Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

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Preface: I have been a horrible blogger lately and have been considering pulling the plug... Last night it appeared that I was locked out of Blogger for FOREVER but then my husband helped me get back in and I decided that it was a sign I'd stick around for awhile longer. I had some time today to put together a calendar of post topics, so we're back in action.

1. I've figured out they key to make mornings tolerable: coffee x 2, a good outfit, and a bowl of sugary cereal (Golden Grahams right now). Every time I go grocery shopping I consider getting something healthy, but then I say, "Christine, if consuming 15 grams of sugar in the morning from a box with a cartoon character on the front is going to make you happy,  then you do it. Mornings are hard. The choice is easy." And then I buy whatever I want and I accept the fact that I will never be an egg-white omelet with whole grain toast kind of girl. 

2. I have four ideas for novels right now. I have negative four hours to work on them. It's frustrating and sad, but the challenge is compelling and motivating, at least sometimes when I don't feel like my eyelids weigh eighteen pounds... each.  

3. Last weekend my brother and his girlfriend came over to BBQ and I made three new recipes- Cilantro and Lime Marinated Chicken Kebabs, Grilled Foil Pack Cheesy Fries, and Unbelievable Peanut Butter Pie. All successes to be made again!

4. Sometimes I take a deep breath and I get this overwhelming feeling that it has been weeks, if not months, since my last one. It's the most wonderful and horrible feeling all at once. 

5. I made this for a friend last week and was pretty pleased with how it turned out:

6. I received my first subscription box of cookies from The Cravory last week and there were some plusses and minuses. First of all, their presentation was total crap- could they not have sprung for a cute box or at least some sort of envelope? Instead they were all in separately packed plastic and in a box with some haphazard paper confetti. Three of the six flavors were excellent, one was okay, one was on the lower end of mediocre, and one I haven't tried, since I really don't know if I can accept candied meat in my cookies. I'll do it again for a few months and see if I want to continue. 

7.  I just bought this shirt five seconds ago:


8. Today my husband had a procedure and needed a driver, so I took the day off and Sawyer went to daycare. I thought I'd end up with some free time and get some things done, but no. The damn place ran over two hours past the scheduled appointment. Punctuality is sort of a requirement for all things in my life, so this was certainly not pleasing. But, I kept my cool, escaped for a delicious acai bowl once they called him back, and then made some snotty Instagram Stories about the situation. What any normal human being would do, I think.

9. Last Saturday I took Sawyer to Pretend City (a really cool children's museum in Orange County) and as we were leaving he starts singing the Batman theme song, which is what he does instead of say "Batman." I sort of ignored it, since he does it pretty much every time he sees someone in Batman apparel, thinks about Batman, etc... But he kept doing it, so I turned around, and THERE WAS BATMAN. Holy celebrity sight for a two-year-old! He said "hi" several times and then when Batman said it back he sort of got a little clingy and shy. It was the cutest. 

10. Tomorrow is September! So many good things are happening this month. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

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1. If the fact that I haven't posted in a week is any indication, things have been BUSY. Not bad, but just busy. When I grow up I'm going to sit down each month and generate a list of blog post topics, write them out, and schedule them. It will be amazing. And will probably only happen once. 

2. Last weekend our newish neighbor came over to go over some general neighborly sort of things, like fence repair and exchanging numbers in case he and his friends disrupt us with their late-night pool time (I genuinely appreciated the gesture). The thing is that the entire time he was there I was thinking "hahaha you and your significant other woke me up having super loud sex and 4 in the morning a few months ago." I am soooo mature.

3. I apparently was so tired the other night that I washed my face (with my Clarisonic... aughhhhh) with hair conditioner and only shaved on leg. It's sort of ridiculous and I'm not entirely sure why I'm admitting it publicly, but here we are.

4. I'm still reading Donna Tartt's The Little Friend and while I really like it, it's the type of book that has to be read in longer sittings that I have to give right now, so I'm a little frustrated.

