Dec 31, 2013

My Favorite Albums of 2013

What this year lacked in good books for me more than made up for with amazing music finds.  There were a lot of comebacks this year to be excited about, but mostly there were some great newbs that got my attention.  In fact, I found that most of the comeback albums I was excited about were overshadowed by the amazing newcomers.  My favorite thing about this list is how diverse the sounds are.  Last year was a lot of indie-folk.  This year we have pop, rock, indie and even some hip-hop…what.
Without further ado…

My Favorite Comebacks

No surprise here.  I don't know if they will ever top High Violet for me, but this one comes pretty close.

Again, no surprise.  Well, the one major surprise was that this little side project of Justin Vernon's apparently escaped me.  I had no idea this was going on and this is their second album!  I adore it.  It's my chill music.  It sounds like a beautiful day outdoors.

What can I say?  Still as powerful, raw and gorgeous.  I'll never not love these guys.

She just doesn't get enough props.  Her radio hits are never as good as the other songs on the album.  Just fantastic.

Here's a no-contest band for me.  They blew me away with their debut Passive Me Aggressive You in 2010, and their sophomore album doesn't disappoint.  This is my workout music.  It gets under your skin.

My Favorite Discoveries

This was one of my favorite finds this year.  It's super mellow and a little morose.

The buzz band of the year, I'd say.  I was a fan from the first time I heard this sister trio.  Fresh and fun.  I CANNOT STOP LISTENING TO THIS ALBUM.
If you're on my side of the pond and wish to go see them in concert in Frankfurt on Feb 22, let me know!  I need a concert-going friend.

My absolute favorite find of the year.  I first heard this band on my Mumford station on iTunes Radio.  From that one song, I was clicking the buy button.  This is their debut album.  They're from Montreal and…hey, why don't you just read my article about them on Confront.

Surprising Favorites

I appreciate anything bold and original.  And what's more bold and original than a 17 year old Australian girl taking on hip-hop and totally owning it.

This is my running music so it's actually hard not to hate it a little bit.  No, I'm kidding.  I don't usually go for this poppy stuff, but this is just too fun not to love.


I hate to be a Debby-downer, but when an artist I've loved comes out with a bad album, I get a little angry.  Usually it's either because they've changed or because they've gotten full of themselves.

I won't say this album is bad, because honestly, I've only listened to it like twice.  It just felt over-the-top a bit.  The whole thing has this "let's spell reflector wrong and make it a two-disc album because we can" feeling.  Get over yourselves, guys.  They need to come back to earth and make another Suburbs.  I'll keep listening and hopefully I'll warm up to it eventually.  It just hasn't happened yet.  Apparently, I'm not the only one feeling defeated at the first listen.

Let's Be Still - The Head and the Heart
I hate/love this album.  Meaning I love a few of the songs, and hate all the rest.  They took a working formula from their debut album and entirely ditched it.  I hate to be mean, I really do, but I also hate when a great band goes bat-shit crazy.  Don't believe me?  Track 4.  Enough said.

Well, I won't end on a mean note.  Even the albums I disliked, I disliked because I love the bands so much.  There were plenty of train-wreck'ier albums put out in 2013.  And on the bright side, this has actually been a great year of pop, and that's saying a lot coming from me.

What were your music favorites of the year?

Dec 19, 2013

My favorite books of 2013 {}

It's that time of year again!  I love looking back at the year, remembering all of the favorites that the year has brought into my life, whether it be moments, music, movies or books.  Today, on book chat day, I'm sharing my favorite reads of 2013.

Sadly, with all that this year held for us, (you know, moving to Europe and all), I did not even come close to reaching my reading goal.  And what's more…I found that I read a lot of okay books and not many really blew me away.  What a major bummer.  In fact, it's sort of left me with this blasé reading appetite lately.
Enough with the melancholy.  Today is about the good stuff.  So, here are the best books I read this year.  I do have to say though…the few that did blow me away…really f*&%ing blew me away.

In no particular order…

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor
This was the last great book I've read.  If you've ever thought Paranormal YA was all frivolous, this puts that idea to rest.  It was so heart-ripping and gut-crunchingly romantic -- and not all boy/girl romantic, but that all-encompasing romantic.   I loved the writing, the setting, the fantasy, the chemistry, the romance.  In sequel, she changed the setting and split up the couple, so it was less lovable, but I'm still looking forward to the final book.  It's really a great series.
See the playlist I created for the book here.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
What a book.  This was the book I was hurling at people insistently this year.  What, you know how to read? Here: read this.
See my full review here.

