Thursday, August 27, 2015

Summer 2015 Book Haul

Earlier this year, I had every intention of focusing solely on the books I've purchased in the past and have been planning to read. At first, I began to do just that and read a few books I had around, but then the bookstore called to me like a siren, and there my bank account drowned.

Okay, not really, but it was pretty close. 

I think it's safe to say that I have not, in any way, stuck to my goal of not buying books and reading the ones I already own. The spring was somewhat bad as I kept buying different books here and there but mainly downloading them to my Kindle. After all, where would I put the books? We have three tall book cases in our house (about 75% filled), plus two shorter cases (completely filled). With school coming into the picture, I suspected I would be buying more books and need space for them. So there wasn't any intention of buying more books as I haven't the room. I also always have in the back of my mind how utterly awful it is to move books and while we may not be moving any time soon, that memory of lugging books about is still there.

Then summer arrived in full force and I found myself drifting to the bookstore more frequently. For every stressful day, for every deadline I met, I would reward myself with a book. Not only that, but I often frequent my local Barnes and Noble cafe to do school work. Being a former bookseller, I know it can be irritating when someone basically takes over a portion of the cafe, bunkers down, and sits there for hours using the free WiFi but doesn't buy anything. You end up feeling a little used when they leave without a word or purchase. With that in mind, I always buy a drink and one cookie from the cafe, but most times I end up browsing for books afterward as well. It's the least I can do, I appreciate the atmosphere and I get large chunks of schoolwork done at the cafe.

But here we are, the end of summer already, and I realize just how many books I've gotten over the past few months. I know summer still technically has a few more weeks but I generally consider summer to be Memorial Day weekend-the end of August. Basically, the time period I used to be off for summer vacation.

I've been a part of Book Riot's adult and YA book boxes that come in quarterly which has significantly added to my book haul, but there's also the multiple bookstore trips and Amazon buying sprees. Ah, bookshelves, I'm sorry to fill you up so quickly when I said I wouldn't. 

So here's what I've bought. Title links are to reviews that have already been done for some of the books listed. Links to the right of the titles and authors bring you to sites to purchase the books yourself if you're interested!

Book Riot Quarterly

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour [Link]
A Sense of the Infinite by Hilary T. Smith [Link]
Chasing Shadows by Swati Avasthi [Link]

Barnes and Noble Buys

Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George [Link]
Edward Scissorhands (Parts Unknown) by Kate Leth [Link]
Blankets by Craig Thompson [Link]
I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson [Link]
Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen [Link]
The Secret History by Donna Tartt [Link]
Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry [Link]
Walden by Henry David Thoreau [Link]
Compulsion by Martina Boone [Link]
On Writing by Stephen King [Link]
Le Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory [Link]
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling (softcover) [Link]
The Wicked + The Divine Vol. 1 by Jaimie Mckelvie and Kieron Gillen [Link]
The Wicked + The Divine Vol. 2 by Jaimie Mckelvie and Kieron Gillen [Link]

Amazon Buys

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee [Link]
Quiet by Susan Cain [Link]
Paper Towns by John Green [Link]
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater [Link]
Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge [Link]
A Little Maid of Old Connecticut by Alice Turner Curtis [Link]
A Little Maid of Old Virginia by Alice Turner Curtis [Link]
A Little Maid of Old New York by Alice Turner Curtis [Link]
A Little Maid of Old Massachusetts Colony by Alice Turner Curtis [Link]
Heidi by Johanna Spyri [Link]
A Little Princess by Francis Hodgson Burnett [Link]
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery [Link]
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott [Link]
Pilgrim on Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard [Link]

Thirty-one books purchased, four were gifts, four were repeated copies (I already own Harry Potter in hardcover and wanted a copy that could be banged up; I had The Raven Boys on my Kindle but wanted the hardcover copy; my mother has copies of A Little Princess and Little Women that are absolutely gorgeous and I don't want to injure them more than my tiny hands did when I was little and reading the books, so I bought my own copies), and I've already read eighteen of the books on the list... leaving thirteen still unread. Actually, not all bad. I was sure I wouldn't have read half of what I bought but that's a surprise. 

