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reading wishlist: top of the request list

The first quarter of 2016 is coming to a close, and I have to say… I’ve been off my reading game.

This isn’t unfamiliar territory; I think my reading slows down once or twice a year. I’m starting to pick up on the signs. The piles of half-read books. The increased podcast to audiobook ratio. The maxed out holds list.

It happens. It’s predictable. A reading slump has yet to send me looking for a new hobby/career/passion, so I’m not frightened.

But it still leaves me feeling somewhat off. A little lazy, a little unfocused, a little adrift. I’ve got five books on the “burner” right now – another sign I’m feeling slumpy – and I’m just itching to finish them all, to clear the freaking deck for something new.

So here’s a list of books from my teetering library holds list that I wish I had the time or the wherewithal to read. If I could clear my schedule and my mind, I’d put these at the top of my reading stack.

 

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Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar

I just hopped over to the Amazon page for this book and saw that it is currently a #1 New Release in the category of Teen and Young Adult Death & Dying Fiction. THAT is what I am in the mood for? Another YA book about Death & Dying? While I’m in a reading slump? Oy vey, what has my life become.

Anywaaaaay, I’m not sure I believe Amazon’s categorization here anyway. When I added this to my to-read pile, I saw it as middle grade, or at least that MG-YA hybrid gray area that I enjoy very much. The beginnings of a coming of age. In this book, our protagonist is twelve-years-old, she’s spending a summer with her family instead of her friends, and there is magical realism.

A Tangle of Gold by Jaclyn Moriarty

This has definitely been a slow burn series for me. The first installment felt a little too long, a little too whimsical-fantasy… but man, when the storylines started to converge, I was not only hooked but suddenly appreciative of everything that came before. (Apparently I wrote up a little review here, if you’d care to flash back to 2014 for a moment.) The second installment I listened to as an audiobook… and it took some muscle to make it through. BUT MAN, AT THE END, WHEN THE STORYLINES STARTED TO CONVERGE! You see the pattern here. I’m hoping that this final installment of Madeleine and Elliot’s adventures in and out of the Kingdom of Cello will be alllll convergence; either way, this is a series I certainly plan to seeing to an end.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Buzz, buzz, buzzity buzz. A holds list 100 miles long. I’m not sure I have room for squeezing in superfluous works of adult nonfiction right now, but if I did? It would be this one. It’s a memoir about life and death and family and medicine, guys. All of my buttons, right there. I’m also hearing comparison’s to Atul Gawande’s 2014 Being Mortal, which is another buzz buzzity buzz book by a favorite author of mine… that I shamefully have not yet read. Maybe I should just read that one instead – surely the holds list is shorter at this point.

First Bite: How We Learn to Eat by Bee Wilson

This is another superfluous work of adult nonfiction… but, since I am having un bebé this year, I am making special dispensations for relevant instructional titles. I caught an interview with Wilson on Fresh Air, and not only did this book seem super fascinating, I also learned that there is critical period for food taste development – a “flavor window” – that occurs between 4 to 7 months; during this time, little babes are most receptive to trying out new foods. If you miss this window, you might end up with a kid that doesn’t eat anything other than grilled cheese sandwiches and goldfish crackers!

What if I missed this crucial piece of information and ended up with a cracker kid?? What other crucial child-rearing information might be hidden inside this book?? Am I heading down a spiraling road of panicked parent book-reading already? Probably??

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

After a year of reading way more middle grade than I ever have in my life, I have to say… it was pretty fun. YA is fun and flashy, and adult probably need to read at least a few adult books every year just to maintain an adult’s vigor and constitution, but MAN there really is a lot of good MG coming out all the time. I believe this is Kate DiCamillo’s first straight-up realistic children’s novel in quite some time, and since she is a multiple Newbery-honored author, I should probably take heed.
Also, I’ve flipped through a galley and the book is a slip of a thing with short chapters. Exactly the kind of book that makes for good slump reading…

I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time by Laura Vanderkam

Here is a book about how to accomplish amazing things with your perpetually squeezed time on this earth. Or at least accomplish a normal amount of things without having to cry about it.

So it’s pretty embarrassing and way too on-the-nose to admit that I really just haven’t found the time to read this one yet. I’ve checked it out! More than once! I’ve started it! More than once! I just… I just…

Gah.

Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom ed. by Leonard Marcus

In my fantasy, time-stands-still-so-you-can-read world, I’d have plenty of time to do ALL sorts of reading. Required reads, fun reads, re-reads, informational books, classics I never got around to, classics I wasn’t really paying attention to, galleys, etc. Oh, wouldn’t that be a wonderful world. One category that I never-ever-ever seem to have the time for? Children’s lit theory and history. Three years earning a children’s lit MA was enlightening, sure, but it was also that kind of enlightening that made me realize just how little I know.

This is a collection of letters between legendary children’s book editor Ursula Nordstrom and the authors and others that she worked with during her career. Authors like E. B. White, Maurice Sendak, and Shel Silverstein. And since a majority of the correspondence required to put a book together way back in the day had to be conducted via snail mail? These letters have GOT to be good. (I’m sure this book is all kinds of fascinating… but it’s also the size of a large doorstop.)

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Last but not least… the inspirational creativity read written by one of Jessica’s favorite authors.

Oh, oh, oh.

Oh, but can you imagine me with this book, sitting by the pool under an umbrella with an frosty glass of iced tea? Swimsuits? Sunglasses? Not a care in the world?

Okay, so fine, it’s April and it snowed this morning. I’ve got about 20 weeks of prep to do for a baby who will be here in like… twelve. I accidentally overdrew my checking account by EIGHT THOUSAND DOLLARS last week. It’s possible that my fantasy-reading-life is… uh… a sign of some sort of deeper pathology. I’ll tell you more about it later, but for now I need to cook dinner, fold laundry, pack for Denver, wash my hair, and think warm, warm, waaaaarm thoughts.

 

Best Reads of 2015

Hello again, friends! It’s the end of 2015, and time to talk about the Best Books of the Year!

Or maybe just the verrrrry beginning of 2016? When 2015 is still pretty fresh on your mind?

Okay fine. It’s damn near April. But, by gum, I’m posting this freaking top ten list if it kills me.

As is traditional here in the Jessica’s-various-historical-blog-o-sphere, what follows is a list of books that I loved this year, ranked from ten to one. We have books of fiction and nonfiction. Books for kids, teens AND adults. Books that I read as galleys, hardbacks, paperbacks, eBooks and audiobooks. Books I read in January and books I read in December. (This year, maybe some books I read in… ahem… 2014)

No picturebooks, though. How discriminatory of me! The poor picturebook. Maybe next year I’ll rectify this situation.