My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares
Look here.  This Brashares lady should be behind bars for the soul-crushing she did with this book.  No, really though.  We have the potential for a real mutiny here and a few of have even stalked her down on Twitter for a sequel.  She told us that the publishers put the halt down on the next book, so you know…we're gonna burn that mother down.  I see picket signs and chanting.  I'd lay down in front of a bulldozer if that's what it's going to take.  We need more of Daniel and Lucy.
This book did things to me.

Lover At Last by J.R. Ward
I was SO (I mean SO) excited about this book.  These two characters have played on the sidelines for so long that we were able to watch them grow up and fall in love and I feared the debate of writing a m/m love story in a mainstream series would never happen.  I couldn't care less that they were both dudes…one of them could have been a toaster for all I cared.  I love these characters and this story and this world and all of it.  This is the only cheesy-romance series I read, and it's my major guilty pleasure so just leave me alone about it.

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes
A beautiful two-part love story, written by a new favorite author of mine.  Parts were set in a small French village during WWI and having just moved over here, I felt like this book just came to life for me.
See my full review here.

So, those are my favorites of the year.  These were the books that kept me up at night and bursting into tears for no reason during the day.  I wish there had been more, but I guess I prefer quality over quantity.  I hope this next year will be more settled and I will be able to get more reading done.  I also wish I had read more of the buzz books of the year.  There were so many great new releases that I didn't even have a chance to read yet.  There's always next year.

So, what about you?  What were your favorite books of the year?  Please link up with us and go check out our co-hosts posts as well!


Please visit and follow our awesome co-hosts today!

Link Up


To join in...
1. Please follow the host and co-host
2. Visit a few other book chat links and show some support.
3. Link back here in your post.  Or use the button provided.
4. Old posts are always welcome if you have blogged on the topic before.

Dec 12, 2013

My Book'ish Christmas List {}

Books are a great go-to gift because they are so personlize-able.   There is literally a book for everyone.  Expect maybe Kanye West, but who wants to buy for that guy anyway?  I love getting books, new/used, fiction/non, all of the above.  So, here's a few I've had my eye on lately.  And you can share your list too by linking up at the bottom.

I've heard great things about this writing memoir/guide by Anne Lamott.  Sounds right up my alley.

Her story is fascinating, but her principles and ideas are even more so.  I would love to see what this book holds.

I have yet to make a P.W. recipe that wasn't cry-worthy delicious.  I made her Fancy Mac & Cheese for Thanksgiving and it made my wobbly at the knees (if not also a little fat in the thighs).

I can't believe I haven't read this yet.  I raved about both of his other books.  I've heard this one doesn't disappoint.

I need a good YA Dystopia in my life, and this one has been unavoidable.  I want.

Oh yes, yes I did.  I asked for a Thesaurus for Christmas.

So, that's all from me.  What books are you hoping to find under the tree?  Or maybe you have some bookish gift ideas you want to share.  Please link up with us!


To join in...
1. Please follow the host and co-host
2. Visit a few other book chat links and show some support.
3. Link back here in your post.  Or use the button provided.
4. Old posts are always welcome if you have blogged on the topic before.

Next week's topic: Your favorite books of 2013!

Dec 5, 2013

I'm Back!!

I'm giving my blog a big, wet, slightly-awkward kiss right now.  I've missed blogging a LOT.  So, as many of you know, I took November off from the blog to participate in National Novel Writing Month.  I have a little recap of that and more coming your way today, but first, I have to just say again how much I've missed all of you and reading blogs and this month has reinforced the belief that I am meant to blog, no matter what else I'm doing in life.  I'm a blogger.  Through and through.

So, on top of NaNoWriMo recap, stick around because I have some news about The Book Chat to share as well!

Okay, so about NaNo.  The goal was to finish 50,000 words in the month.  I made it 40,000, but honestly guys, I'm not upset about not reaching my goal.  I had a lot going on this month.  Jeremy was gone for most of the month leaving me to single-mom it the whole time.  But this isn't about making excuses.  The best thing I gained from this experience is that I know what I need to adjust to make this career goal more realistic.  I didn't finish the novel, but I'm not done.  I'm still working on it everyday and it will be finished and it will be published.  Just because I didn't finish it in 30 days doesn't matter at all.  I am so thankful for NaNo for giving the drive and motivation to reach this major turning point.  This was not a hobby to me.  This is my new career and without NaNo, I might have put it off for another and another and another year.

