2018 Reading Wrap-Up

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For once, I completed my reading goal with time to spare & exceeded it by two. I set my goal at 55 and completed 57 books. Yay! 🎉 Now for the semi-disappointing news: I didn’t complete the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge. I could beat myself up, but reading is supposed to be fun, not a competition. Not all of the 2018 challenges matched up with what I wanted to read last year, and that is okay.

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📚 A Classic You’ve Been Meaning to Read

📖 A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

📖 Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

📖 Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs

📖 The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

📖 The Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

📚 A Book Recommended by Someone With Great Taste

📖 As Sure as the Dawn by Francine Rivers

📖 The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

📖 The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

📚 A Book in Translation

📖 N/A 

📚 A Book Nominated for an Award in 2018

📖 Obsidio by Amy Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

📚 A Book Of Poetry, a Play, or an Essay Collection

📖 N/A 

📚 A Book You Can Read in a Day

📖 Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn

📖 Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

📖 On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder

📖 Scream All Night by Derek Milman

📖 Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

📖 Sugar Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke

📖 The Golden Braid by Melanie Dickerson

📖 The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

📖 The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Athur Conan Doyle

📖 The Little Android by Marissa Meyer

📖 The Secret of Shadow Ranch by Carolyn Keene

📖 The Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

📖 The Queen’s Army by Marissa Meyer

📚 A Book That’s More Than 500 Pages

📖 Gemina by Amy Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

📖 Obsidio by Amy Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

📖 Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

📚 A Book by a Favorite Author

📖 The Mummy Case by Elizabeth Peters

📚 A Book Recommended by a Librarian or Indie Bookseller

📖 Hiddensee by Gregory Maguire

*Note: This category doesn’t (necessarily) count. Even though Hiddensee is on an IndieBound list, I didn’t read it because of their recommendation.

📚 A Banned Book

📖 N/A 

📚 A Memoir, Biography, or Book of Creative Nonfiction

📖 The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

📚 A Book by an Author of a Different Race, Ethnicity, or Religion Than Your Own

📖 Gemina by Amy Kaufman & Jay Kristoff (Australian)

📖 Harvest of Gold by Tessa Afshar (Persian)

📖 Harvest of Rubies by Tessa Afshar (Persian)

📖 Obsidio by Amy Kaufman & Jay Kristoff (Australian)

📖 The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom (Dutch)

📖 The Strings of Murder by Oscar de Muriel (Mexican)

*Note: The definition of “ethnicity” is different depending on who you ask so I relied solely on where an author was born. I didn’t include British authors because of my own family’s roots, but perhaps that was just overthinking on my part.

I also read:

📖 A Fatal Winter by G.M. Malliet

📖 Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery

📖 Antidote to Venom by Freeman Wills Crofts

📖 Cress by Marissa Meyer

📖 Escaping From Houdini by Kerri Maniscalco

📖 Fairest by Marissa Meyer

📖 Fudge Cupcake Murder by Joanne Fluke

📖 Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco

📖 In The Woods by Tana French

📖 Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

📖 Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn

📖 Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

📖 Reign: The Chronicles of Queen Jezebel by Ginger Garrett

📖 Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

📖 The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

📖 The Beautiful Pretender by Melanie Dickerson

📖 The Centurion’s Wife by Davis Bunn & Janette Oke

📖 The Curiosity Keeper by Sarah E. Ladd

📖 The Healer’s Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson

📖 The Heiress of Winterwood by Sarah E. Ladd

📖 The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest by Melanie Dickerson

📖 The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill by Julie Klassen

📖 The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

📖 The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen

📖 The Mystery at Lilac Inn by Carolyn Keene

📖 The Rose and the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh

📖 The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

📖 Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren

📖 We Wish You a Murderous Christmas by Vicki Delany

📖 Winter by Marissa Meyer

📖 Written on the Wind by Judith Pella

Total: 9(ish) Challenges & 57 Books

⬇️  Here are all of my 2018 reading-related links  ⬇️

2017 Wrap-Up | 2018 Reading Challenge

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📚 Stay tuned for my 2019 reading plans! 📚  

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– Lauren Michele ❤

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Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

I have waited all year for this movie! Part of my birthday celebration was seeing the first showing at my local theater. As a passionate Agatha Christie fan, I have thoughts both good and bad so settle in for a semi-bumpy Orient Express ride.

