Take Me to the Beach

We had the best week in Cape San Blas with all my in-laws!

We drove down to Alabama on a Thursday and Friday, and caravaned down to the forgotten coast on Saturday.

William and I enjoyed our morning walks along the trail as a refreshing way to start the day, before lounging around on the sand and in the water.

Monday we were on the beach all day, after William and I did some work in the morning. The weather was beautiful, even if the water was a but rough from the rain the previous couple days and nights.

We went deep sea fishing on Tuesday and caught some beautiful red snapper, king mackerel and spanish mackerel. William caught our big 26 pound snapper.

Wednesday was another perfect beach day with calm, gentle water. Our neighbors all had fun shooting fireworks and we enjoyed the show from our porch.

Thursday was another beautiful day, with a mid-day rain storm that brought us inside for a bit. We’ve had a lot of rain this week, but it’s hasn’t taken anything away from being down here.

Friday was our last day at the beach, and William and im already counting down until the next time we can go, which probably won’t be until 2020!

Saturday we drove back to Alabama and we enjoyed a relaxing Sunday before heading back north Monday morning.

While on this trip, including our drives, I read five books and really enjoyed that time to dive into some books from my lengthy to-read list! Is there anything quite as relaxing as beach reading?

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June Reading

In July I’m heading to the beach for a week and hoping to average a book or two a day while soaking in the sun, sand and sea with all of my in-laws.

My Year In Oxford by …

⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I found the characters relatable, endearing, and believable. I have always been fascinated by Oxford, so the setting was wonderful. I enjoyed the literary discussions, the friendships, the family dynamics, and the politics.

Dealing with what it means to live life on your own terms, to follow your dreams, to love, to die… they’re heavy topics that we’re dealt with beautifully. This book was a gem, and one I know I’ll be consistently recommending to others.

The Marriage Date by Jasmine Guillory

⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

This story was warm, captivating, and just plain FUN! I loved watching Alexa and Drew fall in love, learn to communicate, and the weekends spent traveling back and forth to each other reminded me of my own dating relationship with my now husband, until I moved to be in the same town as him. These characters were lovable and the story was such an enjoyable read that I would heartily recommend this book to all my friends! I think this would make such a fun movie, and a fantastic summer afternoon read!

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison

⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

I loved this book and will definitely add to any future children’s library we have. The illustrations are beautiful and I loved learning a little bit about women I either already respect and admire, or hearing about women for the first time who were pioneers in their own right.

I enjoyed that they made these leaders approachable to children in a way to get them interested in who they were as women and how they acheived their success in a way that is aspirational and inspiring.

I hope this book cultivates a new generation of bold little leaders and continues to impact others in a BIG way.

George by Alex Gino

⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

I loved this sweet story of self-acceptance, friendship, and family. It can be hard to let your deepest self through, especially in adolescence, and this story about a girl who was born in a boy’s body is a beautiful way to help people understand how it feels to be transgender in a simple and relatable way.

I loved the friendship between George and Kelly, and the relationship George has with her brother. I liked the use of Charlotte’s Web to help George process and verbalize how she was feeling.

I just genuinely enjoyed this middle grade book and think it is a necessary read and introduction to a world that makes many people uncomfortable. I’m glad I was able to read it during pride month and I’m glad to have had access to it at my local library. Reading about characters and third stories, which are different than our own, is one of the best parts of reading to me. I encourage you to read this book and to learn more about how to be an ally to people like George.

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

/5

This book was such fun quick read, and very steamy. Unexpectedly so, so fair warning.

I loved the quirky and lovable characters. I loved the Pretty Woman-esque story line. I loved that the book was more character driven than plot driven. I enjoyed the way Stella’s Asperger’s didn’t define her or the story, but was just one layer of who she was. It approached her interaction with the world in a real, human way that I feel authors sometimes miss when creating a character who deviates from the perceived norm. I found Michael so sweet and adored his family. I just really enjoyed this story and am already looking forward to the author’s next book!

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

⭐⭐⭐/5

I’ve been hearing people rave about Celeste Ng for years, so I had to grab her debut novel when I was shelling it at the library. I’m not sure how I feel about it to be completely honest. I really enjoyed her writing style and character development, and loved reading about an interracial family and the different ways each member processes their family and the outside world. However, some of the secrets each family member was hiding seemed too big to have never been discussed or revealed.

