Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books on My Fall TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books on My Fall TBR List

(Brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish)


I’ve been overwhelmed with the lists of fall publications I’ve seen lately, giving me a never-ending TBR list for this fall. The problem is, I don’t have a lot of free time for pleasure reading until after the holidays when I will have finished my thesis and graduated from my literature and writing program. (Fingers crossed!) Until then, the TBR list will continue to grow in and January I may have to hide away for a few weeks and do nothing but get caught up!!

(I do have a couple of “cheat” books on my list- those that I have been looking forward to that I’ve been able to read in the last couple of weeks. September counts as fall, right?)

Best Boy by Eli Gottlieb- Another book title I’ve seen over and over on lists of the best books of the fall and of the year, so this is definitely one I want to check out…maybe sooner than later…

Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg- This one was just published a few weeks ago, but I’ve already seen in on several “best of the year” lists, so it is definitely one that I need to look into as soon as I get a chance.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon- This is my other “cheat” book on this week’s list. It’s a YA novel that came out earlier in the month and has not only gotten great reviews online, but was recommended by a fellow blogger and book lover (check her out at Erratic Project Junkie), so I knew I had to pick it up ASAP. I’ve since read it and recommended it to several other people. Great book for teens and adults alike!

Fate and Furies by Lauren Groff- Another book making waves on the literary lists, both best seller and reviews. I can’t wait to get my hands on this one, although I have a feeling this might be one of the ones that has to wait until after the new year.

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson- A witty blogger making good on her writing skills? Publication and a payday? Who isn’t rooting for this woman?!? This one doesn’t come out until next week, but I am hoping it shows up on my e-library list ASAP!

Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell- Vowell is one of my favorite narrative non-fiction writers and one of those authors whose works I buy automatically when they come out. I don’t even need to read the blurb or have any idea the subject. I will buy what she writes. Her new ones doesn’t come out until October, but I’ve already got it on my Amazon list, ready to purchase.

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari- I’m not sure what to think about this one, based on the reviews, but I love Aziz. Anytime a new comedy special by him pops up on Netflix, I stop what I am doing and watch the entire thing. I think he is hilarious, so his take on modern dating will hopefully be as entertaining.

Purity by Jonathon Franzen- I love Franzen’s works. I love that they make me slow down and take in each character and scene. They aren’t always easy reads, definitely not for the beach, but he’s a fantastic writer and I look forward to each new release. For sure this one is going to have to wait until the thesis is turned in!

The Tao of Travel by Paul Theroux- This is one of those “cheat” books. I’ve been reading it as I work on my thesis and I am loving all the pieces and parts from great contemporary travel literature. I’ve had this on my ereader, but am sorely tempted to get a paperback copy ASAP.

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling- If you have read some of my other TTT lists, you will know that I adored Kaling’s first book and have been looking forward to her second. This is another “cheat.” The book came out on Tuesday. I was home with the flu on Tuesday. I bought it and read it on Tuesday.

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A Different Kind of Girls’ Getaway

When I hear someone say they are headed off for a girls’ weekend, my mind instantly jumps to images of women wearing fluffy white robes with mud facial masks spread across their faces and cucumbers over their eyes. Or maybe the still photo in my mind is of a line of women sitting in large massage chairs with their feet in tubs of hot water, prepping for the Barbie pink mani/pedis headed their way. If not those images, then one of well-dressed ladies enjoying a nice white tablecloth dinner on the patio of a ritzy restaurant, glasses of red wine in their hands and pates of tapas on the table. The problem with each of these pictures is that my mind can’t really place me in them anywhere!

So, what’s a girls’ weekend to look like when I’m not willing to spend my entire paycheck on fluff and frill? Picture the exact opposite of all of the things above. Instead of billowy bathrobes, imagine sweat-soaked tank tops. Instead of massage chairs and pedicures, imagine long boats and millipedes. Instead of expensive alcohol and pristine table settings, image bags of melted trail mix and bottle after bottle of potable water.

Now those are the building blocks of a fantastic weekend getaway.

