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Men We Reaped

Men We Reaped

Over the last 2 days I’ve had a cold. And when I have a cold, I am the most pathetic, whiny crybaby. I’ve been especially whiny and pathetic because between congestion and headache and a 4 year old who likes to climb in our bed at 3 am, I haven’t been sleeping much. Since I couldn’t sleep, I picked up a book. And in 2 nights, I breezed through Jesmyn Ward’s Men We Reaped. Ward spoke in Pittsburgh just a couple months ago with the Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures series, and now I’m just kicking myself that I did not go to the lecture.

Men We Reaped

Ward’s memoir is framed around the 5 tragic deaths of young men she grew up with, including her brother. I am having so much trouble describing it, because she confronts massive issues of race, racism and poverty, as well as individual struggles of grief and loneliness. Men We Reaped is tragic and gorgeous.

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Holidays, books, all curled up by the fire!

Holidays, books, all curled up by the fire!

WE HAVE A REAL FIREPLACE. IN OUR HOUSE! THAT I CAN SIT IN FRONT OF AND READ AND BE SNUGGLY AND SO HAPPY!

FIREPLACE.

FIREPLACE.


Ok, it’s a gas fireplace. And I have no idea how it works. And the little paper pamphlet that has the warranty information is still sitting IN the fireplace, so we might want to get that out before trying to turn it on. But still, A FIREPLACE YOU GUYS! And I’m hoping we can get our act together sometime before next summer to actually get it going, so I can have one of those nice toasty winter evenings in front of the fire, sipping mulled wine and reading books.

It will probably end up being something more like me sitting in front of the fire, sipping mulled wine, listening to Scooby Doo on the TV because at least that keeps my kid sitting in one place. But I’ll take what I can get.

Speaking of books, I’ve been on a streak of good reads lately:

Bonfire

I don’t know why I had it so incorrectly stuck in my head that Bonfire was set in 19th Century England, and was some Jane Austen type book.** It most absolutely, definitely is not. Not even remotely close. It’s all 80s extravagance, scandal and Masters of the Universe. A fantastic, guilty-pleasure sort of read.


**Likewise, for years I thought A Streetcar Named Desire was a musical (thanks to The Simpsons episode where they perform Streetcar). It most definitely is not.

Silkworm

I’m gonna admit it: I’m a total sucker for anything JK Rowling. She could probably re-write the telephone book and I’d be like “Yes, pls, I would like to read.” She’s just a good writer. She’s engaging, she’s fun, her writing is light and quick. Her characters aren’t terribly complex, but they are interesting. You want to get to know them, to see what they’ll do. All good fun.

Lola

Goofy, sappy YA story, without being TOO sappy. I was going to call this a YA romance, but it’s not “romance” as the genre is typically considered. It’s high school romance. Sweet and naive. I really enjoyed this book now, but I wish it had been around when I was in high school, because I would have adored it then.

wolves

Tell The Wolves was hands-down one of my favorite books I read this year. It’s so hard to describe, other than to say it’s a story about identity and family and relationships. One of my favorite things about book club is that since we each take turns picking a book, I read so many books I would have never much been interested in from the description alone. Sometimes these books are amazing. This is one such book. Go read it. Amazing.

So what books to yinz guys have stacked by your nightstand right now?

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BeezusKiddo Holiday Gift Guide, Vol. 2: BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS! w @JJHENSLEY @YaJagoff @RachelBlaufeld and @JonathanAuxier

In my ideal, timely world, this post would have gone up the day before Thanksgiving. But life and such got in the way, so here we are a few days later. But hey, it’s still SMALL BUSINESS SATURDAY, and authors are small businesses, so you can still get in your online order to sneak a local author’s book into your bookworm’s stocking this year. (Pssst- Click on the images of the books below to be directed to their sale sites.)

I am a HUGE fan of dark but fun kids literature, thinking Roald Dahl, Lemony Snicket, JK Rowling, etc. I saw Jonathan Auxier speak at a Creative Mornings Pittsburgh breakfast and immediately snapped up his books. They’re both imaginative, fun and a little spooky. My favorite of the two is Peter Nimble, and I’m looking forward to reading it together with Baby Beez when she’s a little older. (I guess we could read it together now, but I don’t have the patience to read anything longer than a picture book with that small maniac right now.)

PeterNimble_coverqnight gardener


If a thrilling mystery is more up your alley, check out JJ Hensley’s Pittsburgh-centric suspense novels Resolve (a murder mystery set within the Pittsburgh Marathon) and the newly-published Measure Twice.

Resolve

If you have a romance reader on your shopping list, support Pittsburgh’s queen of all things sultry and steamy- Rachel Blaufeld. Rachel has published 2 books so far in her Electric Tunnel series, with more shortly to come!

Electrified

smoldered

And last on my list today is the upcoming debut of Ya Jagoff! blogger John Chamberlin into the print world! Ya Jagoff! promises to be a fun collection of pieces about the joy and craziness of our town!

IMG_6059

Did you #ShopSmall today? My day was spent mostly on an outing to the zoo and a long and much-needed nap afterward, but I did squeeze in a visit to a local coffee shop and bakery. Even though Small Business Saturday has come to a close, I’ve still got quite a shopping list of goodies from local artists and businesses to pick up. I’m doing my best to keep it local this holiday season, to support our local small businesses and the whole community.

