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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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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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books That Would Be On My Syllabus If I Taught (When I Teach) Contemporary Travel Literature 101

Top Ten Tuesday:

Top Ten Books That Would Be On My Syllabus If I Taught (When I Teach) Contemporary Travel Literature 101

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

What a fitting topic as I head back to school in less than a week! As I am looking down the long (and yet, in some ways, not long enough) tunnel of writing my thesis on contemporary travel literature this term, thoughts of what I would teach in a course like this are rattling around my brain. The genre is huge and there are so many directions a professor could take, but since this imaginary course is a “101,” I think overview is the way to go!

I had to whittle this list down two different times, as I couldn’t decide which books would be best for an overview course. There are so many great options and routes that could be taken. If I actually taught this course, I may end up doing a handful of assigned books and then requiring students to choose one or two individually and then present them to the class. How else do you cover so much material?!

(As always, my list is presented in alphabetical order. )

Bird of Life, Bird of Death by Johnathan Evan Maslow- This is one of the oldest books on the list, written in the mid- 80s, but I like the way Maslow mixes ecology, politics, history and mythology into his travelogue of his search for the quetzal bird in Guatemala. While some authors are very inward focused in their journeys, Maslow takes a different view, leaving himself out of the equation and focusing on the trip and its background.

Blood River by Tim Butcher– Also a great travelogue that focuses on history and culture, Butcher’s book includes more personal tales and takes a decidedly more inward-view of his travels. We learn as much about the author as we do the Congo in this example of contemporary travel writing.

Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon – A great look at travel in the United States. Often, when we think of travel, we think of far-flung locales, but Heat-Moon has created a beautiful reflection of “off the beaten path” USA.

Chasing the Sea by Tom Bissell – Returned Peace Corps volunteers are a staple of the travel writing genre and any course on the topic has to have at least one. (While Bissell did not complete his service in Uzbekistan, his seven months in-country were the basis for why he returned and wrote his book.) While the stated topic of the book is the disappearing Aral Sea, the bulk of this travelogue is more about Bissell returning to the place where he previously struggled, tying up loose ends and making connections he missed out on the first time around.

Looking for Lovedu by Ann Jones- Another book based in Africa, but this time from a woman’s point of view and with an extremely different goal. While Butcher is retracing the steps of a famed journalist, Jones is searching for a matriarchal tribe based in southern Africa, but decides to traverse the continent from north to south on the way there.

The Cambridge Introduction to Travel Writing by Tim Youngs- Since we are talking about a college course, having some theory and background in travel writing is key to fully understanding the genre. Rather than just reading travelogue after travelogue, a discussion of the history and literary past is key. Youngs book is a perfect introduction to the genre.

The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux- No course in contemporary travel writing would be complete without a taste of Theroux!

Tourists with Typewriters by Patrick Holland –Another book of theory on the travel writing genre, Holland takes a critical look at where the genre has been and what the future holds for it. He brings up important topics such as imperialism and privilege within the genre- topics that are a necessary part of any academic discussion of contemporary travel writing.

Travel Writing by Carl Thompson- This would be the *first* book my students read as a part of a course on travel writing. Thompson breaks down where the genre has been and the basic literary theory that makes up the foundations of academic study, but does so in a very digestible way. I would consider this a must-read for an academic course on this genre.

Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier- Frazier’s travelogue is long, but worth the read for students, not only because his book deals with a different region than all of the others on the list, but because he does a great job of tying together the personal narrative/memoir aspect of the genre with historical and political background of the places he travels.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Of Your Auto-buy Authors

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Of Your Auto-buy Authors

toptentuesday(Sponsored by The Broke and the Bookish)

Yes, there are authors whose books I buy, sight-unseen. I don’t need to read a review or cover blurb. If these folks have books coming out, they are usually preordered and ready to be shipped/downloaded as soon as they become available. It’s quite an eclectic list, from narrative non-fiction works to fluffy reads for my many airplane trips. I’ve put them in alphabetical order because it is easier than trying to rank each one, but I would definitely put Erik Larson at the very top of the list if I were to number them 1-10.