Am I going to sit down and read all of these books and NOT buy more? Uh... I'm not making any promises.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Peter and the Starcatchers

For any book lover, asking them to name their favorite book will typically lead to gasps and sighs as the reader tries their hardest to pick just one. It's nearly impossible and I find that often when faced with that type of question, I usually end up listing a bunch of books, "Well, this is my favorite children's book, but this was my favorite book as a child. Then again, I loved this book when I was a preteen so that's nearly my teen  years yet I was still a child so maybe this counts? But I love them both..." For all my struggle, there has always been a pretty consistent list of books that I have always loved. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie is one of those books. I have loved that book since I first read it and have always appreciated the story. Even now, I can't seem to shake it.

Peter and the Starcatchers, a book written during my life time but taking the tale of Peter Pan and giving us the "how he became the boy who never grew up," has always been on my radar. I mean, of course it is! I love all things Peter Pan (don't even get me started on the movie Finding Neverland, I still ugly cry when I watch it).

The book is an easy read and definitely appropriate for children. It's safe and doesn't dive too heavily into areas that could cause conflict for parents not wanting their children exposed to certain things. There's sword fighting and nasty pirates, people who hunt down the stuff that stars are made of and magic all around. It can be scary but generally speaking always results in something that is generally good. I could have easily read through this book in record time but I was still nursing a cold when I began it, so my lack of energy made for only short instances of reading. But, after I felt better, I sat down one evening and read the second half of the book after dinner and was finished by bedtime. 

Peter is a normal boy for the majority of this book. He's spunky, brave, and protective of his band of "mates" who are orphans just as he. We begin the book as Peter and his friends are about to board a ship to a distant land they know nothing about, a place where they will (it turns out) become servants for a villainous ruler. On the ship is a girl of a higher class, Molly, who seems to be hiding a secret that only piques Peter's interest.

Living in awful conditions and not being given any food, Peter sets out to find food but discovers Molly's secret and the magic that has been brought upon the ship. He isn't the only person looking to discover this magic though. A pirate ship is close behind, following their boat (the Neverland) with hope of getting the precious cargo.

So much happens from the middle of this book straight to the end. It's nothing but adventure, pirate fights, marooning on islands, being captured, being let go, trickery, mermaids and more magic. I loved it and it was such a quick read! Now I find I want more and can't wait for my chance to pick up the next book in the series.

By the end of the book, we're given an explanation of why Peter is the way he is. Through the entire tale I was wondering how it would come about and most of it seemed to make so much sense, but the pieces were yet to be connected. Then, it was all set into place. Peter became the boy who can fly, the boy that never grows up, and his friend Tinkerbelle entered the picture. I loved it. Without giving away the exact details of how this all came to be, I was so pleased by it. I was really curious and somewhat worried that it would be ridiculous and just tossed into the storyline, but all along they were leading up to it. Ah, it's so good!

I want to go on for ages talking about this book but I feel like too much discussion would just give away the secrets. From how mermaids are formed to the creation of fairies, it's all in the book and so pleasurable to read. Also, there's a lot of artwork that's so perfectly childish yet beautifully done. All my praise for this book!

Last Week's Review: The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Next Week's Review: Blankets by Craig Thompson

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Secret History

A friend of mine suggested The Secret History some time ago and many other friends have simply raved about the book. Tumblr? Don't even get me started. The graphics that are created for this book are absolutely beautiful and there have been many times where beautiful graphics on Tumblr have been enough reason for me to pick up a book and give it a try. 

When I grabbed the book, I was surprised by two things: while it doesn't look very thick, it's thin pages so that makes up for a high page count and the font is tiny. There's a lot packed into this paperback and I was a little overwhelmed when I began to read it. 

Not only that, but the book is dense. I fell ill when I began this book and as usual, when I have a cold, I find it hard to concentrate on a lot of things. My head is stuffed and I'm struggling with breathing so how can I expel a lot of energy to much else? That didn't help me at all as I began this book because I found I couldn't read it very easily. There's a lot of beautiful, well-written language but so many intricate details that you're spending the majority of the start of the book wondering if you're missing something all due to the first pages. 

Right away, you know the main character killed a friend named Bunny. Well, he didn't do the physical part of the murder but he was heavily involved. So for the reader, you're immediately thrown into the end of the story and left to pick up the pieces, the tale, of how it got to that point. I wanted to pay attention, I wanted to take note of everything because I felt if I didn't, I'd miss on all the details necessary to understand why Bunny was killed. 