5. My two-year-old son has had this super-sporadic weird leg/foot issue that has been going on over the past few months and I finally bit the bullet and made an (expensive) appointment with his old physical therapist for next week. I know that it's probably because he's been growing (over an inch and a half in less than three months!) or something minor, but it does bother me a bit. It's hard since he can't tell me what it feels like and it doesn't seem to cause him any discomfort. I find myself staring at the way he walks ALL THE TIME and now I don't even know what's normal and what's not.  Or if it's his foot, knee, or hip. Or if it's changed legs. Ohmygod I'm going crazy.

6. The forecast says it might get into the 80s this weekend, as opposed to 90 or 100+. What is this magic? I might as well wear a jacket.

7. My husband gets a Marvel subscription box every so often and I'm pretty jealous, since it seems pretty cool if you life that sort of thing. I used to do some of the makeup ones, but I found myself liking the boxes and bags the products came in more than the actual products themselves. I went online and started searching for one, and low-and-behold, The Cravory in San Diego does cookie ones. So tomorrow six gourmet cookies will arrive at my doorstop and will every month after until I realize that I could make approximately seven times the amount for what I'm paying.

8. I currently am obsessed with Dairy Queen, but, luckily, there isn't one anywhere near my house. I just really love Blizzards. I want one right now. 

9. I have painter's tape all over my living room right now from the "roads" Sawyer and I have created for his cars, his stuffed animals, and himself. I need to vacuum and am sort of dreading the response to the removal...  

10. For your recipe box: this Slow Cooker Salsa Verde Honey Lime Chicken was great as tacos and as leftovers in quesadillas. Don't be off-put by the list of ingredients and also don't skip the smoked paprika. 

11. So I occasionally read The Rock Star Diaries blogs, mostly for the pictures of NYC and ideas of what to do with little kids, and their recent trip the Swiss Alps has left my obsessed with going. When we flew over them when coming home from Italy I remember thinking that I wanted to go, but now it's been moved way up the list. Icing on the cake? An alumni from the high school I teach at came to talk to the kids yesterday and he spent four years there going to college there. I cornered him after the presentation and he sold me on it- apparently it's incredibly family-friendly, efficient, and pretty much everyone speaks English. Obviously Sawyer isn't quite up to the trip now (ha!), but I'm thinking that in maybe 2019 we could go the summer before he starts kindergarten. This of course is pretty ambitious, especially since that flight may be too crazy for my husband (understandably), but if I started saving now it just might be okay... 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

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1. I just spent way too long trying to figure out what filter to buy for our fridge. I hate those sort of necessary time-sucks that I feel like I should be able to do faster. 

2. They replaced the Coke machine at work with a water machine. If I wasn't so scared of the district powers-that-be I'd write a strongly worded letter in protest. It's not like I buy one every day or anything, since I bring my own, but the fact that it was there was very reassuring. I understand not letting the kids have them, but I'm a grown-ass adult and if I want to pour chemicals into my body that is my choice.

3. It has taken me thirty-two years, but I think I've finally learned to deal with the people who just don't understand me and how my life works sometimes. I am not a complainer by any means, but we all have our days or the things in our lives that just get to us. For example, I have one friend, whom I am not interested in abandoning, but this person is the type who will always, always remind others that "it could be worse" when they share a problem. While this is true, sometimes it's just not the right time. So, after years and years of trying to get this person to get it, I've simple stopped trying and am more strategic about what I talk about with the friend. Or I have another friend who sort of adds to my anxiety and I walk away from divulging my stresses feeling even more worried. Again, strategic discussions. And so on and so forth, depending on the person. You can't make people understand things that they simply cannot or won't, and at that point you have to accept it on whatever level is comfortable for you. THE END. 

4. Ohhhhhhh the Feelin' Good Spotify Playlist is the best. I also discovered their running playlists that match you step counts. So cool.