Many people had doubts about Kenneth Branagh’s portrayal of beloved detective Hercule Poirot. If you’re a doubter, I want to put your mind at ease. Mr. Branagh is hands down the best part of the movie. He kept the spirit of the Poirot we all know and love while adding humor and his own unique touch to the character. He is a constant source of smiles and laughs, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Overall the ensemble cast did not disappoint. Johnny Depp is fantastic as always (SPOILER) even though his part is short-lived. Michelle Pfeiffer and Penelope Cruz have some shining moments, and Dame Judi Dench’s monologue about little Daisy Armstrong made me tear up. Lucy Boynton and Sergei Polunin’s respective portrayals of Count & Countess Andrenyi are dark, a hidden gem that is impressive considering their inexperience. Josh Gad was good for the most part, but the chase scene involving Poirot felt awkward. The conflict between Hercule and Dr. Arbuthnot also felt clumsy. Daisy Ridley acted well, but I did not like Mary Debenham’s demeanor. In the book, she is polite and reserved which leads Poirot to suspect she might be the mastermind behind the murder; his suspicion makes little sense in the movie because Mary is much too bright and happy.

The book’s methodical layout is not perfectly suited for a movie. Some may find the added action irritating, but I understand the necessity to shake up the format onscreen. That being said, some of the clues got lost in the shuffle due to a speedier pace. As far as I remember, all the clues from the book were included, but they weren’t given the time they needed to simmer and encourage the audience to consider possible outcomes. Perhaps the extra, non-book stuff could’ve been trimmed to accommodate character interviews and clue discoveries, making the final reveal much more grand than it actually was. I also want to mention that I don’t remember Biniamino Marquez being named at the end. (SPOILER) The twist relies on the shock of twelve people being involved, each with a specific connection to the Armstrong family. The cast may seem large, but those who know the story well won’t miss anything, even if only one name is passed over. This goes back to details being muddled at the end. Murder on the Orient Express is one of the greatest stories ever written in the mystery genre. If you don’t lay it out correctly, you spoil the thrill and fun of the twists and turns.

I love two-thirds of the movie, but the ending is a disappointment. Things can surely get better from here so I hope Kenneth Branagh is giving the chance to continue the series, perhaps with a book that has less adaptations. I truly believe he can do great things with Poirot. The final scene hints at a sequel based on Death on the Nile. How great would that be?! 😄

🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=boSSSZpAkyw&t=25s

🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂

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– Lauren Michele ❤︎

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Mamba Out

I know I blogged about Kobe Bryant yesterday, but I couldn’t stay silent after the performance he put on last night.  Jack Nicholson predicted 40 points.  Shaq asked for 50.  I would have been satisfied with an average performance knowing that his body could only handle so much.  The team gave him the floor and allowed him to take as many shots as he could.  Surpassing all expectations, the Black mamba scored 60 and led his team to victory one last time.  Fans would’ve accepted the bare minimum, but Kobe delivered a vintage performance, turning back the clock and refusing to go out on a low note.  When the game ended, thousands of people screamed his name while he embraced coaches and teammates on the court.  It felt like my childhood was replaying before my eyes: Brian Shaw, Derek Fisher, Devean George, Gary Payton, Lamar Odom, Rick Fox, Robert Horry, Shaq, and many more.  Even Adam Morrison made an appearance!!  More basketball players, coaches, and celebrities paid tribute through video.

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zk_j4drvDNw

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SX6PvEMAvtA

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🏀 Art inspired by Kobe – Kobe Bryant

🏀 My thoughts on Kobe retiring – Kobe Bryant | Black Mamba

The entire night was emotional and overwhelming, but I wouldn’t change any of it.  A storybook ending for Kobe Bryant’s untouchable 20-year career.  The game of basketball will never be the same. 🏀 🐍

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– Lauren Michele <3

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Congratulations Bindi!