At any rate, this is, as per usual, a personal list that has 100% to do with my reading enjoyment and not with any standards of literary merit. My annotations are similarly… um… not objective or professional. Perhaps more-so than ever. Because it’s damn near April.

Would you like to see my favorite books of years past, so you can see how far such a fine tradition has fallen? Here are some links to click on:

2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010

I am hoping that this post serves as a symbolic literary purging of the old year, leaving me feeling free to start writing about The Books of the New Year. I am also hoping that I never write a sentence that includes the phrase “symbolic literary purging” ever again.

Okay. Without further ado. Here. Read. Enjoy! See you soon!

 

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10. Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola

A literary memoir that is also an addiction memoir. Classic Jessica-bait. What impressed me about Hepola’s particular narrative? It’s compact and easy to read, but also dense with emotional insight and sentences that made me grab for a pen and notebook. And while I’ve read a lot of addiction memoirs, I can’t say I’ve ever read one written by a woman – much less by a woman close to my own age. The older I get, the more I value reading personal narratives written by other women bungling through whatever period of their late twenties/early thirties I’m also inhabiting – there really aren’t that many out there, and even fewer that match Hepola’s insight, talent, and humility.

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9. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

I picked up this book on the recommendation/praise of many. I was fresh off months of imposed reading; months of making reading selections based on what book could be of higher quality than the last one I read without thinking much at all my personal reading preferences. I was even starting to wonder if I *had* any reading preferences anymore, or if maybe I’d read myself into a critical stupor. Thankfully, this delightful book was just a perfect slice of what I’ve always loved in YA – a good old-fashioned contemporary girl story, with a little romance. I loved Lara Jean, loved how her story was about romance but was really just about her, and I love-love-loved the world of the Song family. It was the kind of YA book that makes me want to give it a hug; treating myself to that experience felt really nice.

 

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8. Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans by Don Brown

One weekend in November, I took a break from my normal reading schedule and worked through a hulking pile of graphic novels. I read a lot of really great ones, but Dan Brown’s Drowned City knocked me flat. It’s one thing to hear the news and to read the stories. We even visited New Orleans a year or so afterwards – it was easy to tell that something traumatic had happened, but harder to grasp exactly what. Brown’s spare, informative narrative and dark, evocative illustrations felt like a rare, frightening close-up of the emotional and physical trials the victims of this disaster incurred. It was painful

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7. Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

It feels a bit strange to say so, but in terms of consistent reading satisfaction, I think Raina Telgemeier might me one of my favorite authors. Smile was great. Loved Drama. Haven’t read the BSC series, but… uh… it’s BSC w/ Telgemeier’s art. I really can’t imagine that it wouldn’t be enjoyable. Sisters, however, impressed the hell out of me. This is a companion to Smile – another slice of Telgemeier’s middle grade years – but this time Telgemeier draws the focus out from her own experience just a touch to explore her family’s unique dynamic. The book is structured around Telgemeier’s fraught relationship with Amara – a younger sister who’s independent, surly, and refuses to play the role of quiet companion that Telgemeier imagined she would. The main storyline is a small one – a road trip to visit family in a jankety VW bus. But with these brilliantly composed full page panels throughout, Telgemeier slows the reader down and reveals what the story is really about – it’s about family struggles that are just a little bit too big for young kids to grasp, and how even if you don’t get along in the day to day, your siblings will be the ones who understand. Telgemeier isn’t just a graphic novelist – she’s a memoirist.

 

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6. The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

Creepy ghost books? Not really my thing. Juvenile detention books? Meh. Ballerina books? I always *want* to like them, but I think I might just like Center Stage and that’s it. Creepy ghost ballerina books set partially in a juvenile prison? Hands down Top Ten Read of 2015. Nice job, Suma. What did draw me in was the dueling narrators. Violet is the ballerina, an uptight rich girl on her way to Juilliard – her story has a familiar, contemporary YA feel but with tense, angry edges. Amber is the detainee; she tells her own story of life before and during her incarceration, but she also speaks in this downright creepy third person omniscient voice that seems to speak for all of the girls who live at Aurora Hills. Their stories pivot around the life of a third girl – Orianna, “The Bloody Ballerina” – and these spiraling, intertwining story lines just get creepier and more intense the longer the book goes on. This was a book I read for review – you can read it here! – and probably the review book I was happiest to see starred and get some critical love at the end of the year. It was even cited in an editorial as “the book that has me excited about YA publishing all over again.” Nothing but love for this creepy-ass gem of a book.

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5. Great With Child: Letters to a Young Mother by Beth Ann Fennelly

Here is another personal lady narrative, this one told in letters. Fennelly is a writing professor with a toddler; when a former student is facing an unexpected pregnancy, Fennelly promises to write her often. To reveal what secrets of gestation and motherhood that she can; to generally provide her company, solace, and insight during a scary/exciting/tumultuous time. This is only Fennelly’s side of the correspondence, which is strange and intimate peek into her life, her history, and her values; and how all of that relates to her feelings on child-bearing, children, family, and art.

If you can find a better book on pregnancy out there, bring it to me and I will bake you a chocolate cake.

Edit: well, that cat’s certainly out of the bag. That is what I get for taking MONTHS to write a post. Anyway, the chocolate cake sentiment still stands.

 

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4. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

We are now entering a brief interlude of cheats. I didn’t read this book for the first time in 2015. Nope. In 2014, I went to BEA and came home with a galley, and then I read it on my beach vacation.

And it was good. It was just so, so good.

I feel like I do not need to tell you about this book because this book has just been all over the place. It took home a National Book Award, a Newbery Honor, a Coretta Scott King, a Sibert Honor, probably some awards I’m forgetting or never heard of. It’s a memoir in verse. It’s about growing up black in North Carolina and Brooklyn in the 1960s and 1970s. It’s lovely. It’s thought-provoking. It’s a must read.

(And, to be fair, I did read it in 2015. More than once. And I’d read it again in a heartbeat)

 

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3. The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming

Cheat #2: I first read this book in the fall of 2014. It took me a few weeks to work through; I’d read a chunk of short segments here and there, in between other fiction reading. But the longer I read, the longer the chunks – just like fiction, the longer I read, the deeper into the Romanov’s epic/bizarre/tragic story I fell. As this enigmatic, isolated family marched steadily toward their end, the faster the pages whipped by.

