Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books on My TBR List For Summer 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books on My TBR List For Summer 2015

(Brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish)


When I was teaching middle school, summer was my time to catch up on “adult” books, as August through May was pretty much dedicated to keeping up with new young adult books and reading recommendations from my students. (I never would have picked up the Percy Jackson series had the entire set not been put on my desk by a student, telling me I NEEDED to read these! He was right. They were great!) Then, for a few years, there was no need for “summer reading” lists, as summer reading was no different from my winter reading. It was just one, ever-growing “to be read” list. But, now that I am back in school, taking credits all summer long, this year’s summer reading list isn’t filled with the latest Gone Girl-esque thriller or Hollywood blockbuster pre-read; my list is pretty much all school-related. That’s not a bad thing though! It must means my summer reading list is filled with travel literature, which is a perfect fit for the summer, school or no school!

So what am I reading this summer? This!

An Area of Darkness by V.S. Naipaul   – Raised in the Caribbean and educated in Britain, but of Indian ancestry, Naipaul documents his first trip to India in this travel narrative that focuses on both the physical  travel and the cultural distinctions of this unique nation.

Chasing the Sea: Lost Among the Ghosts of Empire in Central Asia  by Tom Bissell-  This is both a travel narrative and a history lesson about Uzbekistan. Bissell was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan, but left the service after seven months, due to personal reasons. Years later, he goes back to the country where he struggled so much to see it in a new light and to report on the ecological disaster that has surrounded the Aral Sea.

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume- Judy Blume’s books were a huge part of my childhood, so I can’t wait to have a few free days to read her newest publication. I will definitely be getting to this one before the summer is over. “In 1987, Miri Ammerman returns to her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, to attend a commemoration of the worst year of her life. Thirty-five years earlier, when Miri was fifteen, and in love for the first time, a succession of airplanes fell from the sky, leaving a community reeling. Against this backdrop of actual events that Blume experienced in the early 1950s, when airline travel was new and exciting and everyone dreamed of going somewhere, she paints a vivid portrait of a particular time and place—Nat King Cole singing “Unforgettable,” Elizabeth Taylor haircuts, young (and not-so-young) love, explosive friendships, A-bomb hysteria, rumors of Communist threat. And a young journalist who makes his name reporting tragedy. Through it all, one generation reminds another that life goes on.” (Amazon summary)

Looking for Lovedu: Days and Nights in Africa by Ann Jones-  This one is the travel story of Ann Jones and a photographer who set out to travel Africa, from one coast to the other. (I ordered this a month ago and it has not arrived due to shipping issues. It is killing me that it hasn’t arrived yet!)

Nothing to Declare: Memories of a Woman Traveling Alone by Mary Morris– This travel memoir follows Morris’ move to a small Mexican town and her travels throughout Mexico and Central America.

Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century by James Clifford- “In this collage of essays, meditations, poems, and travel reports, Clifford takes travel and its difficult companion, translation, as openings into a complex modernity. He contemplates a world ever more connected yet not homogeneous, a global history proceeding from the fraught legacies of exploration, colonization, capitalist expansion, immigration, labor mobility, and tourism.” (Amazon summary)

The Bird Man and the Lap Dancer: Close Encounters with Strangers by Eric Hansen- “Eric Hansen survives a cyclone on a boat off the Australian coast, cradles a dying man in Calcutta, and drinks mind-altering kava in Vanuatu. He helps a widower search for his wife’s wedding ring amid plane-crash wreckage in Borneo and accompanies topless dancers on a bird-watching expedition in California. From the Maldives to Sacramento, from Cannes to Washington Heights, Eric Hansen has a way of getting himself into the most sacred ceremonies and the most candid conversations.” (Amazon summary)

Travel Writing: The Self and the World by Casey Blanton– This one is an academic book which survey’s     the development of the travel writing genre from early writings through more modern ones. It probably isn’t going to be on many people’s summer reading lists, but I am hoping it is a great foundation for future research.

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman- I started reading this book in early April, before all of my school books showed up. I only got through the first two short stories before I dove into my coursework, but I can’t stop thinking about this book! It is sitting on my nightstand and I look at it daily with longing! I can’t wait to sneak it in at the end of the summer when I am between terms!