I don’t usually do this, but I felt the need to write a post congratulating Bindi Irwin on her “Dancing With the Stars” victory.  Over the course of the season, I saw nasty comments on social media saying “Bindi is a fake person” and “She gets special treatment because her partner is Derek Hough.”  I could rant and fight on her behalf, but I don’t think that would do any good.  This is all I will say: There was no way of knowing she would be so amazing because she has never had formal training, and from a dancer’s perspective, Bindi had natural ability from the very first episode.  Despite what people may say from their television, computer, or cellphone, people on the DWTS set interacted with Bindi for three months, and no one has one bad thing to say about her; that speaks volumes about her as a person, more than online comments ever could.  I grew up watching Steve Irwin on TV.  He gave me so much joy as a child, and I am so glad to see Bindi carrying on his legacy with grace.

If you didn’t watch DWTS this season, here are links to videos of Derek and Bindi’s dances:

Week 1 | Jive | “Crocodile Rock”

Week 2 | Tango | “You Shook Me All Night Long”

Week 2 | Waltz | “Only a Man”

Week 3 | Quickstep | “Movin’ on Up”

Week 4 | Contemporary | “Every Breath You Take”

Week 5 | Cha-Cha-Cha |  “Hold My Hand”

Week 6 | Rumba | “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life”

Week 7 | Argentine Tango | “Cry Little Sister”

Week 7 | Team Freestyle | “Ghostbusters”

Week 8 | Foxtrot | “Grace Kelly”

Week 8 | Jive Dance-Off | “Travelin’ Band”

Week 9 | Viennese Waltz | “Roses And Violets”

Week 9 | Team-Up Dance/Charleston | “All That Jazz” & “Hot Honey Rag”

Week 10 | Salsa | “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile”

Week 10 | Samba Dance-Off | “Lean On”

Week 10 | Jazz Trio | “Resolve”

Week 11 | Quickstep | “Dr. Bones”

Week 11 | Freestyle | “Footprints in the Sand”

Week 11 | Argentine Tango & Cha-Cha-Cha Fusion | “All The Way”

Bindi Irwins Wins “Dancing With the Stars”

* * *     Congratulations Bindi & Derek!  :)     * * *

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– Lauren Michele <3

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Cinderella Part II – Have Courage and Be Kind

Cinderella 2015(Source: http://img1.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20141119151633/disney/images/b/b4/Cinderella_2015_1.jpg)

Good evening and welcome to the 2nd and final part of my Cinderella series. Part I was posted on my art blog yesterday. If you did not read it, I suggest you read it now.  After all, what is part II without part I?? Here is the link: https://laurenmichelephotography.wordpress.com/2015/03/18/cinderella-part-i-a-little-magic/

Part I was all about the beautiful costuming created by designer Sandy Powell.  Tonight’s post focuses on the main motto of the movie: “Have courage and be kind.”  Ella’s mother expressed these words before [SPOILER] her death.  Ella took the phrase to heart and recited it in order to endure harsh treatment from her stepmother and stepsisters.  Despite being treated like a servant rather than a relative, she was gracious.  However, when her happiness was on the line, she had the courage to speak up.  What an example!  In negative situations, it is always a better choice to be the bigger person and turn the other cheek.  But, never let your kindness be mistaken for meekness.  The unfortunate truth is that there are people who will attempt to take advantage of compassion.  Kindness should always stem from genuine desire, not obligation or fear.  Have the courage to speak up if you feel uncomfortable and/or threatened.

I hope you have enjoyed this two-part Cinderella series.  If you have not already seen the movie, I highly recommend you do so.

Cinderella Movie Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20DF6U1HcGQ

“Have courage and be kind.  Where there is kindness, there is goodness and where there is goodness, there is magic.” – Ella’s mother, “Cinderella”

– Lauren Michele :)

Cinderella Part I: https://laurenmichelephotography.wordpress.com/2015/03/18/cinderella-part-i-a-little-magic/

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