And so the story unfolds. You're taken into this odd world of a small liberal arts college in New England, something that I could relate to (although my small liberal arts college was in Pennsylvania, I feel they are often very similar [they being liberal arts colleges in general]). I feel that there is a distinct difference between the students we become familiar with, the characters who make our story, and the rest of the school. For the few instances that our main character (Richard) is interacting with the other students on campus you have a vivid example of typical college life. It's the style of college activities and behaviors that I am most familiar with and seem most real. But Richard doesn't often hang out with these students; in fact, he befriends a group of misfits who all seem to come from odd backgrounds of high class and behavior of people who seem to not quite fit into the time period. They study dead languages solely with one professor and their obsession for the past leads them to perform a ritual right that accidentally ends up with someone dead. Whoops.

That's where I felt it was a bit hard to believe. The snooty attitudes? The rich person air? That seemed easy to swallow but their ancient ritual participation seems... so strange. But that's what snowballs into the death of their friend and then, the destruction of the group caused by that death.

The book seemed to take ages to get to the major plot points: the ritual, the breaking of the group, the murder of Bunny, and the destruction that followed post his murder. The end of the book I found to be my favorite, even if it was the most depressing part of it (possibly? There's a lot of odd things that occur that are not necessarily joyful). Overall, the characters of this book are all pretty miserable human beings whom I found hard to appreciate in any way possible. They were awful.

But I give Tartt this, if she wanted us to have mixed feelings for these characters, she achieved that. She knows her stuff and she can write so, so very well. I was blown away by her writing, honestly, and hope to one day have that type of skill. The way she described the scenery and autumn days were my favorite. A few scenes they are on a lake and I felt I was right there with the characters. I loved, LOVED, her art of description.

My mind was not blown by this book, though. It's wonderful writing but the story took ages to get through and, as said previously, it's very, very dense. But I want to read more of her literary work, specifically The Goldfinch.

If you have the time and are interested in beautiful writing and a lot of material, give this book a try. If you have a short attention span, maybe give it a pass.

Last Week's Review: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Next Week's Review: Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barrey

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Saint Anything

I have only experienced Sarah Dessen's writing in one other instance. In 2010 I read Someone Like You and was relatively indifferent to her writing. I knew a lot of people loved Dessen but it seemed to me that many of her books were all with the same theme of teenage love without much else in terms of struggle or storyline. But when Saint Anything came out earlier this year, I noticed a lot of excitement over the book. Not so much because of who wrote it, but for the tale itself. It piqued my interest and I decided, on one of my many book buying binges, that I'd pick it up and give it a go.

I'm pretty happy I did, because I generally enjoyed this book and it's changed my opinion of Sarah Dessen. There were a lot of errors in this book, in more ways than one, but the storyline still stuck with me, even weeks after I had finished reading it. 

The one negative attribute I want to point out right away is this: so many errors. I know I am not spot on with my typing skills on this blog and I don't, honestly, work hard to correct those errors. I haven't the time. This is a horrible reason/excuse as I am an editor in real life. I do editing for a living! But with editing for a living, I spend 40 hours a week reading over the writings of other people and correcting their mistakes. When it comes to my own work, I'm just too tired to try very hard. Worst. Excuse. Ever. But when it comes to professional work, professional editing, I certainly take note if there are obvious errors and there were quite a few in this book. I have never edited materials for a mainstream publisher so I can only assume how it goes, but I picture there are multiple reviews of material before they hit print so to have errors more than once in the finished product is certainly disappointing.

But moving past that, I was so pleased with this book. Bravo to Dessen for managing a book to have a hint of romance but not to be completely driven by it. So many YA books seem to focus on the poor decisions of teens and how that affects them personally. This book does the same but with a bit of a twist. Our main character, Sydney, is suffering due to her older brother's decisions. A guy who she looked up to turned somewhat sour as he grew older, sour and distant as he began to dive into reckless behavior. This continues on and off, he gets better then worse again, until he ultimately hits a teen in the area--making the teen lose the ability to walk. Cut to his sentencing at a jail and the broken pieces left behind.

While Sydney's mother focuses completely on her brother and her father just follows orders, Sydney is left nursing the wounds caused by her brother's behavior but also being ignored by her own parents. I appreciate that this book focuses on what happens after. I'm sure most families have a relative who pulls some stupid things and there's always focus on that relative and what they did; people forget that what that person did will also affect the rest of the relatives and little focus is placed on that.