To be completely honest, this was really my first experience with the Romanovs. I knew very little about this notorious family. But wow, what an introduction. Fleming is an ideal guide for a first-timer; her narrative voice is warm, steady, informative. She weaves sparkling aesthetic details into her scenes – decadent bits of scenery, costume, and personality that drew me into the Romanov’s lives in that leery but indulgent, voyeuristic, reality show kind of way. But in the next chapter, Fleming turns the focus toward individuals in the peasant class; pulling from primary sources, Fleming reminds the reader that the Romanovs were one family in a country of millions, and that their power and choices led many, many of their citizens to impossible poverty or death… and eventually the dissolution of a steady government.

Alright, I feel like I am getting a little *too* passionate here about history. I am going to lose my fun-book street-cred. But nonetheless, this boring history book was one of the best and most engaging read I encountered.

In either 2014 or 2015. Take your pick. Or maybe both!

 

 

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2. Recipes for a Beautiful Life: A Memoir in Stories by Rebecca Barry

I read this  book over the summer. Just a few chapters in, I immediately imagined sitting on my bookshelf, part of my permanent collection. It was just one of those heart-clutching, “yes, yes,” books that just… struck a personal/sentimental/this-is-life/cliche-inspiring chord in me. Every few years, they come along.

A collection of short personal essays – stories, maybe, or sketches – this is the perfect book for dipping in and out of. Barry begins with a big move; after much deliberation, she and her husband decide to disrupt their writing and publishing careers – to leave New York City and move upstate, and oh, then maybe it’s a good idea to buy a gorgeous but dilapidated apartment building and then renovate? And then maybe have a couple of small children? Her stories are brief. Clipped, out of necessity. They barely leave the scope of her small town, her family and friends, or the walls of her apartment. The moments she captures are personal – naval-gazing, maybe – sometimes messy, sometimes fractured, sometimes self-pitying, but then there’s just a bit of joy, tucked away, too. It’s exactly the way I like to think about life and families and the way I strive to write.

And for the record, I did not make it through those two paragraphs without putting it on hold again. Oops.

 

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  1. Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

I have to say, it’s a bit of a strange experience thinking about books that I’ve loved when so much time as passed since we first “met.” So much has happened, Challenger Deep, since I first cracked you open. I seem to recall it was a warm-ish evening, late April early May, and I was reading on my bed with the windows open. I picked it out from my overflowing bookshelves on the merit of a starred professional review, I believe. I had no idea what it was about. I started reading and had no idea what was going on, but not in a “you’ve lost me, Shusterman” kind of way.

It was more like a “Wow, this book is smarter than me.” So I started paddling hard to keep up, and while I’m not sure I did 100%, I was left feeling like I’d experienced something damn special.

This book came out last May. It got a zillion starred reviews, won some awards, and I’m sure you’ve heard all about it by now. If you haven’t, I’ll tell you that it’s about a teenage boy, and it’s about schizoaffective disorder. There are at least two separate story-lines, neither of which feels quite… real. It’s narratively impressive, narratively challenging, but if you can hang on long enough, it will also hit you in the guts at least once or twice.

Not an easy read. Not a pleasant read. Not a heart-clutching “yes, yes” book, but a “wow, wow, WOW” kind of book – maybe the only WOW book I read all year.

 

31

Hello there.

I do not believe that keepers of blogs should begin their writing by apologizing to the reader. I’m sorry I haven’t been writing is how I want to begin this post, but how I *want* to begin a piece of writing is only occasionally how I *ought* to begin a piece of writing. Snipping that apology seems like easy editing; tighten it up, get to the point, skip over the bits where you have to reckon with yourself as a writer and get writing.

What’s more, I don’t think the apology should be necessary. You are a keeper of a blog, yes, but you are also a human being living on the planet Earth. You used to be a teenager with entirely too much free time, a college student with a cushy part-time job with few job duties and unlimited Internet time, a twenty-something with more thoughts and dreams than your brain could safely contain.

Now, I am 31. I am a full-time librarian; a professional book reviewer; a wife, a sister, a daughter, a friend.

A real, live grown-up…

who writes a blog post once a quarter.

I want to write more about blogging and writing. I want to write more on this blog in general. But right now, it’s my birthday, and I want to write about what is on my mind as I turn 31.

  • Thirty-one feels like a weird age. A decade-plus-one. Seems like a pointless differentiation from thirty. But then again, *twenty*-one was so exciting! Strange to think I have been a legal drinker for ten years, especially since I am in the midst of probably the longest drink-free spell I’ve had for a decade. I have a lot of good things to say about life without alcohol, but I also haven’t had to watch anyone crack their fresh Sam Summer of the season in front of me yet, so I’ll reserve any teetotaling wisdom for the time being.
  • 29 and 30 years old are kind of loaded ages. “Oh my god, I’m almost 30!” then “Oh my god! I’m in my thirties!” Thirty-one doesn’t hold any particular emotional for me… but its proximity to 32 does. You see… I discovered that adults have ages when my mother was 32. I would have been about 7. Since elementary-aged children are curious but perhaps not the most attentive to the personal lives of others, I kind of just thought my mom was 32 for like… 5 years. 32 is how old moms are. They just get to 32 and stop there. And yeah, now I’m a year away from that Forever Mom number. Yikes.
  • I am sorry I haven’t been writing here in this particular empty white box, but you know what? I have been writing in other white boxes. Book reviews. Emails. Journals. Morning pages. Other miscellany. I’m reminded regularly of something I wrote here way back when I was a little bitty 26-year-old. That stuff counts. Those words count.
  • Here’s a related thought: in addition to my piles of scribbled-in notebooks, it is highly likely that I will leave behind megabyte after megabyte of bizarre, half-formed Word Docs. Will my children read each and every document and discover… what? What is even the conclusion that anyone might draw from the contents of my Dropbox? Should I be afraid? Embarrassed? Should I try to clean that up at some point, see if there’s anything potentially legally damaging? Or worth salvaging? What exactly is my digital literary footprint going to contain?
  • Oh yeah, I said I didn’t want to write about writing today. Oops.
  • Today I am also – still – thinking about time management. About what I feel like I have time for and what I don’t, about how I feel like my life is just winding up and winding up and winding up even though I’m not really getting *that* much more done. I even brought home Laura Vanderkam’s book for the 2nd or 3rd time today, looking for some answers. One thing I thought about was travel. I was making a list (another Word Doc for the grandkids!) of all the trips I’ve taken since graduating college in 2007, and I noticed… a trend. Things started off slowly. A road trip in 2008. A week in DC in 2009. An ALA conference in 2010, a break for a few years, etc. Not counting periodic jaunts back to Michigan, we’re looking at a trip a year, if that. Then in 2013… two trips, back to back, one to Europe. 2014? Three. Last year – Kansas City, New York, three European countries AND North Carolina. This year we’ve already spent a week in Portland, OR, AND I’ve got two separate trips booked in April – to Denver for PLA and then home for a long weekend. I’m not saying I’m upset about it whatsoever, but traveling isn’t a cost-free endeavor, time and energy-wise. Is it possible that I could benefit from some good old-fashioned staying put? I should get some in the second half of the year, however, so maybe this experiment will come true.