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling-  Technically, this is not a summer read, as it does not come out until mid-September, but I can’t wait to get my hands on it! I loved her first book and am thrilled she is publishing a second. This one comes out September 15. I will have a review on September 16! This one may fall last on my alphabetical list, but it is easily the one I am most excited for!

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July in June

Long time, no blog! Well, at least not a travel/KL-related blog. I’ve been great about Wordless Wednesdays, as it is pretty easy to pull a photo from our cache and pop it up while I eat my Cheerios on Wednesday mornings. (Those Cheerios are like gold, so I set my alarm early enough that I can leisurely enjoy them while perusing blogs or first thing in the morning. I usually ship my cereal in from Amazon, which while not always as cheap as you can get it at Albertson’s, is much cheaper than the $8-10 a box they would cost here in Malaysia. And don’t judge my fixes. I am sure to his the news sites as well and I do spend much of my free time writing papers about contemporary travel writing, so I get a few guilty pleasures when it comes to my internet browsing. People, Lamebook, Yahoo comments…you know, all the classy stuff.) I’ve also put up several Top Ten Tuesdays over the last few months, so blogging is happening, just not always travel blogging.

Anyway, I could give you a laundry list of excuses why it has been a month since I’ve written anything travel-y: I went temporarily blind in my left eye; I am working on a second graduate degree; I work full time at the US embassy; blah, blah, blah. But they would just be excuses since we’ve also watched ten seasons of Friends on Netflix this year, I rarely let a Saturday get past me without taking at least a brief nap and I have time to make cookies for the office on a semi-regular basis. It boils down to two things: 1) we’ve not been out of town much recently, other than the recent, unplanned/unwanted trip to Singapore and 2) laziness.

Probably more #2 than #1, as we have definitely been busy.

Lately, life has been all about the 4th of July. That’s right. It is just passed the middle of June and not only have we thought about Independence Day, but we have celebrated it. Twice.

Since Ramadan falls pretty early this year (tomorrow is the first day and it goes until mid-July), embassies in Muslim countries have to work our holiday around the fast. A big party just isn’t much of a party when your guests aren’t eating or drinking. So, rather than throw a drink-free, food-free party close to the actual 4th of July, Kuala Lumpur opts to do it ahead of time. We had a huge event at the Marriott Hotel in KL last Tuesday night and then a smaller, more intimate event in Penang just a few days ago.

For the KL event, I was assigned to be on the decorations committee, which meant many meetings ahead of time, but then a lot of supervisory work on the day of the event. While it took a bit of coaxing to get the hotel to bring our vision to life, in the end the red, white and blue bonanza that is Independence Day looked great! There was tons of food (most of which I didn’t eat, as I’m just weird about food other people make), a great band and lots of patriotic pizazz. The evening of the event, I didn’t get to see the actual ceremony with the presentation of the colors or the ambassador’s speech, as I was on check-in duty at the front door all evening, but judging from the smiles on the guests as they headed home, it was definitely a success.

This is the first year KL has done a second event, this one in Penang. (I think the Ross family brings the second 4th of July event with us. When we were in Chengdu, the first year we were there was the first year they had held a second event as well. Maybe we just look like party-planning folk!) Penang is a great island off the northwest coast of Malaysia. It has an amazing art scene and a totally different vibe from Kuala Lumpur. (Click here to read my post about when I went there on vacation last fall.) The party there was smaller, but maybe better. Without hundreds and hundreds of guests, it was easier to actually spend time chatting with folks and the whole thing just felt a little more relaxed. Once again, I missed the color guard and remarks, as I was checking people in at the front desk (somehow that ended up being my gig all-around this year!), but I did get a chance to wander through later in the evening and it was great! Again, red, white and blue ruled the night, with numerous flags flying. It’s funny that for a bunch of people who have chosen to live mostly outside the US, you probably won’t find a more patriotic group. Foreign Service officers took their jobs to do just that- to serve their country and they are mighty proud of it!

So now, it is just mid-June and I’ve already celebrated the 4th of July twice. Looking at the calendar, I’ve got two more celebrations to go: one with the embassy community on the afternoon of the day I fly out for the US and then the *real* one on July 4 when I am home in Idaho. I hear that one is going to entail homemade ice cream and sparklers, so not a bad way to round out the quad-fecta (it’s like a trifecta, but with four!) of Independence Day parties.
Happy birthday, America (X4)!!