Bill Bryson- I read first read A Walk in the Woods on a road trip. Thad drove. I read. We laughed out loud at many of the predicaments he found himself in and we were grateful for semi-soft hotel beds each night as we followed his tale of woe and discomfort on the Eastern Seaboard. I’m a little dismayed to hear about a movie coming out, but I usually am when it comes to book-to-movie adaptations. After A Walk in the Woods I was hooked and have read nearly everything else he has published. Always entertaining!

David Sedaris- I love Sedaris’ outlook on the world. At times it can be a bit harsh (I remember a particular short story about China that I thought was a little rougher on the country than it needed to be), but overall his slightly bitter, slightly sardonic wit keeps me coming back for more.

Erik Larson – This is my number one when it comes to auto-buy authors. Larson is the author who drew me in to narrative non-fiction nearly a decade ago and I’ve been hooked ever since. I started with Devil in the White City and then proceeded to read through his entire library. While I didn’t absolutely love each one (I found Thunderstruck quite baffling), I do love his style of weaving several tales into a single story. I can’t wait for his next publication!

Jodi Piccoult- This is my fluff-pick on the list. When Piccoult first started publishing, I loved her works and bought each one the day it came out, but then after a few, the twist at the end became predictable, so I quit reading them for a while. I had to walk away. But, in the last year or so, I’ve jumped back on the bandwagon, caught up on the missed novels and am ready for a new one. These books have ended up being the perfect reads for long trans-Pacific flights from the US to Malaysia.

John Green- He’s definitely the go-to author in the YA world right now, but he’s more than a flash in the pan. He is able to mix tough topics with an inviting writing style that draws in not only the teenage crowd, but also those of us who have a few more candles on our cakes. Again, I haven’t *loved* every single one of his books, but that doesn’t stop me from picking up his latest publication as soon as I can get my hands on it.

Khaled Hosseini – Hosseini comes close to the top of my must-purchase author list. I have loved all three of his novels and will gladly pay hardback prices to get my hands on his next book as soon as it comes out. His characters and tales are haunting, sticking with me long after the last page has been turned. Please tell me there is something from him on the horizon!

Liane Moriarty- This is my other go-to for plane reading.  Moriarty’s thrillers of mystery and intrigue are the perfect fit for a fourteen-hour flight. They don’t take huge amounts of concentration, so when the dude next to me is snoring his way through Avengers, I can still enjoy flipping through the pages of her latest twisting plot.

Mindy Kaling- Does it count if she only has one book out? I don’t care. I loved her first and am hoping she follows it up with another. Soon.

Sarah Vowell – Another great narrative non-fiction author, Vowel is a master storyteller, drawing me in to topics I wouldn’t normally imagine myself interested in. I love that about her. Ask me if I have a deep desire to read about presidential assassinations and  I will probably tell you no, but then give me the first few pages of Assassination Vacation and I am hooked.

Wally Lamb- You need time if you’ve got a Wally Lamb book on your hands. They are never quick nor easy reads, but they are powerful and thought-provoking. Lamb’s ability to tackle tough topics in a sensitive manner is admirable and while his books often portray situations that are painful to contemplate, they are also a part of the world in which we live. He doesn’t shy away from difficult conversations and I will always buy whatever he puts out next.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Recently Acquired Books

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Recently Acquired Books

(Brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish)


I’m very behind on everything blog-related these days. Blame summer vacation and Secretary of State John Kerry. And a bit of my own laziness.  But, with my trip home in the rearview mirror, Kerry being wheels-up and the start of a new (and my last!) term staring me down, it is time to get back in the writing saddle. I missed a handful of Top Ten Tuesdays while I was on my mini-hiatus, so as I get back in the flow, I’ve decided to start with a topic that came up in July that I liked, rather than jumping in on this week’s theme.  I’ve gone through quite a few books this summer, so without further ado, I’m back to blogging with my ten most recently acquired books!