I will definitely be reading other books by this author, but am still processing my thoughts on her debut novel.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

I really enjoyed the audio book version of this one! It’s narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson himself, which makes me feel like I’m at a planetarium in the best way. I love listening to him teach me about space and physics and love how universal and approachable his style of teaching is. He is humorous and so entertaining in his explanation of the theories of the universe.

I truly enjoyed this and think you should listen to it too!

The Daughters by Joanna Philbin

⭐⭐/5

This was a cutesy YA read that was light and fun while addressing relationships through the lense of family, friends and crushes. The characters all go to a private school and are from well to do families, but the situations and responses didn’t feel authentic to a 14 year old. Maybe closer to how a 16 year old would respond? Though, certain responses from Lizzie were definitely age appropriate in her defiance of her mom. Overall this was just okay and utterly forgettable, which is unfortunate because the potential to be more was there.

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

#Abandoned

This book just didn’t click for me right now.

The Power by Naomi Alderman

⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

This book was horrifying, haunting, and yet utterly captivating; I couldn’t put it down because I needed to see what happened next. I really enjoy dystopian literature and this fits soundly in that genre in my opinion, and would make sense read alongside such English class standards as 1984, A Brave New World and The Handmaid’s Tale.

This book is a look at what could happen when the oppressed become the oppressor. A discussion of what justice means and what it should look like. A conversation about gender, feminism, what happens when ideas get taken to an extreme and how absolute power corrupts absolutely. It’s a look at the power of religion to be used as a tool of manipulation and twisted to suit the times.

It is complex, and in trying to convey so many large and lofty ideas, some plot holes exist, but the characters are flawed and compelling, and the overarching story so intense to keep you reading despite the holes.

I know I’ll be processing this one for awhile.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

What did you read this month? Anything I must add to my list?

TBB Asks

Will you go on a summer vacation this year?

We’re going to the beach with my in-laws and then a trip to Toronto later this summer.

Do nothing but relax or pack it all in vacation?

At the beach, definitely just relax. It’s the way my in-laws vacation and I love it!

Traveling in a city or a new country, I like to explore And experience as much as possible.

What month do you like to vacation?

Ideally, May or October. But July is perfect for the beach.

Cruise: yes or no?

I have never taken a cruise.

Favorite vacation tradition?

I just love that vacation takes you out of your daily distractions and brings you together with those you love to focus on each other and experience something new together as memories are made.

Most memorable vacation?

I’ve had so many special vacations over the years!

The summer before eighth grade my parents took us to Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. We went hiking to beautiful lakes in Glacier (my favorite national park!) And white water rafting in Yellowstone. It was amazing. Who knew that three years later the Air Force would move is to Montana and I’d fall so in love with the state that I’d Saturday for college and consider Montana my “home” state?

I loved visiting Sanibel Island the summer after ninth grade.

I loved our family trips to Disney for each of our fifth birthdays.

I loved going to Hawaii my senior year of high school and being in Pearl Harbor on the anniversary.

I loved my first beach trip with all my in-laws and love that it’s an annual trip for everyone.

Visiting the Puglia region of Italy and eating so much fresh seafood was an unforgettable experience. The Italian coast in a heat wave is HOT.

Visiting Berlin in the autumn was beautiful and made me feel so welcome and at home. I want to return to Germany and explore other places.

Toronto and Seattle have both been amazing vacation spots too; there is so much to do and enjoy in each city.

Growing up we would often visit Ocean City, NJ and I have such fond memories of the boardwalk and fresh salt water taffy.

There are many more vacations and trips I’ve bee. Able to go on, but these are definitely the stand outs.

Pack light or pack it all?

When we’re driving somewhere I tend to over pack, versus flying somewhere I tend to pack lightly.

Hotel, condo or house?

When we go to the beach, we rent a house. When we travel anywhere else we tend to go the hotel route.

Favorite things to eat on vacation?

I love to eat locally. Whether that means fresh, locally caught fish or locally grown produce, or just a cultural tradition in the area, one of the best ways to connect with people is through food.

Warm or cold destinations?

I’d love to visit the Scandinavian countries in the northern hemisphere summer, and we think of those as “cold” destinations, just like I’d love to visit Alaska in the summer.

