Month: July 2014

30 Jul 2014

summer update

1. It is late July, and I am regularly reminded of my tendency toward summer doldrums. In summer, I am often found crashed upon the couch with little desire in my heart beyond another sip yet another cold beverage. The heat. The inevitably altered schedule when the boy is on vacation. The diet. The post-vacation comedown. The spinning of the earth around the sun. All of those things.

2. Thankfully, this summer’s slowdown seems to be more physical than mental. I’m tired and often lack focus, but am experiencing little misery and – surprisingly – little reading-related ennui. I am reading semi-fiendishly. Unless I squeak out another book this week, my July tally is 13. My 2014 total is over 90. It feels presumptuous to call the game so early in the year, but barring significant disaster 2014 will be my most impressive reading year to date.

3. I want to brag for a moment and tell you that I finished four of the seven books pictured in this stack. My summer reading list progress is less impressive – I finished Something Real, read one chapter of Brideshead Revisited, and am fifty pages into The Name of the Wind. If this is a proper calender-based list and I have until late September to complete my reading, then I am making good-ish progress I suppose. But when you are the product of twenty full years of schooling and you live with a teacher, it’s difficult to imagine Fall starting any other time than September 1. We will see.

4. Speaking of school year, I run our household budget on a September to September schedule. The family fiscal year, if you will. I’ve been putzing around with our account and various Excel spreadsheets in preparation for FY15 and have gathered some baffling and exciting figures. First, I would like to brag about paying off two of the boy’s student loans during this fiscal year, including the dastardly TEN PERCENT INTEREST loan we’ve been chipping away at since 2010. Seriously. What kind of public school teacher ends up with an unforgiveable student loan with 10% interest? Oh, the injustice. We paid off a second loan last week, bringing our total FY14 student loan contribution to just under 14k – a cool 20% of our joint take-home income.

I would also like to take a moment to praise the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and the Income Based Repayment Plan, both of which are provided by the federal government to keep my own grad loans manageable, and without which I would not be able to exist in this city.

5. Would you like an recap of my beach vacation? It was very fun. Exceptionally fun. We stayed in an adorable little house on stilts with comfy couches, a big dining room table, three porches, a grill, and central air. It was about a four minute walk to the beach, but that’s including the time spent lugging a cart full of beach supplies up and down a small sand dune. I got to meet my sister’s new man, our adopted German sister-friend, hang out with my Grandparents, and generally laze about reading books, playing games, and eating snacks with my family. In other words, all of my earthly dreams came true for a short seven days.

6. I’m no longer at the beach, but summer lives on in Boston, Massachusetts.  Days long, skies blue. White wine and cold cans of seltzer stuffed with lime wedges. My cat drapes herself upon the wood floors in dramatic positions assumed for the purpose of airing out her white tummy fuzz. It’s not all couch-laying and couch-moping. Yeah, I’m staying up too late and eating out too much. It’s also not snowing. Too much of my day to be seized, I’m afraid. Can’t let any of it slip.

04 Jul 2014

beach reads: 2014 edition

I am taking a vacation today, and I am so excited I may die. Yes, I am more excited for this trip to old North Carolina than I was for a trip to Europe. Go ahead, judge away. I’m so excited, I actually can’t hear you judging me. You are entirely drowned out by my inner squee.

This vacation will be excellent for a number of reasons. I am going to visit my grandfather and his wife, who are really the best, and I haven’t visited in years. My entire family is coming with, and I haven’t seen the lot of them since the wedding. There will be friends and boyfriends (and The Boy, of course). And (AND!) we are renting a Real Live Beach House! !!

It’s going to be exactly like a Sarah Dessen novel, I am sure.

Italy was wonderful. Seattle was great. But it’s just been so long since I’ve had an old-fashioned family vacation – visiting a place you’ve been to a million times, staying with your amazing (and predictable) family, nothing much on the tourist agenda except eating, beaching, and reading.

I have assembled a small mountain of books to read during my vacation. I am a notorious book over-packer. Coming home from one beach trip in high school, I had a carry-on bag filled just entirely with books. A dozen at least. We bought a novelty lighter for a friend on our way to the airport, tucked it into my book bag and, suprise suprise, my got searched at security.

It was more than a little embarrassing to watch the TSA agent flip through every. single. book. to make sure I didn’t have any explosive bookmarks tucked inside.

I probably won’t finish all of these, but I do have some plane/airport hours to fill, and I AM DONE WITH MY REQUIRED READING and I am basically just so, so excited.



  • Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage, so I can be well prepared for July’s book group meeting. Also, North Carolina appropriate!