5. I started Donna Tartt's book, The Little Friend, and can already tell fifteen pages in that it's good. I want to be her when I grow up. 

6. I saw this cookie recipe today and have built it up so much in my head that I will surely be disappointed when I make it (hopefully) this weekend.

7. Yesterday was the seventh day of the school year, the fourth day with students, and the first that I finally felt like I wasn't going to lose my shit when I got home. My students are great, but I have a modified schedule this year that requires I stay very late on Mondays to teach a special class (my mother-in-law has been kind enough to get my son after school and watch him, since she is a teacher too). There have been some other behind-the-scene little issues at work and at home that I've been hammering out too, but I finally feel like I will maybe not die this school year. There is hope, guys. 

8. Sawyer likes to make his little stuffed pig and stuffed Santa do naughty things and then put them on time out. I have a future evil mastermind on my hands. 

Have a great week! 

Five Thoughts on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

1. I disliked reading a Harry Potter story as a play. I don't mind reading plays, but after the previous books my mind is trained to digest Potter stories through the novel form.

2. There was a lack of depth in terms of the characters both new and old. I didn't feel connected to anyone and the things I loved about the characters before was absent. 

3. Part one was better than part two; the second installment was incredibly rushed, contrived, and mediocre. I thought the idea of time travel and simply dipping back in to scenes from the other books was a little cheap. 

4. The normal charm and whimsy was absent. My heart was not warmed and my mind was not intrigued. 

5. I had low and realistic expectations, though, so I don't feel angry. I knew going into the story that it was a play and that it was the result of a collaborative writing process, so I was hesitant to have high hopes. It wasn't horrible or a mess, it just simply was not good. Rowling set the bar high with her other books, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child simply did not rise to the occasion. I do have a sneaking suspicion that the play would be a lot of fun to see, though, since the actors and set will probably add a great deal to what is lacking here. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

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1. I've been back at work since Monday, and students start tomorrow. If I could just hang out with them all day and talk about books and write, then it would be okay. Unfortunately, despite the general public thinking the profession is just one big summer vacation, there's a crap-ton more to it that drives me to the brink of exhaustion and insanity. 

2. Speaking of that, this is the last night I won't be behind at home and work for the next ten months. Oh, the anticipation. I cannot wait to feel like a partial-to-full failure all day every day! I promise, I'm not as cranky as it appears. At least not on the outside. 

3. I've partially jumped on Snapchat-lite aka Instastories. It's fun but a lot less intimidating and confusing.

4. I've started the new Harry Potter and I'm having trouble with the play format. It's simply not the same, and while I knew that going into it I'm still having trouble adjusting.

5. I'm late to the party like normal, but I finally listened to the Chainsmokers album and am a fan.

6. We don't have cable or satellite, so it takes more of an effort to watch The Olympics, so I simple am not even trying. These next few months between missing the games and all the political debates I will be missing it a little. 

7. Last weekend we took the train to San Juan Capistrano and had lunch and went to this sort of petting zoo on steroids. See cow above. 

Summer Break Reading Survey

This summer was probably one of the best ones to date. I saw pretty much all my local friends, visited with family, took Sawyer on many fun outings, spent time out of town on multiple occasions, went out with just my husband, and also had the opportunity to have some mornings to myself. I was also able to read a lot. I went back and took a look at my reading habits during the summer and sort of summarized the highlights.

Amount of books read: 16 (I was aiming for 14), reviews for June here, July here, and then the remaining two will be included in August, eventually 

Pages read: 4,733

Averages pages read a day: 72.8

Favorite reading spot: Lake Tahoe (I was there without my family for work, so it was QUIET), floating around my pool on my little raft, and while getting pedicures

Most common reading spot: The couch, when Sawyer was asleep or on the floor when he played with his cars

Favorite book read: This is hard; three-way tie between The Girls, Imagine Me Gone, and When Breath Becomes Air

Nonfiction:Fiction Ratio: 4:10

Male Writers:Female Writers Ratio: 7:7

Classics Read: 0 (I meant to reread Hamlet, but it didn't happen)

Books Bought: 7 for Sawyer, 1 for me  (I started the summer with 80+ physical copies to read, though, so I was on an unofficial book-buying ban)

Biggest Surprise: I liked Purity a lot more than I thought I was going to. I've heard things about Franzen and his writing, but I'll be ordering another one of his books soon. I also thought Lily and the Octopus had more to it than I anticipated. 