Our traditional summer vacation is to a beach in Florida though, so that is definitely a warm destination!

What’s Up Wednesday: June 2018

What we’re eating this week:

Monday: Takeout from a local restaurant; William had a burger & fries, I had a steak, mashed potatoes & salad.

Tuesday: Ceaser salad & perogies

Wednesday: Chicken & mashed potatoes

Thursday: Mackenzie River 😍

Friday: Whatever my husband and father-in-law decide to fix.

Saturday: Travel Day to the beach, so brats I think?

Sunday: Unknown

What I’m reminiscing about: Our last family beach trip and moving into our house last summer.

What I’m loving: Both of my jobs! I’m learning a lot and really grateful for both of them.

What we’ve been up to: I’ve been working a lot and we’ve been playing a lot of golf… Well, William has been playing golf and I’ve been rising along for fun!

What I’m excited about: The Beach!

What I’m watching: We loved season two of Queer Eye and Set It Up. I also enjoyed Alex Strangelove, The Kissing Booth and Dare to Be Wild. A few shows we’ve been enjoying are Lord’s and Ladles, Escape to the Continent and Jamie & Jimmy’s Food Fight Club.

What I’m reading: My June reading recap post is scheduled for July 1, but the book I’m currently reading is …

What I’m listening to: I’ve been listening to the audiobook of Astrophysics for People In a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson, a lot of Leon Bridges, and loving the From the Front Porch and Pantsuit Politics podcasts.

What I’m looking forward to this month: Our beach trip!

How was your June?

May Reading

May came and left in a hurry. We had a great trip out to Colorado to celebrate my brother graduating from college and Mother’s Day with my mama and paternal grandmother. I also am now employed after a year of transition from moving across the country. This month was also a more voracious reading month compared to April, so let’s dive on in!

Circe by Madeline Miller

⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

The first book I finished in May was Circe by Madeline Miller. I saw this book recommended everywhere before its publication date and I think I was the first patron to borrow it from our local library. I really enjoyed the writing style and pacing. It felt both modern and ancient. It was captivating and easy to get lost in, as well as giving you themes to think on and stories to try and connect with from different Greek myths. This would make a great beach or book club read and I definitely recommend it!

Dear Farenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak In the Stacks: A Librarian’s Love Letters and Breakup Notes to the Books in her Life by Annie Spence

⭐⭐⭐/5

This was a fun epistalary book to a variety of books and genres from a Librarian’s perspective. What she’s loved and hated, what patrons have loved and hated, guilty pleasures and classics. It gave me some new titles to add to my TBR list and was just a fun conversation style book, where it felt relatable and funny as you reflected on shared ideas or differences of opinion with the author.

Fish In A Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟/5

Y’all, this book was amazing! I’ve seen many elementary and middle school teachers I know use this book in class and I totally understand why! This book is about how differences make us special and allow us each a unique vantage point of the world. It is about friendship and kindness, and the power of gifted teachers.

The teacher, Mr. Daniels, is an incredible character who sees in his student the gift that she is and works and fights for her to get the education she deserves alongside the confidence to stand up for herself. He is everything good we want teachers to be and shows the heart behind why people pursue careers in education.

The main character, Ally, has dyslexia. She is gifted at math and art, but struggles with other subjects take because she hasn’t been given the tools to read that work for how her brain is wired. Mr. Daniels changes that, and in doing so, changes her world.

As we struggle as a country with how we treat our teachers, and see the strikes going on from coast to coast, this book is a beautiful reminder of the power of education and amazing teachers who are there to find the students slipping through the system and equip and empower them. This book is wonderful and I think everyone should read it.

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House by Alyssa Mastromonaco with Lauren Oyler

⭐⭐⭐/5

I have established my love of a good political memoirs, and books that center around the world of politics in general. It’s a world I’ve been fascinated by since studying Virginia state history in fourth grade and the amazing field trips Mrs. Moore and the other teachers took us on. She made the worlds of history and politics come alive, as did living in the D.C. metro area, and it’s captivated me ever since.

This book is written by the former White House deputy chief of staff to President Obama, and a woman who has a long credentialed political career before serving in that role. I love that she shares about the triumphs and trials of being a woman in a male-dominated career field, and about the amazing trips she was able to accompany the president on during her time on his staff.