  • Something Real by Heather Demetrios, so I can kick off my Summer Reading List proper!



  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart because I’m staying in a freaking beach house (Let’s just hope that our beach house doesn’t [spoiler redacted])


  • Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer because I am on a Meg Wolitzer kick and this galley is burning a hole in my… apartment.


  • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson because I want something quick so I can toss off a book and yell “DONE!!” really loudly. I mean, also exceptionally excited to read it and have heard it’s great. But also, it’s pretty short.


  • The Good Sister by Jamie Kain because I am a good girl and want to get a jump on my next set of Required Reads. Also, because of my three good sisters.
01 Jul 2014

read – reading – to read


Reading has been a little slow over the last week, which is to say I am no longer reading at quite the impressive manic pace. The last book I put to bed was Kristin Bailey’s Rise of the Arcane Fire. While my affections for sci-fi/fantasy have certainly grown deeper over the past few years… I am still steampunk skeptical. Maybe I need to read some really good, canonical steampunk? Anyway, Bailey’s book was the second in a kind of light, romantic steampunk series – I read the first installment last year. This sequel mostly takes place in sort of a Hogwarts-y Steampunk Academy, complete with rogue professors, evil intruders, and class wars. Quick fluff. Also: I really wanted our steampunk heroine to get with the obviously-wrong point of her obligatory love triangle. This isn’t unusual (I am, for the record, Team Peeta 4 Lyfe), but there really just wasn’t anything wrong with this other dude. He was the smarmy rich kid, sure, but of course he was a nice guy underneath! And she seemed to be digging him… Why can’t these YA ladies ever just go for the supposedly dark side? Maybe I’m not reading the right paranormal romances…

That’s a sentence I wish I hadn’t written.

The last audiobook I finished was Harriet the Spy, which I just freaking loved. I think I read it as a kid, but I must have been a hair too young because I’m sure I would have remembered Harriet. Good grief, what a protagonist. She has to be one of the least likeable little girls in literature, but oh, that just made me like her more. I have a thing for misunderstood characters. Harriet. Peeta. Literary underdogs! But I digress – this book was just amazing/ahead of its time/timeless, etc. Harriet M. Welsch, we will meet again.



The last few months have been all about the audiobook for me. Audiobooks are my “fun reading” right now, and Overdrive is damn addictive. I’ve largely forsaken podcasts because I just can’t pry myself away from whatever it is I am listening to. Anyway, I finished Harriet and slid almost immediately into Meg Wolitzer’s The Uncoupling. I did finally read The Interestings earlier this year. I dug it, so before Harriet I listened to her 2008 book The Ten Year Nap. Dug that one too! The Uncoupling is about a suburban community of high school teachers and their children and their students – while putting on the school play, Lysistrata, all of the women and girls stop wanting to have sex. Relationship chaos ensues.

In terms of print books, I am trying mightily to whip through a stack of Required Reads before my vacation begins on Friday. It may be an impossible task, but there’s nothing I like more than breaking my back in the pursuit of torturously unreasonable self-imposed goals! Today I am reading Killer Instinct by S.E. Green. I completely remember when this book was purchased – “It’s Dexter the YA novel! With a teen girl sociopath!” This was years and years ago, and now here it is, on my desk to read. I think the power behind a Dexter comparison has faded over the years, but the pitch is pretty much spot on – stonehearted girl goes after evil people, also investigates a serial killer called The Decapitator. Good times. I am going to finish it tonight! Just watch me!!

to read

My next Required Reading book is Jennifer Brown’s Torn Away. The Hate List got decent reviews and buzz, but I didn’t read it. Books about school shootings don’t really do too much for me (except for Todd Strasser’s Give a Boy a Gun, which I read when I was 17, wrote a paper on it, and then won a college scholarship. Bam.) So I’m diving in completely blind. It’s what I like to do with my Required Reading books. I don’t read reviews. I don’t usually even read the back cover copy. I’m just going to read it next, that’s all I know.

I have a number of choices for my next audiobook selection. I started listening to A Brief History of Montmaray before being waylaid by The Uncoupling. Historical fic set in Europe is noooootttt really my thing, though. Also not really my thing: British narrators who don’t answer to the name Jim Dale. I’m not sure the audio will be able to hold my attention.

Don’t worry – I have back-ups. One audiobook I have on deck is B. J. Novak’s short story collection, One More Thing. I’ve heard mixed reviews (aka, a lot of of “eh”), but maybe it will be quick and fun on audio.

This small TBR is NOT to be confused with my Official Vacation Reading stack. I’ll be back later this week to answer all of your burning questions about EXACTLY what books I will be carting down to the beach. Excitement, excitement!