Audiobooks Situation: I listened to the Royal We for Brie's book club, and have started both AWOL on the Appalachian Trail by David Miller and After You by Jojo Moyes. My husband just signed me up for his Spotify account, though, so I've been listening to much more music than reading lately.

Biggest Disappointment: I thought Ways to Disappear fell flat.

Up Next: Speaking of disappointment, it's time for some Harry Potter. 

Harry Potter Cross Stitch

I started cross stitching when I was maybe nine or so and have done it intermittently since then. I like the fact that I'm actually producing something (part of my problem with coloring and puzzles... no offense if that's your thing), but that I can still watch something with my husband (I can't just sit and watch TV). I worked on this over the summer and thought I'd share since pretty much everyone is at least slightly fond of Harry Potter (and now that it's delivered to it's new owner):

This pattern is available here on Etsy and took... a long time to do. But, I did it over the spread of ten or so weeks, so it never felt overwhelming. Plus since it's comprised of forty or so symbols, you quickly see progress, which is rewarding. I have another Star Wars Christmas one that I've been working on here and there for months, so once that is done and I start a new pattern I might post some sort of tutorial on here. What a thought. A crafty post from me. Ew.

August Goals

I think falling back into a good routine is something really important as I start this school year on Monday -gulp- so I thought I'd get back to some basics, both at home and work. 

1. Get into bed by 10:10 Sunday-Thursday nights- I get to sleep in until 5:20 or 5:25 now (as opposed to 5 last school year), and Sawyer is sleeping better (knock on wood), so I'm hoping this will allow me to get close to 7 hours a sleep a night (as opposed to six broken hours like last year). In reality, by the time I fall asleep and turn off my brain probably a little less, but it's something to start with. 

2. An average of 12,00 steps a day- I feel best when I move. Which leads me to...

3. Yoga three times a week- Whether it's 20 minutes of restorative before bed or a full 90 minutes in a class on the week, I want to start the school year with consistent habits. I am going to subscribe to the Down Dog App and eventually I'll review it on here. 

4. Grade summer work- I donotdonotdonot want to start September with my student's summer work packets hanging over my head. 

5. Spend less money- July was a bit expensive (within reason), so I'd like to just chill a bit when it comes to spending. A lot of it was just because we went and did so much, which I don't regret, but I wasn't able to meet my savings goals for the summer, so time to get back on schedule.

Our Visit to UCLA

So much happens during college. You grow up, you meet people, you get hurt, you have fun, you get a better idea of what you want to do with your life, and you start developing a sense of independence. UCLA represents of of this, and more, to me. I started when I was seventeen and wanted to be a doctor, but was cured of that quickly after working for a vascular surgeon and sitting through 8 am chem classes. I briefly thought I might want to be a children's psychologist, but eventually I came to my senses and decided that I might as well pursue what I loved: reading and writing. So, I changed my major for the last time and spent three years fulfilling the requirements. Along the way I met my husband, was fortunate enough my work study job turned into a solid gig that lasted all four years, and walked away with plenty of student loans. I learned a lot about handling stress, managing money, and my need for stability. It was an important four years in many ways.

So, last week I took Sawyer up to visit for the first time. We had lunch with my old friend and boss who still works at the surgery center and then spent a few hours exploring the campus. He loved it and I can't wait to take him back. There aren't many cars, so it's a great place for him to run around and tire himself out. And boy did he ever- he slept for the two and a half hours it took us to get home in traffic. 