Like many teenagers, Sydney feels unseen and under-appreciated. She's a good kid, does well in school, and obeys the rules set by her parents, but she's suffering from it all as well. So when she befriends a group of people at her new school, she's happy to finally feel like she's noticed and belongs somewhere. She begins to feel that appreciation that she's lacking from her parents. 

This is when the drama gets filtered into the book: Sydney's mother makes strict rules for Sydney with the idea that she's protecting her daughter from taking the same path as her brother. That's.... understandable but not necessarily right. More times than not, I wanted to yell at Sydney's mother for how unfair she was being. The mother's character creates some strong feelings, let me tell you. And amongst all this is the brother's creepy friend who hangs around the house and sweet talks Sydney's parents. He's a creep. That's the general idea of it. And he makes it a point to make you (and Sydney) uncomfortable. It escalates and the entire time you're reading the book you cringe every time this character appears because you feel it, you know something bad is going to happen.

And the other drama: Sydney begins to fall for her new best friend's brother. Something of an offense in this group of friends but their relationship is so sweet and pure. I love the two of them together and it was definitely giving me a tooth ache. It's typical in that regard: nice girl meets nice guy who is super hot but he doesn't realize he's hot. But it's always a bit enjoyable to read about those type of relationships: two nice people getting what they deserve (to be happy and in love).

And yet, I appreciate that while there is romance, it is not the sole reason for the book. Coming to terms with what her brother did and the reconstruction of the family dynamic is front and center. Sydney's friends' family dynamic is also an important key. Sydney can view her family and how it is, but also view another family and what her family could become.

So good, so satisfying. It was an easy, good read that didn't take a lot of energy to focus on but I enjoyed it so very much. But one note: am I old? When did high school lunches devolve into food truck options outside of the building? And this at the "poor" school for the area. What happened to rubbery cafeteria pizzas for lunch?

And a final warning: You will have so many food cravings from this book. You'll want nothing but fries and pizza so be prepared.

Last Week's Review: Quiet by Susan Cain
Next Week's Review: The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Wanderlust Wednesday: Historic Jamestowne

What: Historic Jamestowne
When: July 2014
Where: Jamestown, Virginia

As a child, my parents were intense with Native American movies, facts, historical locations and events. We aren't Native American by any means, mind you. My father's family came over on a boat some time after the Mayflower and my mother's family has been here for about a hundred years--if that. But they, for whatever reason, really enjoyed Native American culture and the history. So from an early age I was taught about Native Americans and I found it fascinating whenever we were able to focus on it in school. Then Pocahontas happened. Oh Disney, you made my love grow. I was little and had a very child-like understanding of Pocahontas, but I knew enough to get that Disney had made the movie very loosely based on what her history really was. So while I grew up learning about the real Pocahontas (I still remember the day my mother explained to me that she died in England and how sad I was that she never made it home to Virginia), I still nursed my love for the movie until I was old enough to really make the connection that, hey, Jamestown is a real place and while my child-like mind thought it was forever away, it really wasn't. Still, I never had the chance to visit the location until last summer. The trip was years of dreams being accomplished in one outing.

Now let me explain: there are two locations and I was horrendously confused on what had what. Jamestown Settlement and the York Victory Center is a very interactive location where you can speak with reenactors, board ships, learn how food and clothing was made, and do general activities. It's a hands-on experience for children and totally something right up my alley. But, we didn't go there. Originally I thought that the Jamestown Settlement was the same thing as Historic Jamestowne but when we arrived at Historic Jamestowne I found it was still right up my alley and much more adult-ish. Mind you: Historic Jamestowne is somewhere you can totally go with your children. The guides are so extremely intelligent, knowledgeable, and point out where information may be a little upsetting for younger kids. But it's not so much hands-on. It's a place to visit and appreciate, to wander about and learn so much.

Historic Jamestowne is the location of the actual fort and ongoing archaeological expeditions. I was so excited! I've always found archeology to be interesting but have only ever seen the sites on movies or TV shows, now I was there witnessing people at work as they strove to uncover new locations where the fort was, or items that had at one time been lost and forgotten. Writing this is even giving me chills.

So that's the difference between the two. Historic Jamestowne is the actual location and very knowledgeable. If you want museums and historic sites, that's the place to go. If you want more entertainment and activities, check out Jamestown Settlement (which I hope to go to one day). 

