Sunday, January 3, 2016

2015 Favorites

My Three Favorite Books of 2015

3. Mr. Kiss and Tell, Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham
Rob Thomas is a master at spinning clever and compelling mysteries, and his second Veronica Mars novel is no exception. Despite the fact that I liked this one a bit less than the first, Mr. Kiss and Tell still captivated me and kept me guessing. The authors have done a remarkable job transplanting the jaded, film noir quality of the show from the screen to the page, and I was so engrossed listening to the story that at times it was as if I'd been watching Kristen Bell herself. Veronica is a fascinating narrator, and the balance between the case she's working and the tumult of her personal life makes for a very compelling book.

“Not that I like having my direst preconceptions about humanity confirmed or anything. But I was right.”

2. For the Right Reasons: America's Favorite Bachelor on Faith, Love, Marriage, and Why Nice Guys Finish First, Sean Lowe
There's never been any shame in my love of The Bachelor, so it should come as no surprise that I immensely enjoyed Sean Lowe's first foray into writing, For the Right Reasons. This was just an incredibly fun, engrossing, and informative book, detailing Sean's personal background as well as his time on The Bachelorette and The Bachelor. I ate up every detail about both shows, how he and Catherine fell in love, and most importantly, how they wove the Gospel into their wedding knowing it would be televised to millions of people.

"Soon, word spread that I had daily devotionals, and guys started showing up. I really liked the guys, and being in such a strange situation bonded us together. Even though most of our time was spent lounging around waiting for datesor recovering from themthe mornings were dedicated to our little devotionals. Without ever meaning to, I found myself leading this Bible study on the set of The Bachelorette."

1. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Agatha Christie
I adore Agatha Christie, and I have a particular fondness for her highly intelligent character Hercule Poirot. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd did not disappoint, and Poirot is still my favorite little Belgian detective. To say much of anything about the plot of this book will be to say too much, because half of the fun is the dawning realization of what Christie has pulled off (its ending was virtually the first of its kind when this book debuted in 1926). The Murder of Roger Ackroyd ranks quite high on many lists of best mysteries, and while it's not my favorite Agatha Christie novel of all time, it was still a very engrossing read.

“It is completely unimportant. That is why it is so interesting.”

Honorable Mention:
Paper Towns, John Green
As If: The Oral History of Clueless as told by Amy Heckerling and the Cast and Crew, Jen Chaney
A Murder is Announced, Agatha Christie
Evil Under the Sun, Agatha Christie

Thumbs Down:
Dante's Inferno. Alright, I'll say it: I enjoy Dan Brown novels (particularly Deception Point). But this one was doo doo.

Also, there are two main reasons that I read fewer books than usual this year, and their names are Kevin and Demi. Once I discovered the Gilmore Guys podcast, my usual audio book listening took a serious nose dive. So instead of listening to literary classics (like my number two favorite), I was listening to segments like Pop Goes the Culture and Where You Tweet I Will Follow.

(It was awesome.)

My Three Favorite Movies of 2015

3. Brooklyn
I was so surprised by this sweet and unexpected little movie. The story of Eilis and her immigration to America from Ireland was in turn heartbreaking, suspenseful, and ultimately hopeful. And "pleasant" sounds like such a boring, vanilla word to describe a movie you loved, but it fits this one so well. So if you're looking for a nice, pleasant movie, be sure to check out the effervescent Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn.

2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
I stayed away from most trailers, articles, and reviews of The Force Awakens before I saw it, and I'm so glad I did! Going in dark, not knowing any theories or opinions ahead of time, helped me manage my expectations and end up being so thrilled with the entire experience. I thought the characters were so well-drawn, and I loved that Rey and Finn were played by virtual newcomers so that we could really focus on the characters and the story. The music was fantastic, the practical effects were outstanding, I laughed a ton, and the whole thing was FUN but still packed an emotional punch. Plus, I think I have a crush on Adam Driver now? Maybe. Is that weird?

1. The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Every time I tell someone that The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was my favorite movie of the year, I get a blank stare, and usually a puzzled, "Wait, what's it called again?" It's a shame that most people seem to have missed this one, because it's just SO. MUCH. FUN. Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer are an incredibly entertaining pair (not to mention easy on the eyes), and the entire movie is a sleek and playful ride from beginning to end. The 1960's wardrobe, music, and technology are truly immersive and make for a super fun atmosphere. I could watch this one again and again (and now I can, since I got it for Christmas!), and I find myself quoting it more than I ever thought I would ("He's trying. To stop. The car."). Plus I had the hardest time not using the word "fun" about five dozen more times in this paragraph than I did. Don't miss this one!

