I Failed My 2016 Reading Challenge

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It seems a combination of the 40-hour (sometimes 48-hour) work week, extra freelance work, and putting some really thick books on my reading list took its toll on my ability to complete my 2016 Goodreads Reading Challenge.

As you may remember from last year, I wrote a post about my 2015 victory, which included a list of books I wanted to read in 2016. In 2015, I successfully read 12 books. For 2016, I pledged 15.

I knew this challenge was going downhill when I realized I couldn’t keep my eyes open long enough to finish reading a page while riding in the backseat on road trip vacations with my parents.

Of the 15 books I pledged, here are the ones I actually got to finish:

2016 goodreads reading challenge

From top left: Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined by Stephenie Meyer, The Choice by Nicholas Sparks, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, The Coffee Girl by Shanna Hatfield, How to Be Single by Liz Tuccillo, China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan.

Yeah, 6 of 15. I failed hard.

My favorite of the books I got to read was Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. I’d heard such great things about it, and it definitely lived up to all the praise. I’m a sucker for a good romance novel, and this one made me want to read more of Rowell’s work.

For my 2017 Goodreads Challenge, I’m just going to pick up where I left off. I’m still in the process of reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (a book of over 700 pages that I’m trying really hard to finish by the end of January) plus 8 other books that are carrying over from last year equals 9 books.

Sounds doable.

Here’s the list:

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (started at end of 2016, currently on pg. 109 of 773)

Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Helen Keller in Love by Rosie Sutlan

What Pretty Girls Are Made Of by Lindsay Jill Roth

The Unexpected by J Sheley

Taming Cross by Ella James

Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen

Subject to Change by Alessandra Thomas

If you’d like to, feel free to add me on Goodreads to see my progress, and please scold me in the comments on my recent activity if I’ve spent more than 30 days on one book!

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Valentine’s Day 2016: Nicholas Sparks Style

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What do you do on Valentine’s Day when it’s 21° F but feels like -10 ° F outside and you don’t want your Valentine to get frostbite?

Stay inside with a book or a movie!

Although his personal romantic life may be a bit of a mess right now, Nicholas Sparks is one of the most romantic storytellers of all time. His romances will warm your heart, whether in book form or on the flat screen TV in your living room.

So grab a blanket for two, a bottle of wine and cuddle up with your Valentine, because it’s time to celebrate Valentine’s Day 2016, Nicholas Sparks style. Here are four books and movies by the author that’ll put the sap in sappy romance.

1. The Last Song (2010)
Starring Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth as Ronnie Miller and Will Blakelee.
For those of you who miss the old Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth pre-Gale Hawthorne, this one is a must watch. Animal lovers reading the book or watching on screen will fall in love with the sea turtles they rescue on the beach.

Read
Watch
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2. The Longest Ride (2015)
Starring Britt Robertson and Scott Eastwood as Luke Collins and Sophia Danko.
If you love all things rodeo, fine arts, vintage love stories, and city meets country romance, this one’s for you. I dare you not to see Clint Eastwood every time you look at Luke!

Read
Watch
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3. A Walk to Remember (2002)
Starring Mandy Moore and Shane West as Jamie Sullivan and Landon Carter.
This one is a tear jerker. Gentlemen, if you’re having trouble figuring out how to ask her dad to let you take her out on a date, pay attention to the scene where Landon asks the reverend the big question.

Read
Watch
eBook
Audiobook

4. The Choice (2016)
Starring Teresa Palmer and Benjamin Walker as Gabby Holland and Travis Parker.
Spend some time reading The Choice and take a rain-check on seeing it in theaters. Warning: beware of Travis’ obsessive southern hospitality.

Read
Watch in theaters starting February 5th!
eBook
Audiobook

Have a happy and safe Valentine’s Day 2016!

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Books I Want to Read in 2016

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It’s a new year, so I’ve got a new list of books I want to read!

Honestly, one of the best things about being out of school is the fact that you can read every and any book you want by choice. 

In 2015 I challenged myself to read 12 books, which I documented on Goodreads. I got really close to not completing my goal, as I strayed off my schedule of one book per month, but I got back on track by cramming two books a month in the fall.

Also, I think Jennifer E. Smith is one of my new favorite authors. The Statistical Probability of Falling in Love at First Sight was such a great read that I’ve decided to make it my business to read every single book this woman has written.

I’m actually quite proud of myself because I managed to finish three book series’ and start two new ones that I plan to continue this year.

My list for 2016 features 15 books I plan to read in order to fulfill my new reading challenge. A few books on this list are coming out as movies this year as well, so let’s see if I can finish them before their release dates.

Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined by Stephenie Meyer

China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan

Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Helen Keller in Love by Rosie Sutlan

The Choice by Nicholas Sparks

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

How to Be Single by Liz Tuccillo

What Pretty Girls Are Made Of by Lindsay Jill Roth

The Unexpected by J Sheley

The Coffee Girl by Shanna Hatfield

Taming Cross by Ella James

Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen

Subject to Change by Alessandra Thomas

If you’d like to, feel free to add me on Goodreads to see my progress!

