Where I’ve Been and What I’ve Been Reading

Hello, friends!  It’s been forever since I’ve written anything.  I have a reasonably good excuse, I think, in the form of a family vacation and the lead-up to/anticipation of said vacation.  My reading concentration has been awful the past few weeks, and I had a stressful personal issue crop up at the most inopportune time as well.  So, having begged your pardon, now I am ready to dive back in to book blog life!  I missed you guys.  I miss feeling like a reading machine.  I’m ready to get my groove back.


So where did we go?  Toronto, Ontario, Canada!  My cousin from Iran moved there a little over a year and a half ago.  This was my first opportunity to actually meet her in person.  We stayed with her and she graciously showed us around beautiful, vibrant Toronto.  The weather couldn’t have been better while we were there.  There is SO MUCH to do and see in Toronto.  Just riding the subway and walking around felt like an adventure to me!  We visited Saint Lawrence Market, the CN Tower, and the Royal Ontario Museum among other attractions.  We also took a day trip to Niagara Falls, which was fun.  My son is absolutely nuts about LEGOs so we also went to the Legoland Discovery Centre in nearby Vaughn.  He had a blast.  We took a zillion pictures but I’m just going to share a few.

My son lying down on the glass floor at the CN Tower over 1100 feet up.
Gazing at the Horseshoe Falls at Niagara.
My cousin, me, my goofy son, and my husband at a delicious Persian restaurant in Toronto called Gilaneh.
I marveled at the giant armadillos at the ROM.
T. Rex at the ROM.

It was a great trip, my son’s first airplane flights and our first visit outside the country since my husband and I went to Ireland in 2006!  I most definitely want to return to Toronto.  Oh, I did manage to go to a bookstore while I was there – an Indigo store right near where my cousin lives.  I didn’t have much time so I consulted Goodreads and hastily selected three books from Canadian authors that I thought I might not be able to find easily in America.  (Thanks to Naomi and Buried in Print for the author inspiration on these!)

I’ve not read any of these authors before… have you?  Elizabeth Hay’s Small Change, Montreal Stories by Mavis Gallant, and The Memento by Christy Ann Conlin. They all look very appealing.  And of course, I have absolutely NO idea when I’ll get to them!  🙂  So that brings me to…

What I’ve Been Reading

  • I listened to the third Harry Potter book before we left and of course I enjoyed it.  But I’m taking a small break from them before I start Goblet of Fire.
  • I finished Anne’s House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery the night before we left.  It was just lovely.  I’m not going to do a review of it, but I most thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to the sixth book in the series for #AnneReadalong2017.
  • On the plane I took Anne Tyler’s Celestial Navigation.  I have a superstition about carrying an Anne Tyler book with me when I fly, don’t ask me why, it’s wholly irrational.  I didn’t read much on the plane (short flight times!) or while in Toronto (too tired from all that sightseeing!)  But I managed to get pretty far into it during the return trip, and finished it a couple of days after we got home.  I love Anne Tyler, and intend to read all of her books.  This one was… not her best.  She’s excellent at character study, but this one was so frustrating.  The two main characters were so passive, or passive aggressive, or something.  They were making such poor choices and I just wanted to slap them!  It was a rather depressing read.  Only for Anne Tyler completists, I’d say.
  • As of now, I’m reading Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca for the RIP Challenge.  It’s luscious and atmospheric and brooding and I LOVE IT.  I suppose I’m about a third of the way through.  I’m going to get back into it when I finish this post.

So that’s where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to the past few weeks.  I hope to get back to a more regular posting schedule soon!  October is such a busy month – do you all find that to be true?  There are so many Fall and Halloween related activities.  My son’s two week break will be over Monday, so it’ll be back to the usual routine.  (They start in July and get two-week breaks in Fall, Winter, and Spring.  Yes, we like it.)

Let me know in the comments if you’ve read anything I’ve mentioned here, or what you’re reading right now.  Thanks for reading!




It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly bookish meme hosted by The Book Date.