(In order of acquisition)

Make Your Home Among Strangers by Jennine Capó Crucet- Purchased- e-book.  I just started this one on Sunday, but have to admit to a bit of annoyance with Amazon. The e-book price was actually $.90 more expensive than the hardcover edition. How does that make any sense?

Penguins with People Problems by Mary Laura Philpott– Borrowed from Boise Public Library- e-book. Dorky and hilarious. This is my kind of humor.

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten- Borrowed from Boise Public Library- e-book. Great new YA novel about students coping with OCD.

Mr. and Mrs. Doctor by Julie Iromuanya- Borrowed from Boise Public Library- e-book. I’m very glad this was a borrow and not a purchase. I was less than impressed with it, although going into it I really wanted to like it. I wanted it to be like Americanah, but the characters just didn’t resonate in the same way.

Not Quite Paradise: An American Sojourn in Sri Lanka by Adele Barker- Purchased- hardback, used. Interesting look at Sri Lanka both before and after the tsunami, including a lot of history and political background.

The Miracle Girl by Andrew Roe- Borrowed from Boise Public Library- e-book. I loved the premises of this book, that a young girl whose body was destroyed in a car accident, is now a receptacle of miracles and healing. There is a lot of potential with this plot, but I was disappointed in the execution. I would have liked to delve into that spiritual mystery side more than the author did.

Destination Saigon by Walter Mason-  Purchased- paperback, used. Great travelogue of Mason’s time in Vietnam. Both entertaining and informative, this is a fun read for anyone headed to SE Asia.

Looking for Lovedu: Days and Nights in Africa by Ann Jones- Purchased- hardback, used. A literary travelogue of Jones’ trip from England to the Southern reaches of Africa. I must admit a bias to this book, as it will be one of the four that serve as the backbone of my master’s thesis this fall.

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen- Borrowed- Caldwell Public Library, hardback I picked up this YA novel when I was home for a few weeks of summer vacation. It was recommended to me by my niece, who even went to the library to pick me up a copy! This is a great YA novel about a young man dealing with the fallout of bullying and the terrible actions of his older brother.

Chasing the Sea: Lost Among the Ghosts of Empire in Central Asia by Tom Bissell- Purchased-paperback, used. Another travelogue. (My blog and life have been heavy on these for the last year.) This one follows a returned Peace Corps Volunteer who returns to the country of his service (which was cut short after just seven months). It is heavy on both a personal journey, as well as history and political background on Uzbekistan.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I’ve Read So Far In 2015

Top Ten Tuesday:  Top Ten Books I’ve Read So Far In 2015

(Brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish)

toptentuesdayI had to go back to my GoodReads page to come up with my top ten books of the year so far. At first I would worried I would only have travel narratives to share, but I realized I have actually squeezed in a few non-school related books in 2015. GoodReads tells me I’ve read 54 books so far this year, so it was hard to narrow down to just ten, but I did try to come up with a cross-section of genres and reading levels. As always, my list is presented in alphabetical order because it is hard enough to whittle my options down to ten, let alone to try to number them within those top picks!

Andrew’s Brain by E.L. Doctorow- (Fiction) The best word I can use to describe this novel is “strange” but it is strange in a good way. With an outside narrator giving a voice to Andrew’s thoughts and feelings, the reader gets a 3rd person perspective on a different person’s personal insights and thoughts. It is definitely odd and different, but worth the time!

Bird of Life, Bird of Death: A Political Ornithology of Guatemala by Jonathan Evan Maslow- (Non-fiction) Both a travelogue and a political examination of Guatemala, this book chronicles Maslow’s1983  journey through the war-torn country, in search of the mysterious and mystical quetzal bird.