Once we arrived, we parked in a very shaded parking area before entering the visitor center to buy our passes. The back door leads to a boardwalk of sorts that takes you over the Pitch and Tar Swamp. It's a beautiful area and you can spot a lot of natural wildlife in the water so long as you take a minute to observe. After this bit of a walk, you reach the Jamestown fort site and are welcomed by a statue of Pocahontas (my girl!) at the very edge of the fort. This was my first level of excitement for the day as just at Pocahontas' feet there was an archaeology dig going on!

Standing along the edge of the tied off areas, we were able to witness the crew working at the dirt very carefully. Later one during our tour, our guide pointed out the coloration in the dirt and explained that it indicated different things, in this case, that the fort had at one time extended that far out and what we were looking at was the remainder of what was formerly a wooden structure. 

We meandered the area for a little while, eventually ducking into the Voorhees Archaearium Archaeology Museum and then back to the fort area where we met with our tour guide. The guide worked on site and gave us so much information: both on the archeology digs and the history of the fort. I knew so little and came away knowing so much more. Walking about, he informed us about the different structures that were standing and their meaning, as well as providing details on the digs that were tied off or marked by ropes. We were even able to stand at the foot of the church (no longer there, but the location where it once stood) where Pocahontas was married.*

But there's a darker side to Jamestowne that is often ignored in the glorified movie versions of the area. This was the portion of our tour where our guide explained the details may be a bit too much for children, or may cause children to ask some uncomfortable questions that parents could possibly not be willing to discuss quite yet. He gave this opportunity for parents to leave with their children if they pleased and some parents did take their children away while the spouse remained to hear the rest of the information that was about to be given. 

Like many early-America settlements, Jamestowne suffered from little food for quite some time. Through studying the bones of people buried there, they were able to determine the nutrition of those who had passed beside their age. In one area, known as a kitchen of sorts, they discovered something awful: the head of a young girl who appears to have been used for cannibalism. Her skull is now located at the museum earlier mentioned and you can view it yourself. 

The history of this time is a little hard to swallow as the settlers did what they could do and their standards of what was good much deferred from what we consider "good" in this day and age. But the tour guides for this location were just so informative and wonderful at their job of detailing the history we knew little of. It was by far the best tour experience I've ever had at a historic location.

We meandered the area afterward and visited the museum as well. It's a lot to take in but rather beautiful in that sad way that historic locations can be. So much history happened there, not all very good, but here we are hundreds of years later able to view what's left. For me, it's a moment where I realize that while my life may be small, it may not be as important as the life of a president or scientist, it still has so much meaning and maybe, hundreds of years from now, there will be people gathered around a foundation for a home I once lived in and discussing the little artifacts I left behind. 

By the end of our stay, we were sun burnt and tired, but we still wanted to see more. The island also provides an Island Drive that loops you through the swamp and toward the edge of the James River. There are more historic points through this drive but, in general, we were in love with the views we were given. 

It was cooler in the shade of the trees that hung over the roadway and so, so quiet. We came to a point and walked along a sandy path to the water's edge where people were fishing and children played at the edge of the river. It was a peaceful way to end our trip and gave us time to reflect on all that we had learned. A year later I find I still think of this trip and all that was learned while spending the day at Jamestowne. I hope to return, maybe in cooler weather so I don't leave with such a sunburn as I did last summer, but I hope I can learn more and I am sure, based on this one experience, that hope will be realized.

* After writing this entry there was a lot of great news for Jamestown! Find out more here.

View other Wanderlust Wednesday posts.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


Quiet was another vacation read of mine. I had two YA books then this, something to discuss introversion and the science and social beliefs behind it. It sounded interesting to me because I am an introvert and I'm always interested to learn more of what drives my emotions and reactions to the world. Especially since introversion is so often misunderstood and I have only just within the past year have begun to really take serious interest in how I work as a person and how to make my life a little easier by changing some of my habits or thinking differently. For me, understanding why I am the way I am is often enough, so why not dive deeper into the world of introverts?

I knew of Susan Cain from her TED Talk (located at the bottom of this entry). It is an awesome, powerful discussion and when I first saw it a year or two ago, I was blown away. "Yes, yes, yes! That's it exactly!" I was saying to my screen with no one actually present to hear. Not only did she hit the nail on the head about being an introvert, but she was so good at speaking publicly that I've actually referred to her when speaking to coworkers or friends about public speaking. Seriously, check out her TED Talk.

So while I was totally blown away by Cain's talk, I figured her book would be just as good, if not better. I had wanted to read it for quite some time and with vacation looming and the opportunity for minimal distractions, I figured why not? Onto the Kindle it went and off to Florida we headed. 