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October feelin’

Welcome to October! I haven’t felt much like blogging lately. Maybe it’s because I’ve been very busy, using up all my brain and my words during the day. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been more interested than reading words than writing them lately. Maybe it’s just because we haven’t been out to too many new restaurants lately, so that usually abundant stream of inspiration is not so abundant right now. But even though I’m not writing as much, I’m still here, I’m still reading, I’m still kicking. And here are some things on my mind tonight:

Page Dairy Mart’s last day for the season is scheduled for October 24. Sad. Even though the chocolate chip cookie sundae is di-vine (featuring Nancy B’s cookies), my favorite and go to is coffee soft serve with hot fudge and whipped cream. I need to stop on down there to get one last treat before they’re gone for the cold months.

Page Dairy mart Chocolate Chip Sundae

American Horror Story starts again tonight! It’s the only show that I regularly watch. My favorite season was season 1, but this whole circus thing looks especially creepy. I like to think I like scary things, but in real life I’m a giant crybaby and get too scared. American Horror Story tends to be just the right level of scary for me (meaning it tries to be scary, but isn’t really scary). Relatedly, my husband has banned me from ever watching a Paranormal Activity movie ever again, because he’s not a fan of being up all night while I cry over nightmares.

american-horror-story-freakshow-ch-2

My birthday is next month. If all yinz guys wanna bake me a cookie table, I won’t complain. Also, I think the fact that 99% of the pictures I pin on Pinterest are baked goods is not helping me any with my (failing) efforts at losing weight.

I’ll be going on a mini solo trip this weekend to Washington DC to run the Army 10 Miler. I’m going to basically have an afternoon ALL TO MYSELF. I’ve already booked a trip to the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa, and I think I’m going to go see Gone Girl (yes, because I drive 3 hours to go to see a movie that I could see at a movie theater 2 miles from my house) and go to bed early, because I am a WILD woman. But when you’re running 10 miles around the Pentagon the next day, hiking all over to sight see isn’t the wisest idea anyway.

gone_girl_40653_poster

Autumn clothes are my absolute favorite. Sweaters and cowl necks and boot socks and all things lovely and warm. Things I want want want:

Want.


Want want.

I just downloaded Hollow City, which is the sequel to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and am very excited about reading it. Spooky!

Hollow City

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The Things I’ve Been Reading Lately

The Things I’ve Been Reading Lately

Because my spring and summer were hijacked by the demands of buying a house and selling a house, most of the items on my 32 before 32 list have fallen miserably by the wayside. Whatevs, it’s all for fun anyway. However, there is one item where I am all gold stars and A ++++++ and Exceeds Expectations, and that’s on my reading progress. I planned to try to read 40 books this year, and here it is, mid-September and I’ve already blown through 35. I’m going to be beating that goal by leaps and bounds. Yessssss!

WHERE am I finding the time to read all these books, when my job is mostly reading all day, and I’ve got a feisty 4 year old to chase around, and sometimes my husband likes to see me too? Answer: Audiobooks. Between my husband and Baby Beez, I get virtually no say in what’s on TV, so I listen to audiobooks instead. When I’m driving in the car (which takes a surprising amount of time, despite having a 5 minute commute)– audiobooks. When I’m doing laundry or going for a run– audiobooks. And I don’t even pay for a subscription service. The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has an amazing selection of books to download. I load them on my phone, plug in my headphones, and off I go!

The last several books have been emotionally heavy and melodramatic, which isn’t quite my style. I like dark books, true crime, books about people surviving horrific situations, that kind of stuff. Except I am not interested in war books, no thank you. My favorite book of all time is the Grapes of Wrath, which doesn’t quite fit that description, but it is dreary and miserable. Prime examples of my kind of books are In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and Room by Emma Donaghue. I’ve been known to enjoy a funny book from time to time as well (hello, David Sedaris), but I am picky, and many humor books fall flat for me.

These are some of my favorites from this year so far:

winters-bone-book-jacket-a48355d4dd6f49ec

This book is everything. It’s rare to find a book and movie that are both good, but both the book and the film are A.MAZ.ING. This is JLaw before she was JLaw, and that woman can ACT. And the story, so dismal, so gritty, it draws you right into the crank-cooking Ozarks, for Ree Dolly’s determined hunt for her father, who is on the lam but put the family home up as the bail bond. I can’t even. Go read it.

spellman files

Sandy picked this for our book club, and I think this book is the first one that has received unanimous approval. It’s like a grown up Harriet the Spy, set in reasonably-close-to-modern-day, and the whole family is private eyes and they are all crazy. And it is wonderful. Many of the women in my book club went straight from this book to devour the rest of the series in a matter of days, and I really need to get on that, because I feel like I’ve missed out on half the party.

sharp objects

With the much-awaited Gone Girl movie opening later this year, there’s probably going to be a run on Flynn’s earlier work. I rate this closer to 3.5 out of 5 stars (the other two above are 5 stars for sure), but it’s definitely worth picking up for something dark, entertaining and fun. I loved the whole small, demented, troubled town storyline and found it drew me in and kept me interested. I think the whole cutting storyline (for which the novel was named), actually didn’t add to the story, and seemed like the kind of dark over-the-top stuff I would have written myself during my teenage goth phase. But maybe that’s the target audience the book is going to (and admittedly, it hooked some of my shameful nostalgia for those years of my own life).

wolf of wall street

Ok, I can’t maintain any credibility as a book nerd in praising this book…but it IS a lot of fun. Totally, totally ridic. And an easy read. So if you need a book to make you feel so very normal and secure by comparison (because, yes, sometimes I need that), it’s a goodie.

PS- Are you my friend on Goodreads? If not, you should be!