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Wordless Wednesday: 4th of July in June- Penang Edition


Photo credit: US Embassy Kuala Lumpur Facebook page

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Wordless Wednesday: Posin’ with Putin

Russia day

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Wordless Wednesday: KL to Singapore = 1 Plane Length

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I’d Love To See As Movies/TV Shows

Top Ten Books I’d Love To See As Movies/TV Shows

(Brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish)


This was not an easy list for me to come up with this week because I almost never go see movies made from books because I hate the way they change the pictures in my head and when I do see a book-to-movie adaptation, I am nearly always disappointed. Getting to ten was pretty difficult, but these are the book-to-movie adaptations I would pay to go see! (Since I live in Malaysia, movies are about $5USD, so a much smaller investment than when I am Stateside. That might make a difference too!)

California by Edan Lepucki-  With a near-future setting, this post-apocalyptic books set outside Los Angeles could easily make a great movie. The plot is strong, the characters are interesting and the dilemmas they face would force viewers to think about what they would do in a world where everything they know has been taken away. It wouldn’t quite be a summer blockbuster, as there aren’t enough chase scenes or firefights, but there is definitely intrigue and mystery.

Compound by S.A. Bodeen- This is one of my favorite YA books! A wealthy Seattle man creates a bomb shelter meant to last for years. On one horrible night, his family takes refuge in the shelter, but not everyone makes it and those who do are forced to live knowing their family members were left above ground. During their years in the shelter, the family faces many struggles, but as they grow older, the kids start to question what they are doing in the shelter and what remains outside. No longer content with just what they have been told, questions lead to more questions and soon many secrets start to unravel.

Lock In by John Scalzi- Another near-future setting book, but this one with the drama and explosions needed for a summer blockbuster! This book looks at a society in which some people are “locked in” their bodies, able to think clearly, but not control their physical beings. This is remedied by a technology that allows the brain to transfer thoughts to a robot-like “body,” allowing those who are locked in to be a part of society. But, complications arise with the new technology. The protagonist is a police officer who is a victim of the locked in syndrome and must straddle the worlds of those like himself and those who have never had to deal with the difficulties of being locked in their bodies. The book is labeled as #1, which means there are more to come which is always something movie studios are looking for.

Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – This one was the only easy one on the list. Since I read this when it came out, I’ve wanted someone to make it into a movie, but I want it to be artsy. I want the movie to be in black and white, which just certain pops of red throughout. Done well, this could be an amazing movie- visually stunning!

Sex on the Moon: The Amazing Story Behind the Most Audacious Heist in History  by Ben Mezrich I loved this book when I read it a few years ago and not just because the protagonist shares a name with my husband. Thad decides he is going to give his girlfriend a piece of the moon, but to do so requires him to break in to NASA archives to get at the precious rock. The planning and preparation that go in to the heist are amazing, but the best part of the story is just how crazy it is. This real-life heist could make for a great Hollywood film.

The BFG by Roald Dahl- This one IS coming out as a movie and one that I would love to go see with my nieces and nephews the next time I am home. It is scheduled for release in 2016. It will be an animated version, which I would much prefer a live-action movie, so I’d like to leave this on the list for books that still need to be made into movies. I want this one done with real people!

The Martian by Andy Weir- It is coming out as a movie this summer. I can’t wait to go see it!

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins GilmanThis classic story would make for a fantastic movie. A woman who is forced to “rest,” slowly loses her mind. The social commentary on feminism and mental illness could be quite powerful and while the original story is short, there is definitely room to expand it into movie-length.

Trash by Andy Mulligan- This is another great YA novel. One thing I love about it is that it breaks away from the currently popular trends in YA literature and takes a realistic look at poverty in other nations. This book is a powerful reminder of how lucky many students are and how hard some have to struggle just to survive on a day to day basis.

Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey – I found this series a couple of years ago and just flew through the books. This is another future-set book, although much farther future than a few others on this list. Humanity now lives in enormous silos, where everyone is assigned specific jobs and no one can go outside, where the world is poisonous. I always love a post-apocalyptic book and this entire series would work well for multiple movies. (I have to say, the first book was my favorite and would make for the best movie.)

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Wordless Wednesday: Congratulations MHS Class of 2015


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