Hi guys!  Things have been quiet around here lately, but I have a good excuse – I went on a trip with my family (hubby’s parents and brother included) last week.  I read only about 30 pages in total last week, and am just now getting back into the swing of reading.  I’m waaaaaayyyyy behind on reading blogs, so I hope to catch up a bit over the next few days!

IMG_1220We went to Folly Beach, SC, which is pretty much my happy place.  It’s about 15 minutes from downtown Charleston, and it’s just the most laid-back little beach town.  My husband and I just like to be on the beach, play with our son, dig holes in the sand, walk around, look for shells.  We don’t need to be doing stuff all the time.  I mean, I like to see things, but mainly I just want to be by the ocean and feel the sunshine on my skin and hear the waves crashing against the shore, you know?  Oh, and we also like to EAT.  So that’s pretty much what we did.  There are some really delicious little restaurants on Folly, so you don’t have to venture far.  It was a little cooler than we’d like, with highs in the 60’s, but we had plenty of sunshine!  It was a great trip.

IMG_1267So now it’s Monday, I’m back to work, and my son is back to school, and we’re all back to reality.  Which isn’t so bad!  I’m still listening to Sense and Sensibility now that I’m driving to work again and have wrestled control of my car stereo back from my son, who apparently can ONLY listen to the Hamilton Soundtrack these days.  (I love the Hamilton Soundtrack, but I have listened to “My Shot” about 18,000 times!)  I’m just to the point in the book where Marianne is heartbroken and Colonel Brandon has come to tell Elinor about the horrible things that Willoughby has done to his young ward.  It’s making me want to watch the stellar film adaptation with Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, and the wonderful Alan Rickman again.  Sigh.

I’m also halfway through All We Shall Know by the Irish writer Donal Ryan.  I don’t quite know what to say about this novel.  It’s really… depressing.  Bleak. The writing is beautiful, truly, but…  I can’t say that I’m enjoying it.  I was planning to read it and review it for Reading Ireland Month but March ends Friday, so I *hope* to have it done by then.  Mixed feelings for sure on this one.IMG_1268

Here’s a question for you:  What’s the last depressing book you abandoned, or finished?

What are YOU reading this Monday? Let me know in the comments.



I’m Back!

Ah, home sweet home.  Traveling is wonderful, but the unique pleasures of being home are something special.  Little things, like my own (firmer) bed, my (palmetto bug-free) shower, my favorite coffee mug, my slightly insane and moody cat… I am so glad we went, but I’m glad we’re now home.

Happy Beach Faces!

We went to Folly Beach, South Carolina.  It’s about fifteen to twenty minutes from downtown Charleston.  We’d been to Charleston before, but never stayed on Folly.  It’s got the greatest laid-back vibe.  There’s a little strip of cafes, restaurants, bars, and shops in the center of town (appropriately on Center Street) and a beautiful, long fishing pier jutting out in the middle.  There are a few hotels right near the pier, but mostly there are houses for rent – some gigantic and new, some small and delightfully ramshackle.  Our rental was decidedly the latter.  It was funky and cute and kind of a throwback to what beach houses used to be, at least in my imagination.  The best thing about it was the public beach access one house down and across the street.  We were at the beach in less than five minutes!

Our sweet little ramshackle rental house.

We had four full days there, and spent a few hours on the beach each day.  It was warm and mostly sunny most days, and the beach was not crowded at all down where we were.  Few things make me happier than feeling the sun and wind on my skin and hearing and watching the waves roll in and out. Happy Laila Beach Face was in full effect over the four and a half days!  IMG_3391My four year old son was thrilled with standing waist-deep in the ocean and letting it hit him over and over.  Digging for “treasure” was another of his favorite pursuits.

One day we found some cool tide pools further down the beach.IMG_3386

If you ever get the chance to go to Charleston, try to stay on Folly.  The vibe is funky but not sketchy, there are some truly yummy places to eat, a cool pirate-themed playground, and it was surprisingly quiet down at the end of the island where we were.  After a self-imposed week of no Twitter, no TV, no Goodreads, and no book blogs, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do!  (It was a nice media break, I have to admit.)  I missed reading your blog posts, though!  I am excited to see all that I’ve missed.