Is there any bush left to beat around? Alright, well, here goes. My birthday hasn’t really been on my mind this year, but somebody else’s has. Somebody new who I haven’t met quite yet.

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Somebody who is currently rehearsing for an inter-uterine underwater aerobics competition. Somebody who is getting consistently and disturbingly larger as the weeks pass. Somebody who will emerge to share an abode with me, my darling husband, and our ornery orange cat in just over 100 days if you can possibly believe that shit.

I *really* don’t want to write about being pregnant right now – not because I’m opposed but because I fear I will ramble on into an eternity. It’s been a trip and a half. The pertinent info? I’m due at the end of June. We’re not finding out the sex. That’s a really misleading picture; I’m quite a bit more gigantic when I am vertical, but alas, my apartment has zero selfie-facilitating mirrors. Also, I am a lazy pregnant lady and the couch is my castle.

I’m sorry I’m not writing here. I’ll try to write more about books, about gestation, about reading and everything else. I’ll try to write about it later, when I’m not busy traveling or writing other shit or eating Cheez-its. I’ll try on a day that’s not my birthday.

Today I’m 31.

I’m busy.

I’m excited.

I’m terrified.

I’m waiting for the bus taking pictures of myself because my apartment has zero selfie-facilitating mirrors.

Alright, new year of life, let’s do this.

 

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30 | 29 | 28 | 27 | 26 | 25 | 24

 

 

 

 

 

 

a family holiday letter

Dear subset of Friends and Family who know how to read blogs,

Greetings to you and yours at the end of a long and winding 2015.

Do people still write holiday letters? You know, the photocopied missives tucked into their annual greeting cards updating interested parties in the comings and goings of one family over the course of the year? It seems a little unnecessary in The Age of Facebook – anything significant is bound to show up on a feed at some point – and maybe even more unnecessary to post upon a blog. What is a blog other than a perpetual Christmas letter – look at me! Look at what I am doing, and let me tell you all about it!

As of last year, there were a few stalwart Christmas Letter Writers remaining in my family. Whether or not they have taken to the task in 2015 has yet to be determined since one recent event that has occurred in my immediate family is that we have lost our mailbox key. I’m hoping that we will gain access to this box soon and that it will burst open with cards and gifts and Christmas checks and that piece of paper proving that I did show up at jury duty so my HR department can finally be sated.

But I’ve skipped ahead. Let’s roll on back to earlier in this fine year.

The first third of 2015 can be divided as thus:

  1. Snow

Boston had a record-breaking Winter. The first storm arrived just before my Darling Husband’s 30th birthday. The second, just after. The third and the fourth, I just can’t remember. Was there a fifth? A sixth? I’ve blocked it all out. Darling Husband had 10 snow days off from school; I had some as well, but I also had the good fortune of enduring the total breakdown of Boston’s reliable 1000 year old public transportation system! What joy. This paragraph is officially depressing me. Right now we’re looking at a High of 66 for Christmas Eve, so shall we refrain from uttering the S word until 2016 forever and ever amen.

  1. Books

As you may well know, I had the good fortune of serving on a children’s book award committee this past year. The first half of 2015 was spent reading. And reading some more. Scheming ways to convince myself to read even more. Also thinking about books. And making lists of books. Opening boxes and making piles of books and moving the piles from one place to another. My Darling Husband assumed a supportive role, cheering me on and pre-emptively declining social events on my behalf, and also cooking dinner twice a week.

Also, at one point our apartment looked like this:

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After four months of housebound snow days and couchbound book reading, we transitioned into the middle third of the year, wherein we decided to GTFO of the house… and the state… and the country.

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In April, Darling Husband and I paid a visit to Favorite Roommate (and Favorite Roomate’s Favorite Roommate and their sweet pups) in scenic Kansas City, Montana – the City of Fountains. We saw the sights. We drank the local beers. We examined libraries and children’s book stores. We even took a jaunt over to the famed Manhattan, Kansas – home of the Wildcats, and also my baby brother-in-law. TBH, we also did A LOT of pajama-wearing, Pandemic playing, and donut eating. But is there really a better way to vacation? I think not.

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In May, I took the fancy bus on down to New York, New York for Book Expo. If you exclude jaunts to visit family, this was my first solo overnight trip ever. I made all of my own travel arrangements, met up with my little cousin for a long walk around Central Park, fed myself (almost entirely on free food), and got myself where I needed to be when I needed to be there. I even had a glass of wine on my bus ride home. WHAT A GROWN UP. Then, in June, I took my SECOND solo trip, this time to visit with my two dearest high school chums in good old hot-and-sticky San Antonio, Texas.

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Six days after my return to MA, My Darling Husband and I departed for our second grand European adventure.

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Three nights in Paris, during which we…

  • gazed upon Notre Dame, the Musée D’Orsay, the Eiffel Tower, and the Moulin Rouge
  • bought a copy of A Movable Feast at Shakespeare & Co
  • suffered through record heats with the help of a supplementary air conditioning unit that appeared in our hotel room. (it was a giant bag of ice in a Styrofoam cooler)
  • ate a meal consisting entirely of wine, bread, and fresh cheese

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Then, three nights in Amsterdam, where we…

  • accidentally wandered into the red light district whilst trying to find an Indian restaurant
  • made friends with our charming Airbnb-mates
  • observed a naked bike rally in the Vondelpark
  • cried at Anne Frank’s house, admired the expansive public library, and ate some street frites

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Last but not least, Berlin. Highlights included…

  • a newly constructed, shiny, modern hotel room with a swanky roof bar and REALLY GREAT AC
  • zipping all over the city on big trains and little trains and buses like pros, I’m sure
  • the impossibly delicious creation that is the döner kebab
  • spending time with our dear friend Maren, who zipped on over from Dortmund to show us around town

PHEW. After that, we flew home, exhausted, and took it nice and easy for the rest of the summer.

And by “rest of the summer,” I mean “a few days.” In July, Darling Husband spent four nights on Cape Cod, camping out with his bandmates and ostensibly working on new music. He also bussed down to New York for the night to visit with a high school buddy who was in from Shanghai (and also to liberate his expensive trumpet from the borough of Brooklyn where it had spent a few unexpected weeks. Long, stupid story.) In August, we road tripped down to Sunset Beach, North Carolina to spend a week on the beach with my family. It was, once again, lovely, although we did reach some sort of testosterone tipping point. In where my usual family vacations are spent reading, beaching (tanning?), outlet shopping, and snacking, this time there was fishing and golfing and more golfing and spontaneous outbreaks of Magic the Gathering. Very curious.