Blood River: A Journey to Africa’s Broken Heart by Tim Butcher-(Non-fiction)   A fascinating travel narrative of Butcher’s trip through the Congo, following in the footsteps of past English explorers. Butcher relies heavily on the help of others to make this dangerous journey, along the way recounting the colonial and post-colonial history of the nation, examining how it was broken apart and why it has not been able to reestablish itself as a functional state. This book is a travelogue, history lesson and cultural manifest all in one.

Chasing the Sea: Lost Among the Ghosts of Empire in Central Asia by Tom Bissell­– (Non-fiction)    After quitting the Peace Corps just seven months into his two years of service, Tom Bissell goes home to the US to sort out some emotional issues and moves on with is life as a journalist. Soon, Uzbekistan calls though, and he returns to the country of his service to write about the ecological disaster surrounding the Aral Sea. This travelogue touches on the political history of Uzbekistan, the religious history, current events, and environmental issues, while also profiling a number of everyday Uzbekistan residents.

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson –(Non-fiction)    Always a fan of Larson, this is another well-written non-fiction narrative that weaves together multiple tales into a single story. I learned more about submarines from this book than I ever thought I could know, which may sound not that exciting, but Larson has a way of making obscure topics fascinating!

El Deafo by Cece Bell-(Graphic novel- YA fiction) I loved this graphic novel about what it is like to be different from everyone around you. The main character is deaf and must wear a large contraption to help her hear in school. The story explores how she learns to deal with not only the mechanics of such a machine, but how to function in a hearing world and how to navigate the world of friendships, which is never easy for anyone, but becomes more difficult as she changes schools.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng-(YA fiction) The best YA novel I’ve read this year. It appeals to adult readers as well as YA readers, with each reading it from a different viewpoint. As an adult, it was a good reminder about the pressure we put on kids and remembering that they have their own paths to forge in this life. I would recommend this for high school students, as well as anyone who is the parent of a high schooler.

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber-(Fiction) A beautiful tale of another world and the first interaction between humans and a new form of life. On a planet being terraformed by humans, they must find a way of living with the inhabitants of this new place, beings who are like nothing that had been imagined. Not only do they not look like humans, but their culture is baffling to the newcomers.  One man, willing to go live among them, beings to unravel the mysteries of their society, but with his ties to them comes a distancing of ties with the other humans.  

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro­i- (Fiction) Another beautiful novel about memories and how they influence our lives as we get older. This book has the feel of a fairy tale, with dragons and knights, a touch of mythology with a riverboat that one must be ferried upon, and an overall touching narrative about love and family, honor and duty.

The Little Red Pen by Janet Stevens, Susan Stevens Crummel– (Picture book- fiction) My niece Skyped me to read this picture book to me earlier this year and I loved it! It is a hilarious take on the tale of The Little Red Hen, but the part that was the best was the personalities of each office supply. I haven’t looked at my work desk the same since enjoying this one a few months ago.


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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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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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Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I Think Make Great Beach Reads

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I Think Make Great Beach Reads


(Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)

I suppose it is that time of year when one starts to think about fun, easy reads for the beach or other travels. It is hard for me to remember the change of seasons, as living in Malaysia means one long summer that will last two years. It is amazing how much a lack of seasonal change impacts my mental calendar. Often, I really don’t have any idea what month it is. October felt the same as February which feels the same as May. I know I am traveling to the States in July, which is less than six weeks away, but July feels like September which feels like January. It is all same-same.

But, since summer is rapidly approaching (It’s unofficially here, right? Memorial Day was yesterday, meaning it’s time to fire up the BBQs, break out the kayaks and pull out the fixings for s’mores.), which means it’s time think about great summer reads. In reality, my summer reading list will be dominated by school books, but I’ve got some great reads for those of you without homework.