Looking back at Folly from the end of the pier.












A Catching Up Post, and The Oregon Trail

The first week of December was a really crappy week.  There’s no other way to put it.  My uncle, my mom’s brother, passed away unexpectedly.  And I was sick as a dog with stomach trouble.  I couldn’t be there for my mom physically when she needed to travel to Nashville to tend to my uncle.  The whole week sucked.  I loved my uncle, even though I hadn’t seen him in almost four years.  He was a kind person, funny, always sweet to me.  He was a passionate animal lover and rescued many cats and dogs over the years.  But he had a lot of problems in his life, even before I came along in the family.  I miss him, though, and despite my sadness will always have good memories of him.  Mom and I are working on finding ways to honor his memory and will have a service in January.

Needless to say my reading and blogging has been off pace to end the year.  But I’m getting back in the swing of things.  I finished a work of nonfiction last night  – The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey by Rinker Buck.  It’s an interesting mix of memoir, history, and travel writing.  Ricker Buck and his brother have a wagon custom made, acquire a team of mules from some Amish folk, attach a pup tent for gear, and make their way down the Oregon Trail.  I was kind of surprised at how much of the old trail is actually still there; just a few sections have been paved over by interstate and highways.  I was also surprised by the age of the brothers. I admit that when I put the book on hold at the library, I assumed that they would be young men.  Wrong!  They’re both over 60!  The work of the trail was very physical, so I can say that these men are in much better shape than I am!

IMG_2839I enjoyed the historical information and excerpts from pioneer journals and letters, but my favorite sections were the interactions the Bucks had with strangers along the way.  Turns out word spreads fast in the West, among ranchers, farmers, and small townspeople who take an interest in the Trail and keeping it alive.  People flocked to the wagon, the mules, as well as Rinker’s brother Nick’s Rack Russell terrier, Olive Oyl.  There were so many instances of goodwill  and generosity, people giving the brothers and their mules a place to rest, rides to town when mishaps occurred, and tips on the best ways to proceed down the trail.  It made me feel good about humanity to read about just how doggone nice people were to them.

It could use a bit of editing, and there’s a surprising amount of profanity included, which in and of itself doesn’t bother me.  I skimmed a few paragraphs here and there that went into too much detail about wagon and mule harness information.  Buck also has a lot of issues with the legacy of his father and their complicated relationship to work out; his father’s ghost sort of haunts the trail at times.  I admit that these sections didn’t hold my attention as strongly as the other parts.  But all in all, this was an interesting and entertaining work of nonfiction.  I certainly admire the courage and spirit that the brothers maintained throughout their adventure!

Reading Challenges and Life Challenges

A few of weeks ago I read a post about the Book Riot 2015 Read Harder Challenge.  I had read about at the beginning of the year as well, being a dedicated Book Riot reader.  I’d not committed to participating in the challenge, but for some reason, the new post intrigued me.  Maybe it was the pretty printable PDF list with all the categories, maybe it was the thought of putting the completion badge on my blog.  Whatever the reason, I printed out the list and started marking off the tasks I had completed without trying to, in the course of my normal reading this year.

Turns out I’d already completed slightly over half of the tasks – it helps that one title can function for more than one task.  So I said, Yes!  I think I can do this!  I even made a list of books that would fit each of the remaining tasks.  There are some interesting categories, like “a book that is a retelling of a classic story,” and “a book by or about someone who identifies as LGBTQ.”  I suspected that the one task that might give me a problem would be the “read a book published before 1850” one – I’ve read all of Austen, and thought perhaps Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens would be a good choice.  But classics usually take me longer to read, so I wondered if I could get it done by the end of the year – and still do all the other reading I want to do!

I was gung-ho for a few days, ordering a copy of This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald from the library (task: read a book written by an author under the age of 25.)  Then things got wonky with my family – my mother’s husband had been ill for a long time and took a turn for the worse.  My son went through a stretch of poor sleep as well, and suddenly I was just too darn tired to contemplate having to complete reading challenges.

