunch, which is my favorite meal because I can sleep in late and still eat breakfast foods! It is also perfect on a chilly, December day.

We started off with an apple muffin halved and toasted, with honey butter and a cranberry compote. The muffin was moist and delicious, and perfect with the honey butter. We ate the cranberry compote on its own, and while not as good as Mom's cranberry sauce, it was still delicious.

Looks like the Jolly Roger is casually flying over Newburyport!
For our main dishes Mom chose the Braised Lamb "Croque Madame," and I got the Steak and Eggs with grilled carrots and potatoes. Both were really good and my steak was perfectly cooked.

We ended up going back to Ceia on Christmas Eve for lunch with Dad and Emma. I got the lobster Benedict, which was pretty good. I did think, however, that there was not enough lobster on it. Overall Ceia is one of my favorite restaurants that we have found in Massachusetts so far. I look forward to trying new restaurants in the coming years. Thanks for reading!


Friday, January 2, 2015

2015 New Years Resolutions

Happy New Years everybody! I am going to show you guys my new years resolutions for 2015. I am hoping that since I am posting this online for people to see, that I will actually complete some of them. During the year I want to do quarterly check-ups where I will write down how I am doing with each of my resolutions. Without further ado, here are my resolutions!

1. Learn the D.C. bus system (Or at least how to get to Dupont Circle, Georgetown, and Columbia Heights). The buses are faster and cheaper than the subway, so it is something that I should have learned last semester. But c'est la vie

2. Cook more in the dorm. I do love to cook, so this should be an easy one. But since I am living on my own I actually have to remember to get groceries and to pick recipes that I can cook in a small kitchen. I do own cookbooks, however, that are specifically geared for college students and teens that will help me complete this resolution.

3. Be more adventurous. This has to do with life in general and with trying new foods. I want to be less picky with what I eat. I just read Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, and it made me think about how my food is created in restaurants and how much work goes into my meal. I want to develop the philosophy that the chef chooses the ingredients to go in the particular dishes, so I should trust them and not ask for dishes to be served without an ingredient. 

4. Read 30 books. In 2014, I read 25 books. This count included the books I read for school and the books that I read for pleasure. I have chosen to challenge myself to read 30 books in 2015. I log what I have read on my Goodreads account, which encourages me to actually complete the challenge. 

5. Explore D.C.. This one is pretty self explanatory. I want to go to all the Smithsonian museums, find new restaurants with great lunch deals, and coffee shops with free internet and fantastic coffee drinks. 

6. Eat better and exercise more. I feel like everybody says this every year, but I am still going to try. I want to take a fitness class at the gym at school because then I feel obligated to go and exercise. The eating better is a bit harder because it is so easy to eat EasyMac or dessert from the cafeteria. This is where the cooking more comes into play because then I can cook healthier and more balanced meals.  

And those are my 2015 new years resolutions! What are yours? Thanks for reading!