Let me preface this by stating that I am not a science or psychological sort. There was a span of time when I was a kid that I was fascinated with becoming a marine biologist. I knew the most random facts about dolphins and whales. I was all over that with notebooks filled with doodles of marine life and notes I took from whatever information I found (mind you, this was before the internet was a household thing). But that dream quickly died once I entered middle school and took my first "real" science class, filled with experiments and equations and other things I just couldn't follow. The same thing happened in high school with AP psychology and again in college with sociology (which I still have a minor interest in). For whatever reason, I just can't seem to get a knack for this stuff. And this book, in many ways, reminded me of those long forgotten sciencey books that I had to read for school.

There's a lot of statistics and facts in this book. It's like a well written psychology paper. I really enjoyed the first half of the book as Cain dove into what makes an introvert and the many forms of introversion. That was fascinating stuff and I found myself agreeing to most of what she said but also being surprised, "Oh I didn't know that," often came to mind. She pointed out so many minor details of day-to-day life that could be triggering for an introvert, making them feel anxious or things that they dislike, and many were on point but also a surprise for me. So long have I lived life in this manner that I didn't really ever notice just how easily I am put off by every day activities.

The later half of the book was more of a struggle for me and I feel stepped away from my interest. I didn't get through it half as easily as, for me, it became more of a "how to live with an introvert" guide. Granted, that surely will be helpful for extroverts who just can't grasp what introverts are, but it's not so much my cup of tea. I'm an introvert, my boyfriend is an introvert, I think if anything we would need a book on how introverts deal with extroverts if we were to have an extroverted child. 

All in all, this would be a great book for anyone who has a touch of the science/psychology/sociology understanding but also great for anyone who just doesn't get introversion. Life can be hard when you're an introvert in this extrovert world (and boy does she hit the nail on the head with that and how much of a struggle it can be) so any help to get people to understand just what it's about is great in my book.

Last Week's Review: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Next Week's Review: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Friday, July 31, 2015

A Month in Reviews -- June and July

Merrifield Garden Center
Last month, instead of a typical monthly wrap up, I discussed the books in my life over the first half of 2015. But I missed my monthly update due to this (and the holiday) so here we are, the end of July, and I'm going to throw a bunch of links at you covering the past two months. 

What's been going on? A lot!

June was a quick month for me. After returning from my late-May vacation, I had to get back into the swing of things and before I knew it, I was reaching the end of the month and with it a two week telework schedule for my job. Aside from these two weeks that I worked from home, I managed to come down with a horrible two week cold to go with it, followed by a four day vacation in the name of patriotism and my birthday. Still, the two weeks I was able to work at home were probably the most restful two weeks of my work career. 

But I'm getting ahead of myself!

The beginning of June we spent plenty of time outside. A local garden center was a hot spot for the beau and I as we filled up our tiny garden and created an herb garden for our porch. If you're ever in Northern Virginia and like flowers, I would highly suggest you visit the Merrifield Garden Center. Rumor has it that their Christmas displays are awesome and I hope to check that out in the next few months as well. It's just such a pleasant place to go (I should just write a Wanderlust Wednesday about this place!) We even took my parents there for a visit while they visited for a long weekend.

World War II Memorial

We also made a trip out to Washington, DC to show my parents many of the monuments they never had the opportunity to see. This was an important trip for me as both of my parents have ties to the war memorials on the mall. My father's dad fought in the Korean War and he has many friends who fought in Vietnam. My mother's father and all of his brothers fought in World War II (this being one of the newest memorials on the mall). It was important to see this memorial particularly since my grandfather passed only a few years ago and we still miss him so very much. 

It was a hot day and we were sunburnt to the extreme, but it was still lovely. The beau and I also cooked for my parents and his: a pork roast covered in an herb rub (fresh from our garden)! It turned out delicious and was well worth the effort.

It was so exciting to have my parents here. They live in Pennsylvania and do not often come to Virginia but having them here was lovely. It also gave us the opportunity to put our guest bedroom to use for the first time. Luckily, we have plans to fill that room up with guest many more times this summer. Hosting can certainly be fun! (Particularly if it means we get to spend money on extra flowers for the house -- I love filling the house up with flowers!)

Love Won during June as well. As an LGBT ally, I was so thrilled and am still joyful over the news. Already we have a couple wonderful weddings to look forward to in the future. June was just such a happy month, filled with love for all and I'm so proud of my country for this (finally).