NaNoWriMo 2015: ‘Runaway Girl’ Part 5

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This is the last part of Runaway Girl (for now!). I had a lot of fun revisiting this story, so maybe next NaNoWriMo I’ll write another four or five parts.

Read the previous parts here.

The following weeks consisted of Priya and I searching for a job.

“How about modelling?” she’d suggested. “Maybe hand modelling for jewelry and stuff? I bet there are tons of online merchants looking for—”

“Umm, the last thing I need right now is to have my parents find my face plastered all over the internet while shopping online.”

“This isn’t about them anymore,” she reminded me. “It’s about you. If you want to do it then you should.”

So she took a couple of photos of me wearing a few of the decorative bindis I’d brought with me from Bangladesh. Priya also loaned me a few bracelets and rings to complete the looks.

We also came up with a very short resume. Since I’d only completed secondary school, I couldn’t apply to any jobs that required college degrees. I also couldn’t apply for any jobs that required visa sponsorship.

Yesterday, Priya found an ad on Craigslist from someone looking for a babysitter. She did all the emailing back and forth since I was too nervous.

“I got you a prepaid phone,” Priya said. “He said he’s going to meet you in the lobby of the apartment for a quick interview. If he looks like a creeper, pull out your phone, act like someone sent you a text about an emergency, and tell him you have to go.”

“Okay?” I said, before taking the phone from her.

“What should I wear?” I asked.

“Hmm. Wear one of your tunic tops,” she said. “You can borrow my khaki pants.”

I didn’t really start getting nervous until I got off the G train at 4th Avenue. I felt better when I realized I was following the GPS on my phone properly.

I pushed the door to the apartment building open to find a woman waiting for the elevator with a small dog. A man in a black shirt and blue jeans holding a Starbucks cup in hand sat on the black sofa in the back of the lobby.

“Hello,” I said as I walked up to him. “Are you James?”

“Hi, yes,” he said, standing to shake my hand. “Please, sit.”

I sat down next to him and crossed my ankles.

“So from your resume it seems like you have some experience with small children?”

“Yes. I’ve been taking care of a friend’s daughter. I take her to playdates and to the park and such.”

As I spoke I started to notice his brown hair and ice blue eyes. It’s as if I’d seen him before.

“Annabelle is four so she goes to preschool during the day,” James was saying. I had zoned out for the first part of what he said. And then it clicked.

“Her school isn’t far from here,” he continued. “So on weekdays your day would start by picking her up from there and then staying with her until I get home from work. Her homework is usually some sort of arts and crafts activity, so don’t be too worried about having to help her out with anything too difficult. On Saturdays you’d babysit her from nine to around six in the evening.”

James took a sip of his coffee. I could not believe that this was happening.

“I’m sorry, but have we met before?” he asked. “You look familiar.”

“The airport,” I said before I could stop myself. “You gave me an extra quarter for the payphone. I think your driver was holding a sign that said Broomfield.”

“Ah, yes, yes,” he said, smiling. “That would be me. I’m James Broomfield.”

NaNoWriMo 2015: ‘Runaway Girl’ Part 4

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This was supposed to be the last part of Runaway Girl, but since there’s one more Sunday in November, and I’ve been getting a lot of views on the NaNoWriMo posts, I’ve decided to make this a five part story!

Enjoy part 4! (Read the previous parts here).

I got up from the table with an adrenaline rush I had never felt in my life before.

“No! I will not go back home!” I cried to them. “I like it here in the States where I can marry whomever I want! Let Samir marry someone else. Someone who doesn’t care about her freedoms and her happiness. Because I want to be happy, and never be forced to do anything I don’t want to do! I won’t ever have a choice if I go back to Bangladesh!”

I stomped up the stairs to the guest room I was staying in. I heard Greg and Priya saying something to them as I plugged Vonetta’s pink iPod shuffle into my ears.

I’ll never let them take me back home. I’d rather die than be forced into a life that will leave me unhappy. 

A few moments passed before I heard footsteps getting closer to the room. I pulled the headphones out of my ears and sat up on the bed right when my father burst through the door, Greg attempting to block him.

“Mr. Ahmed, please—,” Greg began.

“SHARMINA!” he called. I stared at his face, forehead wrinkled and eyes widened with rage. Priya and my mother appeared behind my father and Greg in the hallway.

“Pack your things and come back home,” my father said. “The arrangements are still in place for your wedding at the end of the month, and Samir is willing to look past this.”

“Yes, please, Sharmina,” my mother said, stepping through the small space between Greg and my father.

“NO! Don’t you guys get it?” I asked. “I do not want that life. I’ve never wanted it, and you knew it, but you still insist on trying to force it on me.”