I first saw photos of the Malaysian national park at Taman Negara almost a year ago and have wanted to make the three hour trip north, but it seems like weekends are quickly overtaken with school requirements and work obligations. A few weeks ago, sitting at an outdoor steak restaurant (corrugated metal roof, folding tables, plastic chairs and the best Australian beef in town!), the idea was floated and we quickly had five ladies signed on for Labor Day weekend. No froof and fluff for us. We were off to the jungle for a weekend of hiking, river swimming and insect inspecting.

The most relaxing part of the weekend was the longboat ride up the river. Forty-five minutes of peace (minus the outboard motor), complimented by kingfishers sailing by, monkeys catching fish on the shore and one lazily swimming monitor lizard. Once we reached our upriver destination, it was a short twenty-minute hike to a place where the rocks create a natural whirlpool tub, complete with a massaging waterfall. (Maybe our girls’ weekend had a bit of spa-day included after all!) Since all things nature-y freak me out a bit (ironic, no?), I did spaz out a bit each time a leaf wrapped itself around my ankle, sure that it was one of the lecherous leaches we had been duly warned about before leaving Kuala Lumpur. Soon, our secluded swimming hole was overrun by late-arriving tourists (kudos to our guide for always getting us to destinations ahead of the masses, so we were able to spend a chunk of time unmolested by the other jungle trekkers), so we threw back on our wet shirts and shorts (from the sweaty hike) over our wet swimsuits (from the river) and made our way back down the hillside for another idle ride on the river.

The most unexpected event of the weekend was the night trek. I saw this outing on the original itinerary and didn’t think a whole lot of it, but quickly learned that it would have been more appropriately labeled the “Let’s Marvin Gay and Get It On” insect tour. That’s right. I don’t know if the rainforest is that (re)productive every night, but last Saturday there was some serious breeding going on. We were witnesses to everything from stick bug sex (which then led to a long conversation and later, several Googled articles, about what exactly a pregnant stick bug would look like) to leaf bugs and jungle-sized grasshoppers doing it. (Not together. That would make a strange set of baby bugs.) This entire walk took place in the pouring rain, which was no deterrent for the tiny tropical nightlife, but did teach me that my China-made/China-purchased raincoat had absolutely no waterproof abilities. I was as wet as anything out there that evening.

Our ladies’ weekend wrapped up with the biggest undertaking of the trip- a two kilometer trek up the mountain, through the rainforest, to a beautiful viewpoint at the top of the ridge. As with many (most?) Southeast Asia treks, this one was comprised mainly of stairs. So many stairs. And, keeping in mind that I am pretty wimpy when it comes to physical activities, I did my best to not fall behind the pack. (Considering the five month pregnant woman was leading the line most of the time, I had some strong-stamina shoes to fill!)

Up the stairs.

Up the stairs.

Up the stairs. Every time I thought I saw an end, we’d round a bend and I’d look up to see another endless set.

Essentially, I hate hiking. I always have. I love the view from the top and I am enamored with the possibility of seeing animals on the way, so I lace up my shoes and head out time and time again, but in the moment, I hate it. As much as I dislike hiking, I fear heights. So, what better way to end the weekend than with a canopy walk on the way down the mountain? (I’m apparently a sucker for self-inflicted torture.) The thing with canopy walks is that I’m terrified of being 150 feet in the air on a tiny walkway with nothing between me and the ground but a layer or two of tropical leaves, but I can’t walk away from the potential awesomeness that exists up there. So, once again, I tightened my backpack and struck out across the dangling bridges, keeping my eyes straight ahead and trying to steady my knocking knees. As I climbed the first set of stairs to the initial bridge, I asked the worker how many bridges there were in the course. He promised three. At the end of that first one, I posed the same question to a worker stationed on the platform. His English was less polished, but he seemed to understand me and answered, “Five.” Hmmm… Those two answers didn’t match up, but the thing with canopy walks is that once you start, you are in it for good. There are no emergency egress routes. There are no escape hatches partway through. The only way out is forward. Now thinking I had four more lengths to go, I headed out, with a mind only to getting through.

Three more to go.

Two more to go.

One more to go.

But wait. That was the fifth one and I was still fifty meters in the air. Someone did not tell me the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. As it turns out, there were eight sections in total, one a swinging staircase that had even the most height-loving of our group regretting their canopy walk decision.