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At the end of the summer, we said goodbye to about a million of our Boston friends – everyone who was kinda trying to leave Boston for the past three years made an exodus in 2015. There were last drinks and last suppers and the desperate hawking of couches on Craigslist. There were emotions. To Colorado, Portland, Royal Oak, and New Zealand – what amazing, lovely people you now have among you. Treat them well!

The rest of the year has been (relatively) more bucolic. I prepped for a symposium in October and wrote a lot of book reviews. Darling Husband began his seventh (!!!) teaching year. I thought I couldn’t eat dairy for a while but decided I just can’t eat yogurt. We entertained my in-laws for another gracious visit. We switched Peach to diet food and subsequently cleaned up a lot of cat puke. After almost three years of living car-free, we bought a used Prius… and we kind of love it a lot. We attended a Friendsgiving. We went to seven zillion holiday parties. In five days, we will jet out of state yet again to ring our second consecutive new year in Michigan.

It’s Christmas Eve now as I finish up this lengthy missive. I had a nice day working in a completely empty office while Darling Husband did some last minute shopping. We have acquired some festive take out, I am cooking up a pineapple upside down cake, and we are settling in for a long winter’s 60+ degree night of enjoying some classic, cheerful television programming.

I’m thinking a few episodes of Game of Thrones.

I’m also thinking that I am a very lucky lady. Thank you to all of my dear ones who made 2015 the year it was for me… and my Darling Husband and my chubby orange cat. I’m wishing you the very happiest of holidays and a fabulous, fabulous, fabulous new year.

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thoughts on the end of the year

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It’s December 1st today. I am taking that last calendar flip of 2015 as permission to do a little end-of-year contemplation. This year, man. This freaking year. Do I say this every year? I can’t find textual evidence at the moment, but I wouldn’t be surprised. When we moved to Boston in 2009, my life took off at a gallop. Thankfully, we’ve had a preternatural amount of good fortune during these last six years – much of what keeps my schedule packed is the Really Good Stuff – exciting career and professional activities, travel, time with friends and family, and good old-fashioned book readin’.

But busy is still busy. I’m still reasonably confident that I have enough hours in my weeks to accomplish some stuff while I’m kicking around on this good green earth… but I’m beginning to suspect that I might also spend those weeks (months, years) waiting for some mythical period of rest.

Is this just adulthood? A generational condition? Is it Boston? My genes? My life choices? An inability to say no? That pesky proclivity toward overachieving? Probably all of the above. Sometimes, my busy-bodiness irks me, especially when I find myself putting off tasks because I’m waiting to wrap up XXX or have a few spare moments to YYY; am I running myself ragged just so I have a good excuse to stay away from some of those bigger, scarier life goals? But I’m also the kind of person who enjoys a certain level of leisure in my daily life – I get up early so I can (re)-read chapters of Game of Thrones with my coffee, rarely do anything productive past 8:00 p.m., and am all too ready to trade my required reading for a fun book (orrrrr another episode of Master of None) when I’ve had a long day.

So, am I so prone to manic over-scheduling that my life needs a sea-change? Or am I better off manipulating my daily hours and habits so I can better utilize work and leisure time?

Well isn’t THAT a question?

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Way back in early October, I sat down in front of an empty page of a notebook to think about what would come next. I was just finishing up my Year of Reading Madly responsibilities, with three months left to spare. What should I accomplish now?

My mind started churning through that never-ending laundry list of Things to Do Later; the habits and hobbies and tasks to attempt in the event of that Mythical Time of Rest. I’d even made a list on some restless Saturday past. But there, in that moment with my notebook, there was a little voice in my head that said “Why not do nothing?”

And I listened to it.

So no arbitrary goal setting, no trying to squeeze in “Just One More…” before the end of the year, no new habit building or NaNoWriMo or anything else remotely aspirational. Not necessarily three months of wild indulgence or sloth or apathy. Just three months of getting the stuff I need to get done and then doing whatever. Three months of regular old living.

It felt like a good choice. I imagined that in between my normal activities (working, cooking, cleaning, exercising, book reviews, etc) I’d find some downtime during which I might flex my autonomy. Follow my interests. Read the books I felt like reading. Write whatever I felt like writing. Spend some quality time with my husband. Maybe watch a little more television than usual, and do some holiday baking. Regroup in January.

That was the plan, and… so far, on December 15th (God, these posts come slow…) I give myself a B-.

Points off for continuing to set the occasional goal and schedule.

And even more points off for… being too damn busy.

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So here’s what I’ve been up to.

I review books for a biannual review journal, so I’m smack dab in the middle of what I like to call Guide Season. The books are usually reasonably quick reads, the reviews brief, and I have a few years of practice now; the process isn’t overwhelming. But every four weeks – a deadline. Every four weeks – another stack of books to plow through.

I’m also preparing to participate in ALSC’s Bill Morris Book Evaluation Seminar in early January. I am really 100%, unequivocally geeked about this particular professional opportunity! We’ve got a reading list to work through before the day of discussion; thankfully, there are a lot of 2014 heavy-hitters that I’ve already read once or twice, but I’m still planning on giving each book another go around. Plus, there are articles to read, a professional book to revisit, and awards criteria to consider. Geeked, but… work.

This Fall I’ve also been doing some work for another ALSC joint – the May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture Award Committee. This year, my committee selected the speaker for the 2017 Arbuthnot Lecture – which can be given by a children’s author, illustrator, editor, scholar, or anyone else equipped to write and deliver a lecture that would mark a significant contribution to the field of children’s literature. It’s a virtual committee, so there has been plenty of research, discussion, and fighting with technology to be had. The speaker will be announced in January at Midwinter, so look out for that! Then, we will move on to taking and selecting a bid for the speech’s location.

And last but certainly not least, I’m waiting patiently for January 1st, upon which it will be time for yet another year with the Cybils YA Nonfiction Award. I have read only a scant few of this year’s nominees, so I am guaranteed at least a few books to add to my docket quite soon, along with the associated discussions.

Add in a cookie competition at work, more holiday parties than I can actually physically attend, and five nights in Michigan for New Year’s… what a great time to take a step back flex one’s autonomy!

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It’s also the time of year where I typically buckle down and blog heavy for my annual end-of-year Best Reads Extravaganza.

This year, though, I am feeling conflicted. Yeah, I read a *ton* this year. 172 books completed and counting. Also, since I started my awards reading late in 2014 and wanted to avoid too much chatter about eligible titles, I set my fiscal cut-off date a little earlier than I usually do – even more books!