She is funny and engaging, and shares interesting stories from her younger years to compliment the memories she is sharing from her time in the White House. If you enjoy this field of books like I do, you should add this one to your TBR list.

The Secret Lives of Royals by Shalini Dua

⭐⭐⭐/5

I received this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for my review.

This book was intensely readable and had an interesting premise that pulled me in from page one. I will say that the last twenty percent of the book felt rushed and a bit disjointed, but I’d love to read a sequel to the story.

I found the characters enjoyable, the plot entertaining, and think this would make a perfect summer pool or beach read, as well as a great TV show, on a network like FreeForm or The CW or Netflix.

When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger

⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

I love all of Lauren Weisberger’s books. I find her snarky and funny, her writing is so descriptive and engaging, and this book followed the pattern that I love from her well.

The characters were flawed and real, while still living an aspirational lifestyle that inspired a sense of wonder and intrigue into their world. I loved that Emily struggled to adapt to the growing world of social media. I felt for the women and their messy relationships. I was laughing out loud often, and my heart hurt in solidarity for situations characters faced.

This book is fierce and funny, and would make the perfect beach or pool read this summer.

I received a digital ARC of this book from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for my review.

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

I deeply enjoyed this book, just as I’d hoped I would. I loved the descriptive writing and the emotional depth of the characters.

It’s a book about loss, heartache, falling in love, moving on, learning to live a full life, and learning to feel again. This was a beautiful read, that I’ve already been recommending to loved ones, and that I can’t wait to recommend to patrons of our local library.

The Selection by Kiera Cass

⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

This YA dystopian series takes place in a future country after four world wars and ruled by a royal family. There is a caste system in place, and once a generation, if the royal family has a son, there is a lottery for 35 women age 16-20 to be selected representing the different areas of the country, to compete to marry the prince. It’s like The Bachelor meets The Hunger Games, but done with more decorum and poise than either of those. It’s a fun world to lose yourself in for a couple hours and I’m excited to read the rest of the series and follow these characters further.

The Elite by Kiera Cass

⭐⭐⭐/5

I am still really enjoying this series and the characters, but holy gracious did the indecisive nature of America become frustrating in this book. Yes, she is 17 in a dystopic society and overwhelmed with how her life is constantly changing, but girl… make up your mind.

I’m excited to see where the series continue to go, and enjoyed how this book ended. I like seeing some fight and strength to America’s stubbornness that’s on her own behalf.

The One by Kiera Cass

⭐⭐⭐/5

The third book in this series had so much happen within its pages. I enjoyed seeing how the characters grew and the resolution to some of the secrets and questions we still had as readers from the first two books. I enjoyed seeing Celeste fleshed out more, and other minor characters getting more depth. I feel the ending was rushed in relationship to the rest of the story, but found the epilogue to be a sweet way to wrap this story up. Given how the epilogue ended, I think this is where I’ll stop in the series.

This was a fun YA dystopian world to visit and I enjoyed them very much.

Victoria by Daisy Goodwin

⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

I loved the PBS series Victoria and was excited to read the novel the show was based around. I appreciate the author was responsible for both the novel and the screenplay, and found that season one of the series and the novel were very much the same, which was not a bad thing, just not what I’d expected.

I love history and have always found England’s royal family fascinating, with a soft spot for Queen Victoria. I enjoyed this fictionalized account inspired by her own diaries of what it must have been like to become Queen so young and so indirectly, and to then need to find a husband and navigate the complicated political game.

I really enjoyed this book, and if you enjoy historical fiction, the royal family, and strong female characters, then I would recommend this book.

In Conclusion, Don’t Worry About It by Lauren Graham

⭐⭐⭐/5

This was a short encouraging read targeted at recent graduates, as it was inspired by a high school graduation speech Lauren made in 2017. It’s about living in and for the daily moments and a very appropriate read for this time of year as we celebrate graduation season and new jobs. I also just love Lauren Graham and wanted to read it solely because she wrote it.

What did you read this month? Any fun summer reads you’re looking forward to?

What’s Up Wednesday: May 2018

What we’re eating this week:

Monday: We grabbed lunch at the country club, so we just did leftovers for dinner.

Tuesday: More leftovers! Pizza & wings last for days around here.