While it wasn’t filled with cucumber eye masks or glittery nail polish or hard-to-pronounce French menus, this last weekend was a better kind of ladies’ getaway. As we sweated through our tank tops on the jungle trails, hummed along to Charlie Puth, commiserated over drenched clothes, and generally enjoyed clowning around in the rainforest together. If girls’ getaway weekends are about bonding, this one was definitely a success!

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Photo credits to Jaclyn, Audrey and Puma

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten (or Seven, as the Case May Be) Characters You Just Didn’t Click With

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten (or Seven, as the Case May Be) Characters You Just Didn’t Click With

toptentuesday(Brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish)

This week’s topic is an interesting one, as I tend to easily forget books/characters that annoy me. With no investment in them, as soon as I turn the last page, I’ve moved on, so coming up with ten that I just didn’t love required me to go back to my GoodReads list and look through the books I’ve read over the last few years. I also realized that sometimes I have a hard time differentiating between plots/writing I don’t like and individual characters I don’t like. For all of these reasons, this week’s Top Ten Tuesday didn’t draw me in the way some topics do, so I never did come up with ten. This week is a Top Seven Tuesday instead!

So, who did I really not care for?

Here they are, in alphabetical order.

Dr. Linda Burfield Hazzard from Starvation Heights: A True Story of Murder and Malice in the Woods of the Pacific Northwest by Gregg Olsen – As a main player in a non-fiction work, Dr. Hazzard is a character that no reader is going to “click” with as she was a terrible person, in real life! There is no writing her off as a mere character, as she lived and practiced her crazy “starvation” method of treatment in the Pacific Northwest for years, scamming rich people out of their money, preying on those who had both wealth and ill health.

Husband from The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman- As far as I can remember, the husband in this story does not have a name, but he doesn’t need one to be memorable as a terrible person. Rather than dealing with his wife’s declining mental health (possible post-partum depression), he and the local doctor lock her away in an upstairs room, not allowing her books or other forms of entertainment. “Rest” is their only prescription and the husband stands by and watches as his wife descends into madness.

Job from Mr. and Mrs. Doctor by Julie Iromuanya– I really wanted to love this book. The foundation is strong, about the uphill battle many immigrants face when uprooting their lives to start over in America, but I couldn’t get past Job and his selfishness throughout. My sympathy for him quickly waned as I became frustrated with his choices and the fact that he let his ego get in the way of making a better life for himself and his wife.

Raf from Glow by Ned Beauman- Overall, I struggled with this book. I felt like I had taken some illegal substance as I tried to follow the plot and Raf’s character in no way helped clear up my confusion!  Manic is a good word for both Raf and this entire novel.

Rex Yanakakisb from The Compound by S.A. Bodeen- Unlike several of the other choices on this list, I loved this book, just couldn’t stand one of the main characters. This one was of my favorite read-aloud books to share with my students when I was teaching middle school, as the plot grabs them instantly and holds their attention until the very last page. But, with that said, the father of the story, Rex, is a terrible person who puts his family in an unthinkable position, all for his own selfish reasons. The psychological damage he causes his kids is enormous and yet in his mind, it is all worth the pain as long as he gets his way in the end.

Serena from Serena by Ron Rash-  Another horrible human being. Serena has no redeeming qualities and drags those around her into her ethical black hole. (At least her husband, who is equally lacking in morals, has moments of guilt and regret.) Serena will personally kill or command others to kill anyone who stands in the way of her logging empire. Without giving major spoiler alerts, just know that there is no one exempt from her wrath.

Susan from Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman- Horrible person! I almost didn’t finish this travelogue because I found the narrator so awful. You would think if you were given the chance to write about yourself, you’d attempt to shine a light on your positive aspects, but Gilman just comes across as selfish and spoiled, easily fulfilling the role of “ugly American” in her China travels. This book should be a perfect fit with my thesis on contemporary travel writing, but there is no way I can face months and months of delving into it again and again, so it’s cut from the list! This is probably the character that I feel the strongest about from this entire list, probably in part because she is an actual person who behaved so terribly.

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