But it’s really been just such a strange reading year. I read so much and so fast that they are blurring together in my memory. I read some really good ones, yes, but many many many more that didn’t stand out, or that I liked but weren’t really my kind of book – books that I could gladly recommend, but few that stirred up the kind of passion that make me excited to sink time into blogging about.

The second half of the year has been even stranger. In June, I read entirely books for review. In July, more review books, plus a random assortment of other unremarkable titles – mostly adult. August was pretty good, but I only read 6 books. But in September, I only read 1! October was back to reviews; November reviews + graphic novels; December, reviews.

My busy life took over my reading life in 2015. There haven’t been too many hours in the day where I could read freely, and when those hours come, and episode of Great British Bake Off or going to bed an hour early is often more appealing. My attention span is too shot to handle dense audiobooks – podcasts and light adult nonfiction and memoirs are all I can handle.

But a year of reading critically has had an impact on what kinds of books I want to make time to read and what I think about those that I do. I feel significantly harder to please  – even if I had a magical reading holiday to tackle 10 books of my choosing, I can’t imagine that I’d feel passionate about a majority of them. Even if they were the most well-recepted, critically-amazing, just-up-my-alley kind of books. It’s harder for me to get amped up about any one particular book, but it’s even harder to decide what books to try out – to audition. I find myself wanting to wait for more and more critical input to arrive before I read something, lest I find myself wasting time.

This is something I’m hoping to work through in 2016. For now, I think I might swing back to the blog later in the month to do a Top Ten or a few fun lists. Something lower key than usual, but I can’t give up the tradition entirely after… ah… nine years? (NINE YEARS??!?)

And then… a crazy-short vacation.

And then… a crazy-crazy ALA Midwinter.

And then…

2015 National Book Awards

Well, it seems I have somehow missed the window for blogging about the National Book Awards longlist… and judging by how long it takes me to churn out a fully-formed post these days, I’m criss-crossing my fingers that by the time you darling readers see this post, I won’t have missed the window for talking about the freaking shortlist. Gah!!

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The ten finalists in the category of Young People’s Literature struck me as quite the… surprising bunch. Individually, I wasn’t surprised to see any particular title on the list, but together they just seemed a bit of motley crew. Two middle grade titles, one fiction and one memoir. Two nonfiction titles for older readers. A spread of YA – one realistic, one historical, and three on the spectrum of fantasy. Oh, and a non-realistic graphic novel to round out the bunch. That’s quite the spread.

Since some of these books fell under my 2014-2015 Read All the Books jurisdiction, I have read an impressive five titles this year! Most recently – Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda and Nimona. Both of these I found kind of… left field-ish? I don’t know. While you see YA realism on the NBA lists occasionally, light romantic/comedic YA realism? Not so much. As I mentioned last month, I thought Simon was enjoyable, but perhaps a bit thin; not surprised to see it fall off the long-list. I read Nimona earlier this week as part of a Graphic Novel Extravaganza – loved the medieval/superhero mash-up setting, loved Lord Ballister Blackheart as a character and loved Goldenloin as the best character name ever. Very fun and very comic-y, which again, you don’t see very often on awards lists… and maybe I’m used to considering meatier GNs, then, because I left Nimona feeling like she was a bit light on theme, maybe? Also, am I just the oldest person around or were that the world’s TINIEST dialogue text? Alright. Curmudgeon out.

Two I read in early 2015: Bone Gap and X: A Novel. Bone Gap: a genre-bending YA story that reads like a fairytale with a really endearingly misunderstood protagonist and a creepy-as-hell rural setting. X: a novelization of Malcolm X’s late teen years in Boston and NYC that focuses on how his experiences (and morally questionable teen-aged behaviors) led him on a path to self-discovery and activism. Both satisfying reads, but for my tastes, kind of middle of the road? Since X has already dropped off, we’ll see if Bone Gap can go the distance.

Of the titles I haven’t yet read, two are already out of the running: Gary Paulsen’s This Side of Wild and Rae Carson’s Walk on Earth a Stranger. I almost ordered This Side of Wild for the library as fiction rather than biography a few weeks back, which is… embarrassing. Walk on Earth a Stranger sounds like a fantasy book that I could dig, but I’m heard such conflicting reviews from respectable sources: some dug it hard, some found it completely culturally insensitive/offensive. Argh. Either way, neither are in the running, so the stakes for reading are lower.

And speaking of books that are no longer in the running, can we pause and shed a tear for M. T. Anderson’s Symphony for the City of the Dead? I haven’t yet read it (despite my better intentions), but I’ve heard that it’s good-good-good-good and I just really can’t imagine that this awards committee came to that decision easily. I HOPE YOU ARE ALL LOSING SLEEP, COMMITTEE.

Juuuust kidding. That was pretty hoe-stile. And I haven’t even read two of the final contenders, so even if I had read Symphony, I would still have a useless opinion. First, we have Steve Sheinkin’s Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War; Mr. Sheinkin’s name is never a surprise to an awards list. He’s simply doing some of the coolest stuff with narrative nonfic right now. Also, I’ve heard him speak before and he seems like… the absolute nicest, nerdiest dude you will ever meet. Next, our MG offering, Ali Benjamin’s The Thing About Jellyfish. And it’s a debut! How exciting! I had heard zero about this book before seeing it on this list (we even missed it for ordering at the old librario), but it does look like the kind of tween-y MG that I would like.

And last, but not least………

Neal Shusterman’s Challenger Deep.

Guys. This book. It certainly has a sentimental corner of my heart, but my own sappy personal BS aside… THIS BOOK. I read it in May. I was reading a book a day at that point – it was the 110th full-length book I’d read in 2015 alone. And just a few chapters in, I was perplexed, I was riveted, my jaw just dropped to the dang floor.

So yeah, this one is my favorite.

(And I’m hitting publish in five, four, three, two, ONE WEEK BEFORE THE WINNER IS ACTUALLY ANNOUNCED somebody please give me a delayed blogger gold star)

seven half-read books

Three months left in 2015, and I have already read 140 books.

So I decided to take it easy last month. And read one book.

One single, solitary book. A statistical anomaly in my years of recorded reading life. Probably hasn’t happened since college, if then. High school? Never? I don’t know.

The book I read was Suzy Becker’s One Good Egg; a lovely memoir about trying to get knocked up (by way of science!) at 39-years-old. It was brief and illustrated and felt a little bit more like reading a magazine than a book, which I mean in a very good way. It was, indeed, the only book I’ve read in awhile that tugged at me from the coffee table whenever I passed it by. I know that all reading can’t and shouldn’t have that effect on me, but isn’t it just delightful when it does?