“Think about Miriam, hmm?” my mother said, coming over to me and placing her hands on my shoulders. “Think about how happy she is with her children and her—”

“And her what?! Her husband?!,” I was screaming loudly now, tears streaming down my face. “She’s not happy with him! And if it weren’t for her trying to set an example for me, I’m sure she wouldn’t have married Tanvir. She would have run away too.”

“Sharmina,” my mother continued. “You don’t know that…”

“Mr. and Mrs. Ahmed,” Greg interrupted. “I think you should leave. I’ll give you my cell number if you’d like to keep contact with your daughter but it’s late now and you should go back to your hotel.”

My mother looked at me with pleading eyes. My father stared at Greg with a face of fierce vexation.

“Vidya, let us go,” my father called to my mother. “We are leaving for the airport on Tuesday morning at 10am. Please. Come back home, Sharmina.”

Once they left, Priya came back to the room to comfort me. I told her that I have no plans to return to Bangladesh.

“How about I help you find a job here?” she suggested. “I’ll help you write a resume tomorrow and we can start from there.”

“Thank you,” I said. She gave me a hug and went back downstairs to wash the dishes. I offered to help her but she insisted I take a hot bath and get some rest.

As the hot water filled the tub, I removed my makeup with a cleansing cloth. Staring at myself in the bathroom mirror, I realize that I now have a whole life ahead of me. I can get a job, possibly even go to college part time, and maybe get my own place once I’ve saved up enough. The possibilities are endless.

This is the new me. The girl who ran away, and will never look back.

NaNoWriMo 2015: ‘Runaway Girl’ Part 3

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Enjoy part 3 of Runaway Girl. (Read part 1 and part 2)

It’s been two weeks since I left Bangladesh. I feel so free here in New York. Priya and Greg have taken me to a Broadway show and to a few museums in Manhattan. Everything is so beautiful here.

A smile wouldn’t leave my face until this afternoon, when I saw my picture on a lamppost in Queens today while picking Vonetta up from a play date. My parents were looking for me. I couldn’t believe them! I’m sure they know why I’ve run away, so why chase me? I’m nineteen years old. I can take care of myself!

That evening while eating dinner with Priya, Greg, and Vonetta the doorbell rang. Greg opened it to reveal two elderly Bengali parents, both with salt and pepper hair, the woman wearing a green and yellow Sari and the man a blue shirt and gray slacks.

“I am here to take my daughter Sharmina back home where she belongs. Her husband to be, Samir, awaits her,” said the man in a thick Bengali accent.

NaNoWriMo 2015: ‘Runaway Girl’ Part 2

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Enjoy the second part of Runaway Girl! (Read part 1 here)

It was only five o’clock in the morning when I tiptoed down the stairs and out the back door of the house. I took one last look at the family photo on the living room table and then I left. I was going to miss this house, but not my mom and dad or Samir. They could surely live without me.

At six thirty in the morning I boarded the plane to Italy. When I arrived in Italy, it was already one in the afternoon. I had an hour before my next flight to New York so I took a bathroom break and then read a few pages of my Koran. At two I got on the plane to New York. I could already feel the freedom in my veins as the plane landed seven hours later.

I had a friend in New York named Priya whom I had called before leaving Bangladesh. She had done the same thing I was doing three years ago. She now had one child and an amazing husband whom she married of her own free will. I hope I’ll be as lucky as she. She lives in Belmont, Long Island and offered to pick me up from LaGuardia Airport that evening. I called her from a payphone using the only U.S. quarter I had ever seen in my life. I took it from my dad’s collection. He collected coins from all over the world. Thankfully he had a U.S. quarter.

I put the quarter in the payphone and picked up the receiver only to find that there was no dial tone. I looked at the payphone trying to figure out what I had done wrong. On the top left hand side of the payphone I saw that it said ‘50¢’. That meant two quarters. I only had one. I sighed and began to walk away from the payphone when a blue eyed, dark brown haired guy in a business suit came up to me and handed me a quarter.

“You don’t have to thank me. I saw you from over there”, he said while pointing across the room. “You looked like you needed another quarter. You’re welcome,” he said smiling at me.

“Thank you,” I said. He left me standing at the payphone still in awe. He walked over to a man holding a sign that said ‘Broomfield’. I guess that was his driver.

I snapped out of it and called Priya. She told me she was already on her way, so I waited outside. I watched as other people pushed carts with suitcases to their taxis and riding away off to freedom. I couldn’t wait until Priya arrived. Finally she did, and I rode off into the freedom-filled sunset myself.

Priya’s husband, Greg, is very nice to me. Her daughter Vonetta is two years old, and she told me that she likes my Saris. Priya and I agreed that I should babysit Vonetta until I find a job in New York. Greg offered to pay me but I told him it wasn’t necessary. I already owed him for allowing me to remain in his home until I could stand on my own.