I love the idea of expanding your normal reading to include things you might not automatically reach for.  I’m all for stretching oneself.  But sometimes life inserts itself into one’s plans, and a reading challenge is something I just don’t have the heart or energy for.  Life has provided enough challenges lately.

My stepfather passed away on Sunday night.  We were not close, but my mother loved him dearly, and I love her dearly, so this week has been really hard.  So many decisions to be made, so many things to do, so many complicated emotions to process.  My mom’s now facing a totally new life, alone, and I’m her only immediate family in the United States (her sister is in Ireland.)  So I am her main support.

Last weekend I’d begun two novels, Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies and Mat Johnson’s Loving Day.  I had planned on reading and writing about Loving Day for the Diversiverse  blogging event organized by Aarti at Booklust.  I still have until the 18th to post, so hopefully I’ll get my reading done.  Things are so topsy-turvy in my world right now, I need to receive the respite that reading can provide. As soon as I post this, I’m heading to my book!

Books My Son Likes: FROODLE by Antionette Portis

My son is in love with another book – the very funny and adorable Froodle by Antionette Portis.  It’s about what happens when one little brown bird decides she’s tired of saying “Peep,” and wants to say something silly instead, like “Froodle Sproodle!”  The other birds, Crow, Cardinal, and Dove, aren’t too sure about this departure from the norm, especially Crow.  IMG_2255But as silliness is often infectious, soon the other birds start to get in on the fun.

IMG_2256The bright and cheerful illustrations are a treat, but the great fun of this book is in the reading aloud, saying all the nonsense words.  My four-year old is a huge fan of nonsense words.  Heck, I am too!  He likes this book so much that he sometimes reads it out loud to himself, and if I read it to him he often wants me to begin again right after we’ve just finished.  A sure-fire winner in our household.  We have enjoyed previous picture books by Antionette Portis, like Not a Box, and Not a Stick.  She’s one picture book author and illustrator to put on your radar, and someone from whom I will eagerly anticipate a new offering.

My Son’s Current Favorite Book

My son had a birthday yesterday!  He’s four years old, and I truly can hardly believe it.  There’s a quote I heard somewhere, that says “The days are long, but the years are short.”  I totally get that since having my little guy.  Some days seems to last forever, but before you know it he will be in kindergarten!

My husband and I have read to him since birth.  We’re both readers ourselves (Hubby reads mostly non-fiction)  and we wanted to introduce Little Man to the joys of reading from the get-go.  He took to it right away, it seemed.  We still read at every nap time and every bedtime.  When I get home he’ll often ask, “Did you bring me some new books?”  I LOVE that he enjoys reading.  I hope it stays that way for the rest of his life!

He’s already reading independently, which blows me away.  He needs help with big words, but it amazes me what he can sound out.  And once we’ve read a book a few times together, he’s got the thing memorized.

I thought from time to time I’d highlight some of his favorite books.  There are SO MANY great picture books out there that deserve to be shared and celebrated!

Right now he’s loving this:

IMG_1917Tools Rule! by Aaron Meshon.

He’s a tool guy, just like his Dad.  But there’s a lot to like about this picture book even if your little guy or gal isn’t tool-crazy.  Brightly colored illustrations, anthropomorphized tools, and humorous, pun-ny dialogue (just what little kids like) make this a great read-aloud.

My son’s favorite page.

The tools are all scattered about the messy yard, until T-Square decides to organize everyone.  They work together to build themselves a shed, so there’s a nice theme of cooperation throughout.  It introduces kids to some tools they may not know about (I don’t even know what an awl does!) so their vocabularies may expand!

The mower says, “Looks sharp!”

My son likes this so much, more than once he’s asked us to begin again right after we’ve finished reading it.  That’s the mark of a winner!  So check out Tools Rule!

Vacation Time! (What to Read?)