(Presented in alphabetical order. Because of time restrictions, I pulled each summary directly off of GoodReads this week. Hopefully next week will be more original!)

Big Little Lies by Lorraine Moriarty- “Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:
Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her.?) Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay. New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all. Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.”

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan- “When American-born Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home and quality time with the man she hopes to marry. But Nick has failed to provide a few key details. One, that his childhood home looks like a palace. Two, that he grew up riding in more private planes than cars. Three, that he just happens to be the country’s most eligible bachelor. On Nick’s arm, Rachel may as well have a target on her back the second she steps off the plane, and soon, her relaxed vacation turns into an obstacle course of old money, new money, nosy relatives, and scheming social climbers.”

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult – “For over a decade, Jenna Metcalf obsesses on her vanished mom Alice. Jenna searches online, rereads journals of the scientist who studied grief among elephants. Two unlikely allies are Serenity Jones, psychic for missing people who doubts her gift, and Virgil Stanhope, jaded PI who originally investigated cases of Alice and her colleague. Hard questions and answers.”

Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost- “At the age of twenty-six, Maarten Troost–who had been pushing the snooze button on the alarm clock of life by racking up useless graduate degrees and muddling through a series of temp jobs–decided to pack up his flip-flops and move to Tarawa, a remote South Pacific island in the Republic of Kiribati. He was restless and lacked direction, and the idea of dropping everything and moving to the ends of the earth was irresistibly romantic. He should have known better.”

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins- “Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.” And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?”

The Hurricane Sisters by Dorothea Benton Frank- “Best friends since the first day of classes at The College of Charleston, Ashley Anne Waters and Mary Beth Smythe, now 23 years old, live in Ashley’s parents’ beach house rent-free. Ashley is a gallery assistant who aspires to become an artist. Mary Beth, a gifted cook from Tennessee, works for a caterer while searching for a good teaching job. Though they both know what they want out of life, their parents barely support their dreams and worry for their precarious finances. While they don’t make much money, the girls do have a million-dollar view that comes with living in that fabulous house on Sullivans Island. Sipping wine on the porch and watching a blood-red sunset, Ashley and Mary Beth hit on a brilliant and lucrative idea. With a new coat of paint, the first floor would be a perfect place for soirees for paying guests. Knowing her parents would be horrified at the idea of common strangers trampling through their home, Ashley won’t tell them. Besides, Clayton and Liz Waters have enough problems of their own. A successful investment banker, Clayton is too often found in his pied-a-terre in Manhattan–which Liz is sure he uses to have an affair. And when will Ashley and her brother, Ivy, a gay man with a very wealthy and very Asian life partner–ever grow up? Then there is Maisie, Liz’s mother, the family matriarch who has just turned eighty, who never lets Liz forget that she’s not her perfect dead sister, Juliet. For these Lowcountry women, an emotional hurricane is about to blow through their lives, wreaking havoc that will test them in unexpected ways, ultimately transforming the bonds they share.”

The Husband’s Secret by Lorraine Moriarty- “Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive. . . .
Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.”

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion- “Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver. Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don’s Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper. The Rosie Project is a moving and hilarious novel for anyone who has ever tenaciously gone after life or love in the face of overwhelming challenges.”

Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner- “The lives of four very different women intertwine in unexpected ways in this new novel by bestselling author Jennifer Weiner (In Her Shoes; Best Friends Forever). Each woman has a problem: Princeton senior Jules Wildgren needs money to help her dad cure his addiction; Pennsylvania housewife Annie Barrow is gasping to stay financially afloat; India Bishop yearns to have a child, an urge that her stepdaughter Bettina can only regard with deeply skepticism until she finds herself in a most unexpected situation.”