Wednesday: William had some leftovers, I was still full from grabbing lunch with my outgoing and incoming boss.

Thursday: Salad – we need some greens after the front end of the week.

Friday: Tacos – such a simple go to year-round for us.

Saturday: Curry – William makes some amazing curries!

Sunday: Undecided.

What I’m reminiscing about: I can’t believe how quickly this month has come and gone. My brother will be back soon from backpacking around Europe for a month, and I feel like he just graduated yesterday.

What I’m loving: The warm weather and sunshine! I’m also loving the time I’ve spent with William practicing golf – I can make solid contact with the ball, and though my distance is very short, it’s getting a bit better each day.

What we’ve been up to: We started the month wrapping up the school year for William before flying out to Colorado for my brother’s college graduation and Mother’s Day. When we got back, I started two part-time positions and I’m learning and adjusting quickly about working again. We’ve practiced a lot of golf, enjoyed visiting Presque Isle State Park, and joined a local country club.

What I’m excited about: My new jobs! They’re both in service based non-profits, but my roles and responsibilities are so different. I’m excited for all I’m learning, to be working again, and for the opportunities to better my community.

What I’m watching: We’ve been watching all the Star Wars properties in chronological order, so we’re currently on the Clone Wars animated TV series.

My favorite TV episode this month was the wedding episode of The Big Bang Theory. Seeing Sheldon and Amy get married, the guest stars, the sweet vows, the precious way Sheldon thought Amy looked beautiful in her dress… It was all so sweet!

The best TV special this month was the royal wedding. I thought the flowers were stunning, I loved the fashion of the guests, I loved how simple and elegant Meghan looked, I loved how sweetly Harry looked at his bride, I loved the message from the pulpit and the musical selections. The cellist was breathtaking – William and I love cellos, and that was the only music at our own ceremony, so we both enjoyed listening to him play. It was just a beautiful television moment celebrating two people in love, and what better emotion to surround yourself with and begin your day celebrating?

What I’m reading: I’ve been reading rather voraciously this month and have a post about all of the books I’ve devoured scheduled for June 1. The books I’m currently reading are Bringing Up Bebe, The Oxford Year, and The Royal We.

What I’m listening to: I’ve been on a big Blink-182 kick this month. I will always love them.

What I’m looking forward to this month: I’m most excited for the end of the month when we head to the beach, but in the meantime I’m looking forward to welcoming our summer students for one of my jobs, and really getting in the groove with both of them.

How was your May?

April Reading

April seemed to fly by between Easter and having my sweet Mother-in-law visit for a couple weeks. I didn’t read as much as I would have liked this month as I was reading a bit slower for some reason.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟/5

This book was my favorite in the series until the movie came out. I found it so magical and fantastical and loved all of the adventure in this book.

Rereading this book was such a joy! I had forgotten how humurous the interaction between the Dursley family and the Weasley family was when they tried to use the floo to pick Harry up for the Quidditch World Cup. I was laughing out loud at Arthur’s excitement over electricity and plugs.

This book is so full of detail, color and rich understanding of the Wizarding World. I know I have been utterly enchanted by each book in this series as I reread it, and I know that will be the case throughout the series as I finish. I hate to be redundant, but Harry Potter is just such a captivating world!

From the Corner of the Oval by Rebecca (Beck) Dorey-Stein

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟/5

This memoir is a fun look at what it was like having a front seat to history as a White House stenographer during the Obama presidency. Beck joined the team prior to the 2012 campaign season. I laughed out loud often reading this book, especially at her descriptions of Washington and some of her experiences traveling with the president. I also cried in solidarity of her pain, and the last bit of the book beginning with a trip to New York in September 2016 through Inauguration Day had tears rolling down my cheeks.

I really enjoy memoirs in general, but especially political memoirs, and this one did not disappoint! I heard this book has been optioned to be turned into a TV show or movie, and it’s in the vein of fun workplace relationships and experiences. It’s full of messy relationships, learning from mistakes even as you make them again, and what true and real friendship looks like. This may be my favorite book of 2018 so far, and I’ve read some deeply loved books this year.

I received a digital ARC of this book from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for my review.

I’m currently reading Circe by Madeline Miller.

April was a slow reading month for me, but I’m hoping to pick it back up in May.

What did you read this month?