We’re leaving tomorrow morning for the beach – Kill Devil Hills, NC (Outer Banks.)  I’ve been to South Carolina beaches many times, but never to the Outer Banks.   We like to go on vacation in the off-season, before it gets too crowded and expensive. We’re not big on swimming in the ocean, so the cooler temps won’t bother us.  In my book, here’s nothing better than walking on the beach.  (And with an almost four-year-old boy, there’s not much sitting allowed!)  I’m so excited!  I’ve got a lot of packing to do, and of course, I’m packing some books. Trouble is, I’m not sure what I’ll want to read.

I finished my last book yesterday Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of our Everyday Lives.  I don’t know if you’ve ever read any of her other books – The Happiness Project or Happier at Home.   Personally, I find her incredibly irritating.  But I can’t make myself stop reading her books!  It’s like she’s got a weird mind control hold on me or something.  I’m also a terrible sucker for self-help books, so that’s part of it. Especially about happiness/de-cluttering/habits/food and weight issues, all of which make the core of her latest book.  I found this one to be better and more helpful than the previous two, and found Rubin herself to be not as annoying a presence.  She seems to be owning up to her rigidity, and recognizing that not everyone is like her, for which I give her some credit.  Still, it didn’t light up my life, so I gave it three stars out of five.

I’m not sure how much reading I’ll get done next week – but I know that before bed I’ll read a bit, as is my habit, and I’ll probably get to read some during my son’s nap time.  (Assuming he takes a nap!)  So I’m taking a few books with me, in case I start something that I’m just not in the mood for.  Here’s what I’ve got:

None of these is exactly what you’d call a “beach read.”  But I don’t really subscribe to the notion that one has to read lighter fare when on vacation.  Who says?  So I’ll read my nonfiction, my dark fiction, and my translations, thank you very much. Or maybe I won’t read much of anything next week at all.  Who knows?  I just want a couple of sunny days to romp around on the beach and explore the sand dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park – tallest sand dunes in the Eastern United States! Doesn’t that sound cool?

So what kinds of books do you like to take along with you on your vacations?  Do you take e-books or audio books, or are you a physical book devotee?  Or do you usually not read much at all when you’re away on holiday?

My Son is Reading!

My husband, son, and I went to the public library (the one in our county, not the one where I work) today.  I bring Little J., who will be four in July, all sorts of books from my library, but I like to take him to the other one so he can pick out books on his own.  They also have puzzles and blocks and Legos and things, so he likes going there.  It’s important that the library seems like a fun, pleasurable place to be – building good associations with reading, hopefully for a lifetime!

He’s been on a real dinosaur kick for a while now, and we’ve been checking out non-fiction books about them.  I’ve learned more than I ever imagined I would about dinosaurs myself.  It’s kind of fun, I have to admit!  He chose four books about dinosaurs and one Duck and Goose book by Tad Hills.  (We love the Duck and Goose books.)

At nap time my husband had Little J. in his lap, and they read the Rookie Reader book about velociraptors together.  Little J. read most of the book BY HIMSELF. He had help on some bigger words, but he got most of it on his own.  It was amazing.  He’s been recognizing sight words for a few months now, but very recently he’s been able to start reading easy sentences.  Hubby and I are, of course, thrilled and full of pride.  It’s so cool to see J.’s development as a reader.

A friend of mine asked me last night how we nurtured J. into a reader at such a young age.  I think it’s a combination of a lot of things.  We have books around the house – our own and our son’s.  (His bookshelf is insane.)  We go to the library together.  We model reading for him, as both of us are readers ourselves.  We’ve read to J. ever since he was born – every single night, and most nap times as well. We read a lot of the same books over and over, and that fosters familiarity with words.  We’ve used a dry erase board to write letters and numbers and words, and our son enjoys doing that.  I even have a terrific app on my phone called Endless Reader that my son likes, and I truly think it helped him recognize sight words.

It’s some combination of genetics and our actions that’s leading him into reading early.  Whatever the cause, I’m so excited.  I have to be careful and dial it down a bit because I’m such a crazy book lady.  I don’t want to push him, or make reading a chore in any way. All I can do is model my own love of reading and hopefully, together, we’ll find great books that we can share and enjoy as he gets older.