Love wins!

June also was the month for storms (but July seemed to be as well). Typically, Virginia is filled with humidity and heat during the summer. The sun beats down on everything, making it wilt and die. I kind of hate it. All winter I look forward to warmer weather where I can go outside to take walks, hike in the woods, or any other various activities. Then spring arrives and we have a few weeks of perfect weather before suddenly, bam, there's the summer heat and we have to hide indoors. But this year has been particularly soggy. We've always had good thunderstorms roll in here or there but never anything too extreme. June, however, presented us with a number of heavy storms and even a tornado warning. 

That was just fun in a bun, let me tell you.

But then we were catapulted into July. My birthday month and that start of "my favorite holidays of the year." I love the Fourth of July. As a child, the Fourth of July meant parades, BBQs with my neighbors, slip and slides and sprinklers, and fireworks at night. It also usually meant birthday cakes and presents as my birthday is just after the Fourth. I loved preparing for the holiday and now, as an adult, I still enjoy it. I always have to do something for the Fourth, as annoying as that is to those around me who do not have the same level of joy for the holiday as I do. In the past I've attended the Capital Fourth festivities on the lawn of the Capitol. Last year, I went to Colonial Williamsburg. This year... it rained. But I was lucky enough to go to Old Town Manassas and see their firework show. I was blown away (pun not intended). It was a great firework show for such a small town and I hope to go back next year. It's a lot more manageable and less annoying than going into DC. 

The weekend was a long one for me because I fully believe in taking time off for your birthday. It was the best decision, I haven't had that relaxing of a day in ages. But prior to my birthday, we roadtriped for the day and visited various small towns in Northern Virginia: The Plains, Middlesburg, and Leesburg. I love small, historic towns and going to little shops. I love doing this at just about any time of the year and find it to be a really fun way to spend a Saturday or Sunday. We had a lot of great food that day as well and even had time to go home for a nap before dinner. 

July was both busy and lazy. The first half of it was lazy, at the very least, with some time off and a chance to relax. I could have filled those days with activities but I was vying for a break because I knew once mid-July hit, things were going to get crazy.

We went on bookstore dates and I worked on a quilt that I was giving to friends as a gift. Fabric stores were a friend as I visited them repeatedly for more and more fabric. A friend also surprised me with an awesome messenger bag that she had made herself! Later on in the month, I sat down and put together a messy skirt for a woodland fairy outfit that I hope to wear when I go to the Pennsylvania Ren Faire this summer.

But I wanted this, the weekends and weekday nights that were lazy and all that I had to do was make dinner or read. I did both and I enjoyed each moment.

Why was I so desiring of time off? Because on July 13 I began graduate school. Having taken courses before toward a copyediting certification, I knew how little free time I would have and I expected it would be even more hectic since this is graduate school, right? At the beginning of class I struggled to find a balance with all of the different things that were vying for my attention. School, work, personal matters were all clambering for attention and I felt a little lost.

Being granted a third day to telework helped a lot and I began to ease into a more consistent schedule as the month came to a close. We also took an impromptu trip to Pennsylvania to help celebrate a new home and surprise my parents for an early birthday present!

Book Reviews:

So many book reviews in two months!
Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
Forever by Maggie Stiefvater
Poetry of Lang Leav
Shadows on My Heart by Lucy Rebecca Buck
Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Paper Towns by John Green
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Other Posts:

Big Basin State Park in California
Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia
Six Months of Books
Anney's Book Nook

And I have a NEW Tumblr that you should give a look/follow.

Must Reads from the Web:

Build the ultimate reading chair with a built-in bookcase
My friend published a book! Check it out!
A Rare Look at Shakespeare's First Edition at DC's Folger's Library
In reference to fans of YA literature and authors
The man who builds up private libraries -- book by rare book
11 Ways to make your rainbow bookshelf look extra-gorgeous to celebrate pride
Biloxi teachers transform old lockers into literary work of art
26 literary landmarks in America to visit before you die
Thoreau, the First Decluterer
Book Lovers on Instagram vs. Reality
First Chapter of Go Set a Watchman
Boy Who Couldn’t Afford Books Asks Mailman For Junk Mail To Read; Mailman Responds Spectacularly
Bakers Around the World Celebrated JK Rowling's Birthday With Incredible "Harry Potter" Cakes