But yeah, that was it. The lonely only. But as much as I love writing the same books over and over and over again, one single book does not a blog make. So let me tell you about the other books I’ve been reading. The ones that I picked up for a train ride home and never opened again. The ones I’ve been chipping away at over the months. The ones I’m still on the fence about.

Seven Unread

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

A last gasp of Summer Reading List pick, and one I was quite excited to read. Am quite excited to read! I’ve been trying to read a little before bed to tire out my brain, and picked this one up. I’m about 75 pages in, and I have to say that YES this is book is just Up. My. Alley. 100%. I could read about packs of 20-somethings traipsing around their lives for days. And Yanagihara’s prose is just that delightfully smooth narration that makes you forget that nothing is actually happening and then, bam, how have 75 pages gone by already? Love it.

But you know what? The book is really heavy. I have a galley, and even that is about 100 lbs. Trying to hold it up in bed is tiresome. And also, I look at all 736 pages of it and think to myself “are you really going to spend XXX hours reading a superfluous grown-up book when you could be reading XXX pages of kid lit?” and then I start to rethink my entire life and my choices and that is just not something one wants to do before bed. So I might let this one go.

Why Have Kids?: A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness by Jessica Valenti

Do you like reading alarmist or anti-alarmist articles about American domestic decisions? Well I certainly do! I’m sure that is where I heard about this book. I was in the mood for some easy-reading nonfiction one fine afternoon and this one was on shelf, and I read about half of the essays before my attention was dragged elsewhere. I liked them okay, but like a similar read – All Joy and No Fun – I think the book could have been more accurately titled 100 Reasons Why Kids Are Terrible But I’m Trying Really Hard For This Book Not to Be a Downer. So, interesting, but somewhat depressing.

After Alice by Gregory Maguire

Nothing says “FREE READING” like picking out a nice galley from your drawer of shame to read on the train home. I spent a few commutes falling down the rabbit hole behind Alice… and Ada… and then every other character? I don’t know, I didn’t finish it yet, but when I left there were a lot of folks down there in Wonderland. And also, above ground, Alice’s older teenage sister is gallivanting around. And also Charles Darwin.

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

I read To All the Boys I Loved Before back in August, when I was still finishing books. I freaking loved it. So what better to bust a reading slump than picking up the sequel, which was sitting *conveniently* on my very own bookshelf?

Well, it worked for a few days, but it wasn’t a slump-buster. Perhaps because I read the first installment so recently? For me, this book was all about the warm tone and the enjoyment of spending time with the Song family; maybe some absence would have made my heart grow fonder?

I have no idea. This is turning into a strange concept for a blog post. “Why wasn’t this book the exact right book for me at this moment? Why couldn’t this book overcome my busy schedule and mercurial moods?” I have no idea. I’ll be back for you, Song girls, I will indeed.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Ooooookay. So this one is filed under Epic Library Fine Fiascos. You know that thing where you are trying-trying-trying to actually read the books you’ve checked out, but somehow 5 renewals are just not quite enough to finish a highly illustrated book with plenty of white space on each page? And then you have so many overdues that your Overdrive account gets shut off?

No? I’m the only one?

Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese

So I’m not blogging or reading… so what have I been doing lately? Going medieval on my family budget, with an emphasis on not spending so dang much on groceries. Since I haven’t had much time for experimental cooking this past year, I was excited to get back into the kitchen. The intersection of these two desires is Reese’s book, which breaks down which homemade goods are worth the sweat and which ones are just too laborious – and, interestingly, which foods are a pain in the butt to make AND cost more money.

I was expecting a useful text, but I wasn’t expecting to read this straight through. However, Reese weaves little narratives in between recipes; kitchen fails and successes, stories about favorite restaurants and shops, misadventures in chicken-rearing. Very readable.

But it’s also a cookbook, so I’m sure I got to a really interesting looking recipe for ricotta, decided I would become a home cheesemaker, and put the book down and forgot to pick it up again.

Also, forgot to make cheese. But that’s just the kind of life I’m living right now.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Toward the end of the month, I was starting to feel a little unhinged. So many unfinished books! None close enough to being finished! Why did I do this to myself? Whatever happened to my four book rule?

So I decided that what I needed was… to start another book entirely.

Yes, this made sense at the time.

But, here’s a SURPRISING TWIST ENDING TO THIS OVERLY LONG, NOT THAT INTERESTING POST! –

I finished it this weekend!

So yes. The title of this post is a lie. But that is what happens when it takes you more than seven calendar days to post a blog. I’m not giving up just because I just *happened* to undermine my central premise, folks.

Anyway, what did I think? I thought it was cute. It read smoothly, the plot was fairly compelling, and the romance was the good kind of YA romance. And by that I mean the of romance kind I like. Also, a two-boys romance.

Also, also, I officially need to finish more books so I get back to writing normal-person blog posts.

horn book at simmons 2015

HBAS_2015_HeaderFriends, family, and other concerned parties: I am still alive and reading.

Well, assuming you consider picking up a different book every day and reading 10 pages before putting it down to watch an episode of Gilmore Girls to be reading.

At any rate, I am alive, and full intending on returning to this blog space in the near future.

But first, a quick signal boost to an Exciting! Event! on the near horizon, one that may be of interest to those of you Friends of the Children’s Book out there – next weekend is the fabulous, annual, simply not-to-be-missed Horn Book at Simmons one day colloquium! The Simmons College Center for the Study of Children’s Literature and the fine fellows at The Horn Book Magazine are teaming up yet again to provide a premier one-day children’s-book-lovers-palooza. Or something like that.

I’ve attended before, so it goes a little like this. On Friday night, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards are awarded, and acceptance speeches are given. A fancy reception follows, where you may drink some wine, get books signed, and maybe Jack Gantos will walk up to you and start a conversation. Then you go to sleep and wake up early, trek to Simmons, take a seat in the perpetually freezing Paretsky Center, drink some sweet, sweet conference coffee, and watch while esteemed authors, illustrators, editors, and other children’s literature people proceed to blow your mind with brilliance. Then you go home and bask in that happy feeling that there is a whole community of people who value children’s books as much as you do, and probably spend an hour or so talking your partner’s ear off about all of the brilliant ideas you never had until this day (while he makes polite nods and hmms while trying not to check his iPhone unscrupulously).

Yours truly will be participating in the events of the day, so it is possible that your Day of Brilliance may be briefly interrupted by a whimpering, sweaty woman trying desperately to keep her wits about her while speaking to an author of more-than-average celebrity. Ignore her. Keep your eyes on the more brilliant members of the lineup. Susan Cooper! Marla Frazee! Neal Shusterman! Wow! Can you believe it? How lucky are you. It’s not too late to join, if you are a local person. If you’re not a local person, I’m sure there will be lots of fun content on the Horn Book’s various blogs, and you can watch the #hbas15 hashtag on the Twitters.