Us by David Nicholls – “’I was looking forward to us growing old together. Me and you, growing old and dying together.’ ‘Douglas, who in their right mind would look forward to that?’ Douglas Petersen understands his wife’s need to ‘rediscover herself’ now that their son is leaving home. He just thought they’d be doing their rediscovering together. So when Connie announces that she will be leaving, too, he resolves to make their last family holiday into the trip of a lifetime: one that will draw the three of them closer, and win the respect of his son. One that will make Connie fall in love with him all over again. The hotels are booked, the tickets bought, the itinerary planned and printed. What could possibly go wrong?”


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Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Favorite Poems

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Favorite Poems


This week, the gals over at The Broke and the Bookish have left the Top Ten Tuesday prompt wide open. So good…and so bad! While it will be awesome to hop around the blogs and see what others came up with (many which I will lament not having thought of myself) it did mean that I had to sort through a million possibilities in my own head before even beginning this week’s list. Instead of sticking with a typical list of books this week, I’m going to veer off into a different literary genre for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday: poems! I, by no means, consider myself well-read when it comes to poetry, but I do have a core collection of favorites, which are the basis for this week’s entry. (Presented in alphabetic order, just to save me the stress of figuring out which is my all-time favorite, as that distinction is always in flux.)

“A Dream Deferred” by Langston Hughes– It might not be long, but it packs a punch in its few lines. Our dreams are what make us who we are; dreams are what push us to get out of bed each day and become better. But, if those dreams are stymied over and over, whether by an individual or a government, the power of them is going to have to be released (unleashed?) somehow. What will that explosion look like?

“Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe- This one easily made my top ten and always will. I love the pull between the fairy tale setting by the sea and the macabre final stanza. A love existed that was so precious and pure that heavenly angels crushed it in jealously. That’s some pretty great Gothic imagery.

“I, Too, Sing America” by Langston Hughes- Somewhere along the lines in school I had to memorize this one for an English class and it has been stuck in my brain ever since. I love the strength and conviction in it.

“If” by Rudyard Kipling- Choices and attitude are the underlying themes of this poem, both of which I believe we must actively own. By setting up the dichotomies throughout, Kipling reminds us that we ultimately have control over our actions/reactions. I can choose my behavior and attitude towards a situation, even when I can’t control the details of the event. Not a bad life lesson…

“Oh Captain! My Captain!” by Walt Whitman-­ This is one of those poems that I can’t read without a swelling of patriotism/pride in my heart. What a beautiful tribute to a rising nation and a fallen leader.

“Oranges” by Gary Soto- I love Gary Soto’s poems and they were always a favorite to teach to middle school students. This one is such a perfect glimpse into early love, the stress of impressing a young girl with just the few coins in a boy’s pocket. It is tender and sweet, but doesn’t discount the nerves as a boy makes his first moves into the world of dating.

“Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou- There is little that needs to be said about this immense poem of strength and resilience. In a world where women (and men) are judged constantly on superficial traits, Angelou reminds us all that we are so much more than that. She reminds us that our power comes from within and that we should not let negativity get us down. Push to be better; push to be phenomenal.

“Warning” by Jenny Joseph- Love this poem! Again, it was a favorite to teach with my middle school students, because after we read it, I would assign everyone to rewrite it in their own style, “warning” us of something we need to know about their future. It was awesome watching kids write poems warning us about when they were famous baseball players, when they were the school principal or when they finally received their driver’s license. The creativity that this poem sparked in my students always made me smile!.

“We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks­- Lacking the pretentiousness often associated with poetry, this short work just puts a teenager frame of mind into a new genre, succinctly displaying both the bravado and audacity of teens as they face the world.

“Where the Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein- Of course, a poetry list on this blog would not be complete without an eponymous entry! And, I love that by putting the list in alphabetical order, this fell at the end, as a great wrap-up to the poetry week. Living abroad, moving every few years and traveling as much as possible, I am always in search of the end of the sidewalk, not because I want the journey to end, but because I want to see what is there and then I want to see what is on the other side of “the end.” New people, new places, new ideas. You never know where the sidewalk will lead or what you will find, but it is always worth having a look!


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