[The Gonda Vascular Center, at the Medical Plaza, where I worked for four years}

[Everyone's favorite cookie place in Westwood]

[Sawyer spent awhile climbing this]

[Bunche Hall]

[We spent a ton of time in the sculpture garden]

[college life... answers solved on a bulletin board]

[they were having a luncheon by the library, so it was hard to get good shots]

[Royce Hall]

[Sawyer walked miles and miles, but had enough energy for steps at the end]

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

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1. My son is obsessed with the Muppet's version of Bohemian Rhapsody. He often now sings my name when every he needs me ("MAMAAAAAAA"). I have listened to the song 48924757592429 times a day, though, and am almost at my breaking point. The thing is, though, is that I'm really appreciating how much singing and music are helping with language development, so... 

2. I just started Jonathan Franzen's Purity for book club, which meets early next week. It's over 500 pages and is supposedly pretty dense. Oops. I'm about 40 pages in right now am liking it, but I can see how it might get tedious. 

3. I took a strapless dress I bought from Anthro to the tailor today to have her add straps to by cutting an inch and a half off the bottom so that I can hopefully wear it to work. This seems like a pretty significant leap of faith on my part. I'm scared. 

4. I think we are going to head out on the train on Saturday to take Sawyer to San Juan Capistrano for a little while. The kid is obsessed with trains! I'm not sure what the game plan is right now in terms of what to do down there (we've gone to the petting zoo and I'm not sure if we'll be in the mood for the mission), but it'll be something different that three of us can do together and escape the area for a bit.

5. I think I'm going to write a post on politics, but in a sort of non-political way. Dare I go there? YES BECAUSE IT'S MY BLOG. 

6. Like everyone else and their mother, I pre-ordered the new Harry Potter book but admit to feeling a little unmotivated to read it. I'll probably read it after Purity, but I don't have this overwhelming desire to at all. If it had been a novel I think I would have been more on board, but the play genre is part of what's hanging me up, I think.

7.  Who has a Keurig? Is there an sort of iced coffee options? Obviously I know you can put ice in your coffee, but, it seems cool to have a machine do the whole shebang for me.

8. I took Sawyer to UCLA last week and got him a hat and a magnet; he calls it "Eh!" which makes him sound like this little toddler from Minnesota or something and it's the cutest. 

The Best Month is Over

July is the best. There's no work, it's totally and completely summer, and there is so much to do. And now it's over.

At the beginning of last month I made a list of thirty-one mostly fun things to do, knowing that I wouldn't get them all accomplished but was prepared to try. 

So, how'd I do?