There were days I chose not to write because I wasn't "feeling it" or there was a good movie on or other "purposeful procrastination" things getting in the way.  I have my own personal hurdles to overcome, but I just keep driving forward making little changes one-by-one, and I know I will get there eventually.

So, look forward to the big "It's done!" announcement.  I hope to have the first draft done by the end of December.  Then, revisions!  {groan}

The Book Chat is back!

That's right.  I need some book chatters in my life, right now.  I have a couple fun book chat topics for December.  I need ideas for January.  I don't know if we'll go back to every week book chats, but I think we'll let the book chat inspiration come to us.  So, here are the topics for this month.  My favorites book chat topics!

December 12: What books are on your Christmas wish list?  Or you can share book-lover's gift ideas.
December 19: Top 10 of 2013

Oh yeah…it's that time of year again!  Share your favorite books of the year.  They can be new releases or your 10 favorite books of the year.  I usually just post my 10 favorite reads of the year.  I love making this list.

So, that's exciting, right?!  I hope you all join.  

I have some other great posts coming this month.  We went to Prague last week, and OH SO MANY great pictures of that coming your way.  Plus some travel tip posts.  And of course my favorite top 10 of the year posts.

So, what about you, friends?  How was your November?  Did you do NaNo and how did you do?  Any exciting blog news I should know?  

Nov 7, 2013

Nonfiction November {}

Today, I'm passing you on.  Daire of Doing it the Open Way is our co-host for today's Book Chat.
She has a great post lined up for you all about Nonfiction books to celebrate her Nonfiction November event.  Please head over there and check it out.

If you would like to link-up and share your favorite Nonfiction books with us, you will have to link-up here!

To join in...
1. Please follow the host and co-host
2. Visit a few other book chat links and show some support.
3. Link back here in your post.  Or use the button provided.
4. Old posts are always welcome if you have blogged on the topic before.


Nov 6, 2013

Tunes to Write To...

Well, you guys already know my obsession for Reading Playlists, so you should already know that I have writing playlists.  Well, I will take a quick NaNoWriMo break to share mine with you.

Generally, I construct playlists based on whatever it is I'm writing.  Makes sense.  I have angsty playlists, and romantic playlists.  I have outdoorsy playlists, and girly playlists.  I guess if I had to throw at word at this playlist, I would call it ethereal.  I like that word.

Around Us - Jònsi
Byegone - Volcano Choir
Dust to Dust - The Civil Wars
Angels - The XX
Winter Ghosts - JBM
Fatal Shore - Andrew Bird
Give Up the Ghost - Radiohead
Grow Old - The Naked and Famous
Leland - Cemeteries
Heavenfaced - The National
Show Me the Quiet Air - The Franklin Electric

Well, there you go.  I just gave you a taste of what I'm working on, and if you think I chose a bunch of songs with a corresponding theme in the title, I assure you I did not.  Total coincidence there.

Oh, and if my collection gets old, which it does, I have become a fan of the new iTunes Radio.  I find the Ambient or New Wave stations a soothing choice to write to.  Just have to watch out for the urge to nap while they're on.

Today I'm linking up with:

Nov 4, 2013

Here we go, November. {with October recap}


The Book Chat

The book chat will be on hiatus for the rest of the year while I participate in NaNoWriMo.  I have had a few people interested in taking the Book Chat over while I'm "gone" and I'm not ignoring you!  I promise to get back to you ASAP.  Thanks for your interest! 


The Book Chat

Our last book chat of the month will be this Thursday.  The topic is Nonfiction with co-host Daire of Doing it the Open Way.  Hope you can come back to join us this one last time.

National Novel Writing Month

Word count: 4,669

My NaNo name is Tangerine423.  If you are participating, find me on the site & let's be writing buddies.

Oct 25, 2013

Writers Unite {and a bit about blogging}

I know I've already talked about doing NaNo, but I have to share this great group of bloggers who are also participating.  They've created this awesome little support group and little to-do's during the month.  I'm excited, and I hope I can keep up with at least one event.  It's going to be a CRAZY month.

So, for any newbies heading over from the link-up, I'll introduce myself.  I'm Jessica, and I wear many hats.  I'm a wife and mom, and I live overseas with my family.  I'm currently finishing up my degree and working on my first full manuscript.  I love reading and blogging, but I'd say that's pretty obvious.