And speaking of interruptions (brief or not so brief)… I’ve really got to go so I can resume panicking preparing for the big show!

Summer Reading List 2015

I kind of thought it would never show up. That the crazy-busy winter and springtime would never end. That the snow would never melt (oh wait, it didn’t) (update: it just did) That I’d never be released into the freedom that is “Summer Reading.”

I spent the official solstice on an interminable flight – San Antonio to Houston, Houston to Baltimore, Baltimore to Boston. It was still bright out when I got home, completely strung out. I stayed strung out for the rest of the week, then got back on an airplane and began the Great European Adventure of 2015.

Don’t worry, though, Summer was just on point in Europe. The sun didn’t set until 10 p.m, which was kind of delightful for a vacation… except for, oh, the crippling heat. European air conditioning = just as wimpy as European wifi, by the way. In Paris, our hotel brought us a 20 lb bag of ice in a foam cooler – old school AC? – but I still couldn’t sleep because sweat kept dripping down my face.

But now I am home, the land where snow never melts and as soon as I finish reading a stack of review books (eta: July 20th-ish) then my SUMMER READING CAN TRULY BEGIN!

Blargh. What kind of Summer Reading doesn’t start until July 20th? Book People Problems.

Because of my late start and my unusual circumstances, I’ve stripped all auspices of ambition from my Summer Reading list. I didn’t even aim very high when creating said list – I really just picked the first 10 books that I came across that sounded fun. Free. Fun and free reading. You know what that’s like, you unencumbered readers you, and I am jealous.

Also, by 10 books I mean 9. That’s the kind of life I’m leading.

 

 

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In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

Summer Sisters is my ultimate Summer Read, so you best believe I’m excited about a new adult J. Blume. I bought an ebook copy – I tried to read it while I was gallivanting around Europe, but alas, alack, I made 6 flights in 10 days, so no I was not going to be reading a book about plane crashes. I think I’m grounded for the rest of 2015, though, so now’s the time for some Judy.

 

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

My life has been lacking Directly Up My Alley YA lately. That is code for Girly as Shit (but not vapid whatsoever) YA – this series not only fits the bill, but pretty much all of my friends have read it and think it’s great. So I’m going to read it, yes, yes I am.

 

Symphony for the City of the Dead by M. T. Anderson

You know what else is directly up my alley? A NONFICTION BOOK BY M. T. Anderson. Be still my heart. And I have a galley, so booyah.

This post is getting weird. Apologies. I might need to take a dinner break and come back mature and coherent.

 

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

This is one of those books that I actually know very little about but somehow feel is just The Book For Me. It’s the cover, the mystery, the Italian…osity, the popularity spike, the fact that it’s a story about friendship throughout a lifetime. Yeah, those are all things that I like. I bought my mama a copy for Christmas – maybe if I’m lucky she’ll let me borrow it while we’re at the beach next month? [insert endearing eyelash batting here]

 

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

The one BEA galley to rule them all. Which has been taunting me from atop a monstrous pile of books on my bedroom floor for OVER A MONTH now. Ugh. It’s just gotta be read, guys. It’s gotta happen. I’m a fangirl.

 

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Grown up books! Grown up books! Grown up, grown up, grown up books!

(That dinner break was not effective, I’m afraid…)

Anyway. Yeah. Books for grown ups about grown ups doing grown up things. Like getting married and having families and partaking in other domestic-y everyday dramas. Yes please. This one comes with friend recommendations, and while my current family domestic-y drama clocks in at over 600 pages, Dept. of Speculation is blissfully short. Body of a grown up, attention span of a small child – that’s me. Also, Offill’s previous publications include a sloth picturebook. So this one’s gotta be good, right?

 

A Little Life by Hanya Yanigahara

Speaking of grown up books… here’s a bigger and fatter one that I am pretty geeked about for the following reasons:

  • Yanigahara’s debut: so dang great and so dang creepy.
  • The summary – “…four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way…” – is just 500% Jessica-bait

 

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Okay, perhaps I couldn’t entirely avoid the obligatory read. But guys, it’s kind of embarrassing that I haven’t read this one yet, and I really could finish it it in about 2 hours if I put my mind to it. So this doesn’t really count as un-fun reading. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

(Has nothing to do with the tasty galley waiting for me at work. Nothing whatsoever.)

 

Armada by Ernest Cline

Last but not least, we have the new Ernie Cline. Loved Ready Player One so much, so this should be a no-brainer… but I’ve read mixed reviews for this follow-up. But you know what Fun Reading is about for me? Seeing for myself. Picking up books that don’t have unanimously amazing reviews and finding out if they spark my interest. Taking off my Professional Book Person hat for a minute. Reading an iffy book about video games because why the heck not?

So, that’s my summer. And by summer I mean July 25th-ish until September 21st. Or when snow starts to fall – whatever comes first.

Summer Reading Lists Past

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update/up next

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Hello, friends!

I think I’ve made reasonably good on my early 2015 predictions. I read some YA nonfiction (yay, Romanovs!) I’ve read madly – 115 books and counting! I’m still keeping a log book, and as of about two weeks ago I am a Fancy! New (ish)! Car! Owner! I’ve even examined my relationship with processed foods – my conclusion so far? “When you have a batshitcrazyGoGoGo! kind of year… you eat a lot of processed foods.”

And the trips! I just got back from four nights in San Antonio with my two best friends from high school (and some of their adorable progeny). In April, the boy and I did a DELIGHTFUL week in Kansas City, Missouri with our All Time Favorite Roommate.

Up next…

three nights in Paris (a la Anna and the French Kiss),

three nights in Amsterdam, (a la Postcards from No Man’s Land).

and two nights in Berlin (a la Going Over)

Because of said batshitcrazyGoGoGo year, I have done zero planning. If you have been to any of these cities or have a hypothetical itinerary that’s been burning a hole in your proverbial travel wallet (what does that even mean) please share. Please please. I have a butt ton of book reviews due before I leave and the boy is fi-na-lly finishing school this week, so I think we are both at about 1% brain function and unable of planning our own Tuesday morning, much less a vacation.

But who am I kidding: all I really plan on doing is drinking coffee, eating carbohydrates, and walking around taking pictures with my phone camera. Like a proper American tourist.

Equally exciting? Returning home in a few weeks and OFFICIALLY RESTORING MY LIFE TO NORMALCY

(with a quick break in August to go to the beach).

Phew.