1. The Sawdust Festival in Laguna Beach (fine, I'm cheating, we went yesterday)
2. Bake something new (maybe an icebox cake for The Fourth?) --> Yup, Ice Box Cake and some S'mores Bars 
3. Go to a museum or two (LACMA? Science Museum?)  --> Science Museum with Sawyer to see the Space Shuttle 
4. Make some homemade ice cream (it is National Ice Cream Month, after all) --> Hostess Cupcake Ice Cream, which I posted a recipe for 
5. Take Sawyer to a free movie at the local theater --> We took him to a movie that we paid for, but close enough
6. Do a 6k on the treadmill with the AC blasting --> Done! And ow. 
7. Clean something out (garage? Work out room?) --> Made a dent in both
8. Donate money or items to charity --> Tons of clothes and some household appliances to Goodwill 
9. Spend the day at the beach --> Nope! Sawyer didn't love the beach when we stopped by and I didn't want to waste a whole day to be miserable 
10. Do something substantial for work (I know this is counterproductive, but it will make me feel more prepared to return) --> I made loose lesson plans for the first month back 
11. Write a short story or plan more for the novel churning around in my head --> I participated in a writing challenge 
12. Get a pedicure --> Such torture 
13. Go to a wedding and take full advantage of being child-free for the night (thanks mom!) --> We had so much fun! 
14. & 15. Celebrate birthdays for two different special one-year-olds (it's great that two of my favorite friends have kids and it's so fun to watch Sawyer go to things like this. Plus... cake) --> Yes and yes! My son is a party animal. 
16. Read a book I've had sitting around for at least a year --> Just finished The Prisoner of Heaven
17. Go to an Orange Theory class (finally) --> Nope! I couldn't fit into my daycare schedule
18. Finish this craft project thing I've had going for awhile --> Done! 
19. & 20. Go to both the San Diego Zoo and Wildlife Park with friends --> We have seen ALL the animals 
21. Walk the Back Bay Trail... and then go get Sprinkles Cupcakes after --> Burned the calories and then ate them right back 
22. Have my in-laws over for dinner to thank my mother-in-law for helping with Sawyer when I was gone --> Yup 
23. Yoga three days in a row --> Actually, eight. Boom. 
24. See all my friends before we're all re-immersed in work --> I've pretty much seen all my local friends except maybe one or two super busy ones that have been traveling at whatnot. 
25. Make a fancy cocktail recipe (How Sweet Eats just posted a peach gin and tonic that looks pretty good) --> Peach Gin and Tonic for The Fourth
26. Buy tickets for a Giants game when they play in San Diego against the Padres --> We're going at the end of September and I can't wait! 
27. Make pizza on the grill --> Yes... didn't necessarily turn out, but my husband has since bought a pizza stone and ginormous spatula for next time 
28. Find some new sunglasses (especially since Sawyer accidentally broke my cheap back up pair yesterday) --> Snatched up two pairs during a Loft sale 
29. Have a picnic --> Good God, it's too hot 
30. Try to get down to The Broad with Scott (and maybe try out The Commissary) --> We had the tickets and a sitter, but then my gut told me that it would be too stressful with traffic and 105+ degree temps, so we went to lunch at the beach instead 
31. Do something messy and artsy/craftsy with Sawyer --> We have watercolored, played with Play-Doh and made homemade pizza

27 of 31

I know I am being a bit melodramatic about July being over, but we just had so, so, so much fun. It was basically perfect- I spent a ton of time with my son, hung out with friends and family, got to actually see my husband alone, and also was able to focus on some of my own hobbies. But, that being said, there's a lot to look forward to in the months to come. And it really wasn't completely perfect; there were some little life hiccups here and there, but as whole BEST MONTH EVER. 

Top Ten Tuesday- Wish List

This week The Broke and the Bookish ask us for ten books we'd like to purchase right now. I'm going to split this and do five for myself and five for my son, since I've been wanting to get a few new ones for him. We've been reading SO much this summer (2-6 books a day! It's been great) and I'm getting a little burnt out on his library. 

My Choices, Oversimplified 

What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell: desire, consequences, exploitation 

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi: Africa, colonization, generations

We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge: Race, family, science experiment 

The Girls from Corona del Mar by Rufi Thorpe: growing-up, adventure, relationships

Vinegar Girl by Ann Tyler: family, deportation, Shakespeare (Hogarth)

Books for Sawyer

Biblioburro: A True Story from Colombia by Jeanette Winter: These mules are taking books around town to share the wealth (book mules, OKAY?)

Richard Scarry's What Do People Do All Day?: Sawyer has been really, really into Richard Scarry lately, so I'm trying to add to his collection

Field Guide to the Grumpasaurus by Edward Hemingway: I'm sure most parents are familiar with this creature... 

Steam Train, Dream Train by Sherri Duskey Rinker: This is by the same lady that wrote Good Night, Good Night Construction Site, which is one of Sawyer's favorites right now (as are trains)

Maple by Lori Nichols: I know this is about ultimately getting a new sibling, but I like the idea of the parents planting a tree when their daughter is born and her growing up with it.  

July Reviews

Oh, July. You were so good to me, in so many ways. I got in some serious reading time yet again, and like June, got through seven books. Here's the quick lowdown on my thoughts (and I think four of them are by first time authors!):

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 
64 pages
I wrote about this long, fantastic essay here.