As for my project, it is a Young Adult novel, let's say contemporary-ish.  The working title is The Hereafter, and it's a love story with a twist.

As I said a little earlier this week, my goal is to have the manuscript complete by the end of the year.

Wish me luck!

As for blogging.  It will unfortunately take a backseat to this project.  It's a matter of prioritizing, and somehow I have to find time to go to school full-time while completing the novel.  Therefore, seldom NaNo posts will probably be the sole content on the blog for the rest of the year.  I want to say that the book chat will be back every week, but I can't make promises right now.  Oh hey, did I mention Jeremy will be on a business trip for the entire month of November?  Yeah, his job and I have great timing.

So here's my offer...if you, my loyal and wonderful book chat friends, would like to take over the book chat for me until further notice, it is all yours.  Please just email me if you are interested and I'll explain it all.  If not, then we will probably pick back up in 2014.

We do still have a nonfiction book chat scheduled for Nov 7th with Daire, so please come back for that one!

Some NaNoWriMo geared blog posts you can look forward to in November...

  • My writing playlist
  • Writing spaces, habits and rituals
  • My favorite writing apps and reads
  • A few of my favorite writing buddies
  • ...and some basic progress updates.
If you are on NaNoWriMo, please look me up.  My username is Tangerine423.  Let me know if you add me as a buddy, so I can add you!

Oct 24, 2013

Literary Costume ideas {}

This is my favorite book chat tradition, so I couldn't possibly miss this week.  I love the idea of literary-themed Halloween costumes.  You can see last years here.  And the year before's here.

I don't have a ton of time to work as many ideas as last year, but I was able to come up with this one.  I got very excited at the thought of The Night Circus costumes.  For more Celia Bowen inspiration, check out this search on Pinterest.  Mind blown.

The Night Circus

And just for fun...

Surely, you've seen this one by now.

Fifty Shades of Grey
I would add handcuffs or a tie to really send the message home, but I thought this was fun.

Have you ever dressed up as a literary character or you do you have any great ideas to share?

If so, please link up below!

Link Up  


1. Please follow the host and co-host
2. Visit a few other book chat links and show some support.
3. Link back here in your post.  Or use the button provided.
4. Old posts are always welcome if you have blogged on the topic before.

The Book Chat link-up next week is cancelled.  We will pick back up in November!  Happy Halloween!!

Oct 22, 2013

Weekend Roadtrip: Wiesbaden & Heidelberg, Germany

Weekend road trips mean something entirely different when you live in Europe.  Sure, living abroad has it's challenges.  I don't get to watch those exciting season premieres with you all.  I can't get Netflix or Panera.  Don't even get me started on 3G.  But our weekend road trips totally make up for all of that.

With the military, trip planning six months ahead doesn't exactly work.  The Army doesn't care if you already have plane tickets, a hotel and an itinerary planned; if they have to go to the field, they have to go the field.  Cue the spontaneous weekend getaway!

If you know me, then you know that I'm not a spontaneous traveler.  I want lists.  Lots and lots of lists.  I write lists for the lists that I have to write.  True story.  But we're learning.  We try to remain flexible and in good spirits no matter what.  We may not always know exactly what we're doing each day or where we will eat, but that's okay.  It's an adventure.  Roll with the punches.  Even if the punches involve your three year old peeing through his last pair of clean pants.  Roll with it.

So, last weekend we decided to stick around Germany and head about three hours west to Wiesbaden.  This town is tremendously special to us because it was where we lived during our first tour in Germany.  It was Jeremy's first duty station in the Army.  It was our first home as man and wife. It was where Jonathan was born.  It holds a lot of special memories for us.  Our other motive for going to this city was to see a few friends we made in Alabama.  It was great to show our new friends around our old home.  Very full circle.

Wiesbaden has a beautiful, bustling downtown area.  It is one of the wealthiest cities in Germany and there are streets I can't even afford to walk down.  I was pleasantly surprised by how much the city had grown since we left.

The next day, we ventured to Heidelberg: another German city we love.  Heidelberg is a hidden gem.  If you find yourself in Germany, and you think Munich and Berlin are the only cities worth seeing, you're missing out.  Heidelberg is gorgeous.  It has one of the best castles (my personal favorite).  You can climb up into the castle, see the garden and one of the towers that fell like 500 years ago, but is still just hanging there.  It feels like a legit, knights and princesses castle.  Kids love it.  There's a university there so it's a bit of a college town, which we all know adds so much to a city.  Plus, the view.  Worth a trip, for sure.