Honorable Mention: The Duff (both Jimmy Fallon and I loved this movie, so you can trust the pair of us), The Martian, and Aloha (I know it wasn't popular but I just liked it!)

My Three Favorite TV Shows of 2015

Favorite shows I started watching this year:

3. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
I think I may have been the very last person to discover the brilliance of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. But just in case there's anyone out there reading this who hasn't yet seen it: you've got to check this show out. Andy Samberg, Andre Braugher, Chelsea Peretti and the rest of the police precinct make for a hilarious team. One of the things I love most, however, is that it's not just joke-joke-joke-joke (although it IS just about the only show to make me laugh out loud on a regular basis), but all of the detectives are actually incredibly capable officers, and it's just awesome to see Jake, Amy, and the rest take down bad guys again and again.

 2. iZombie
Another title met with blank stares almost every time I mention it! I'm so glad I finally sat down and caught up with Rob Thomas' newest show, one I've wanted to watch ever since it debuted on The CW last year. A high-concept cousin to Veronica Mars, iZombie is a brilliant mash-up of a simple case-of-the-week mystery with a dash of the undead: our protagonist Liv Moore is a zombie. As an assistant medical examiner, each episode finds her eating the brains of a murder victim and using the visions those ingested brains provide her to help solve the mystery of their death. I hope that sounds more intriguing than confusing, because it really is a supremely enjoyable hour of television. Come for the clever story-telling, stay for Rahul Kohli's charming, incredibly endearing forensic pathologist Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti.

1. Awkward.
This is the first show in quite a while that I've been so invested in that I had to watch the next episode right away. Next episode. Next episode. Next episode. This show makes me feel like I'm a teenager again, reliving high school and completely engrossed in the world of Jenna and Matty, the guy that makes my inner 15-year-old blush. But that's not the only reason I love it. It's incredibly clever and witty with words like flirtationship and carefrontation, Tamara's "slanguage" deserves its own blog entry. The characters are all so well-developed and endearing (by the end even "Darth Hater" Sadie had carved herself a spot in my heart), the story lines are always unpredictable, and it just feels DIFFERENT. It's incredibly original, and doesn't feel like any other show I've watched. I can't tell you if YOU would personally like it after all, it is an MTV show, and all that comes along with that. If you're not a teenage girl... or me... this one might not be for you. BUT if a hilarious and heartfelt teen dramedy with whip-smart dialogue sounds appealing to you, definitely check this one out!

Honorable Mention: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, The Great British Baking Show

My Three Favorite Events of 2015

3. Family Birthday Bash in Galveston
There's nothing in the world more fun to me than to have all seven (soon to be eight! #cimibaby) members of my family all together in one place. Add in an amusement park, daily trips to the beach, games, and MY BIRTHDAY, and you've got the makings of an amazing dream vacation. It was pure bliss, and I wish I could relive it again and again.

2. Sweet, Sweet Adoptions
2015 saw the addition of three precious babies into their forever families. I've watched the long, long road the Nicholses and Redfearns have had to travel down to bring their children home, and it's been frustrating at times to witness just how long this entire process can take. But now that we're on the other side, it's such a thrill to get to see the joy that Adelay, Micah, and Cade bring their respective families. Welcome home, kiddos. You are SO loved.

1. Broadway Baby
I feel like I need to pinch myself when I look back and realize that in one year I got to see:
  1. My all-time FAVORITE musical not once, not twice, but THREE times.
  2. My beloved "Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder" with its original, Tony-nominated stars one last time before it closes later this month.
    (2b: Bryce Pinkham Skyping my roommate's fifth grade classroom out of the kindness of his heart! From his dressing room on Broadway! And I got to witness it all. Still pinching myself.) 
  3. The greatest musical I've ever seen on stage: "Hamilton." Five months later and I still have no words for what I saw.


And because I'm a fool for Twitter, I also got super excited when my tweets were favorited liked by Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn, former Jack Kelly Corey Cott, Hamilton actors Daveed Diggs and Leslie Odom Jr., Gentleman's Guide star Bryce Pinkham, Veronica Mars and iZombie show runner Rob Thomas, Hamilton composer/conductor Alex Lacamoire, author Tim Federle, and Newsie Chaz Wolcott.

Party. Rock.

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