Verdict: Everyone should read this, no matter what age, gender, race, or position on feminism.

In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri
256 pages
This non-fiction linguistic memoir, told in both English and Italian, is sort of Lahiri's love letter with the Italian language and her journey in trying to learn to speak and write it. In order to do so she immerses herself in the culture and language, even moving her family to Rome to do so.

Verdict: It's hard to describe this book; in a way it is sort of boring, but in a way it is wonderful and inspirational. She writes about something that sounds quite dull and, at moments, is. But the transformation and passion she writes about experiencing is anything but mundane. I really loved my trip to Italy several years ago and also feel draw to the country, so I guess on some level I was able to relate. 

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett
368 pages
I wrote about this and the personal connections I have to the book here

Verdict: It's very well-written, heartbreaking, and will for sure be on my top ten of the year list. 

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley 
320 pages
I wanted something a little easier and possibly lighter after some of the heavier books I read, and this fit the bill. This novel is about a man who notices an "octopus" on his dog's head and must fight his beloved Lily's tumor and his own life as a middle-aged man with intimacy issues. The book floats between the past, present, and Teddy's imagination with ease and fluidity. 

Verdict: This book will make you laugh and groan and cry all sorts of tears. It will make you give your pets some special attention, wonder if you need a therapist, and encourage your desire for another tattoo (or maybe that's just me...). It reminded of a similar sentiment of The Art of Racing in the Rain, so if that was your jam you'll like this one too. 

Thirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCann
256 pages
This is basically a novella and a few short stories and they were all strong. The title story (or novella, really) is about an older judge's murder and the different perspectives that come with solving it, showing us how our actions and behaviors aren't really just our own. The other short stories are just as strong, including one about a recently divorced woman who buys her adopted, deaf, son a wet suit for Christmas... [raises eyebrows].

Verdict: McCann's writing is always, heavy, thought-provoking, and basically perfection. I will say that while this was still powerful, I think his novels are actually what I prefer. This is probably for more selfish reasons, though, since I like seeing what a few hundred pages under one story arc transpires to. 

The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth Church
352 pages
Meridian must choose between love and her academic career, and, since it's the middle of the twentieth century, she chooses to follow her husband's path. She puts her promising career in ornithology on hold for Alden's career doing things like, oh, developing the nuclear bombs that would cause serious damage in Japan. Meri isn't content, though, and for that I give her credit. For years she wrestles with her position in her marriage, profession, and community, taking steps forward and steps back. 

Verdict: As a whole, I really enjoyed this book. Without giving much away, I thought there were parts that led some of the characters down unrealistic paths, given the nature Church created for them, but I guess it is human nature to go off script at least occasionally. I also thought there were points where the bird metaphor was perhaps taken a bit too far, but nonetheless I would definitely read another novel by Church. 

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
368 pages
Tess moves to New York City as a recent college graduate looking for all that cliched crap everyone moving to the Big City always is (fresh start, opportunities, etc...). She gets a job with no experience at a famous, expensive restaurant (hmmmmm....) and becomes quickly tangled up in the various dramas that exist in most of these places, including love triangles, drug use, and alcohol abuse. Throw in a side of mentor-worship and you're set.

Verdict: I am a bit of a sucker for books set in restaurants, but I did have some issues. First of all, she would have never gotten hired at this place with her limited barista skills; the industry is too cut throat and they don't have time to deal with training someone who has never been in a kitchen before (even at the places I worked there was no way you could get a job doing anything but bussing tables or showing people where to sit with limited experience). The writing was a bit too forced at times, and the entire thing was just a bit melodramatic. Although, most things in your early twenties are a bit melodramatic, so I guess I can chalk that one up to being realistic... maybe. I don't think this is a bad book by any means, and would read her second novel, I just don't think this one was quite worth the hype it received. 

1984 pages (ha!)