Month: December 2014

My favorite books of 2014

I guess it’s become a bit of a holiday tradition to look back on my year in books and pick out favorites. According to GoodReads, I’m “behind” on my reading goal for this year, but it doesn’t feel that way to me.

Thanks in part to the YA Diversity Book Club, I was exposed to a really wide variety of stories in 2014, and that’s a trend that I hope to continue, if not improve upon, in 2015. My nonfiction reading was down, but I did end the year with a really thought-provoking book recommended by Andy called MINDSET. (Which might warrant its own post in the near future.) And surprisingly, my audio “reading” may be on the rise, due to my realization that it’s much easier to listen to my iPod while walking Riley than it is to hold a book and flip pages.

Anyway, in order of when I read them, here are my favorite books of 2014:

Easy (Contours of the Heart, #1) We Were Liars Caminar Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #3) Pointe Ruin and Rising (The Grisha, #3) The Walled City Landline Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle, #3) Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
(If you’re curious, you can also check out my roundups from previous years.)

What were your favorite reads this year?

Week in review (Dec 14, 2014)


  • I actually bought 1989 like three weeks ago, but I forgot to include it in a Week in Review post at that time. Whatever. It takes me a while to figure out how I feel about songs/albums anyway. At this point — after many, many listens — I can safely say that 1989 is pretty good and a lot of fun. I really admire Taylor’s artistic instincts, and her desire to push herself into new, unfamiliar territory. (That said, I think Red was the sweet spot for her, both lyrically and musically. I’d love to see her return to that style/sound someday.) The only 1989 songs that I don’t really care for are “How You Get the Girl” and “Wonderland.” My absolute favorite is “You Are In Love.” Taylor wrote it about the relationship between Jack Antonoff and Lena Dunham (who are her friends), and it’s just so stripped down and genuine — and reminds me of my relationship with Andy — that it hits me right in the feels every time.
  • I’m really into PT Serif right now. Yes, I am a font nerd. I’m also a pen nerd, and fonts are the computer equivalent of pens. I still remember doing my homework in high school with a rainbow of Pentel RSVP pens (.5 mm). There’s just something about a good writing instrument that makes you want to write more, and good fonts are the same way.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle, #3)

  • At long last, I got to read BLUE LILY, LILY BLUE, the third book in Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle series. Stiefvater’s writing is so magical — and not just because she writes fantasy. She has an amazing way with characters and setting and mood. The second book (THE DREAM THIEVES) is still my favorite in the series so far, but this one was great. I won’t say too much about it, for fear of spoilers, but I will say that I was moved to tears by the courtroom scene. More than anything, these books are about the bonds of friendship — one of my favorite themes.
  • Last but not least, I’ve been spending a lot of time researching Taiwan. I’m going back next year for the first time in over a decade, and I’m a mess of emotions about it. That’s probably a whole post on its own. For now I’ll just give a shoutout to two tools that I’m using to improve my (toddler-level) Mandarin:
    • Chinese Skill, an app modeled on Duolingo (which was started at Carnegie Mellon!)
    • “Love Myself or You,” a cute little Taiwanese drama about two chefs and a lot of misunderstandings (which I am watching via Drama Fever)


November in photos

First frost. #winteriscoming I'll stop posting pictures of nature when it stops being so beautiful. #autumn
honeymoon Disney 007 honeymoon Disney 008
honeymoon Universal 003
honeymoon Universal 028
Gringotts Bank doesn't mess around when it comes to security, y'all. #universalorlando Honeydukes in Hogsmeade, featuring Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans. #universalorlando
Snow melting, blue skies, and a heart heavy with good wishes for loved ones. Might be cliché but I can't resist. Thankful for so much. #onthetable

I’m listening (to the heartbeat of democracy)

I don’t post about politics often. There are plenty of other voices out there already — voices smarter and more relevant than my own — so I try to sit back, listen, and learn. I try to understand and really consider what people are saying, even when it’s not pleasant. Maybe especially when it’s not pleasant. I try to question my thoughts and feelings, to examine my own experiences and beliefs. I try to figure out what I can or should do to create positive changes in myself and my community.

(And usually I cry a little.)

Because I believe in the power of words and stories, I like to share the things that I think more people should read/see/hear/watch. Below is one such thing, written by a friend of mine from college.

* * *

Dear everyone,

Just wanted to say this: if you are angry, confused, upset, etc, consider this a call to action. If you are not okay with the verdict, consider this a time to act. If you’re wondering: what can I do? Google it. If you live in a major city, there are action groups around you, and they will be demonstrating. Join them.

So now: the hurdle. You’ve read articles about looters and rioting, about tear gas and arrests, of chaos and destruction. If you’re hesitant to go to a march, I can understand why. But I will just say this: I personally have been to a bunch of protests here in St Louis. We’ve closed down highways, marched downtown, you name it. I have seen no violence, I have seen no looting, I have seen no fires, no fights, no crazed and raging protestors. All has been peaceful, all has been constructive, all has been people joined together to show support.

Honestly, when things start to shift, it’s very clear (and also usually much later in the evening). You’ll see a line of police in riot gear, often times with gas masks on. This is the turning point. This is where everyone makes starkly different choices. Some people do not back down. Some people stay, but at a distance. Some people decide to go home. Whatever you choose, I really don’t care. I’ve chosen each of those paths on different nights, and I understand each one. So do what you feel you’re ready for.

My point is this: these protests are calm and organized. They are a show of support, and a way to find more local organizers for future action steps. They are a way to do something more productive than posting “WTF” on Facebook.

If you go, you will see what this is really all about. You’ll have a perspective formed from action, from experience, and not from a frenzied media. And if one night you decide to stay, you might see things left unreported, like your local coffee shop or church tear gassed by police. You might hear the heartbeat of democracy.

Do not be afraid. Go forth and help change things.

Ruben Quintero

Week in review (Dec 1, 2014)

These really make more sense on a Friday, Saturday, or even Sunday, but oh well. Also, if I’m going to keep doing this (which apparently I am) then I should probably date them so I don’t have a million posts with the same name…

  • Last weekend, Andy and I drove for 3 hours and didn’t even make it 100 miles. Thanks a lot, Ohio. We were prepared to encounter the whole #BuffaloSnow craziness, but not six different 18-wheelers skidding off I-71.
  • Once we finally got to Andy’s parents’ house, I realized that I forgot my laptop cord at home. A whole week without a computer? Liberating and traumatic at the same time.
  • Andy and I got firsthand experience with a newborn. The first few days were like, “Okay, this isn’t so hard.” The next few days were like, “OMG IT NEVER STOPS.”
  • Inspired by this woman’s amazing naptime photos of her son, Andy and I did this:

2014 11-24 aladdin scene

  • We also went to see a couple movies. Mockingjay Part 1 was another quality installment in the series, and not at all “boring” like some of the reviews made me fear it would be. Granted, I do think they’ve left a lot to be covered in the finale, but I guess that’s on purpose. (Side note: I wasn’t expecting the makeup/CGI effects that they used on… a certain someone. It looked just like Bella wasting away during her pregnancy in Breaking Dawn Part 1.)
  • I also saw Big Hero 6. For some reason I found it hard to suspend my disbelief during the battle scenes — yes, even though it was a children’s animated movie — but I really, really enjoyed the diversity of the cast. (Tadashi was one hot cartoon, yo.) Also, I now want to fist bump like Baymax all the time. (It’s even better with the sound effect, hehe.)

  • Last but not least, I went with Andy’s family to pick out a live Christmas tree. It was my first time. I like how the trees smell.

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