Recent Reads – July 2016

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A week or so prior to moving, my mother instituted a ban on my buying any more books until after my arrival in North Carolina. I know. “You’ve got a ton you haven’t even read yet!” She said. “You don’t have any more room to pack them!”

She even went so far as to physically remove the very platinum edition of The Outsiders I have featured here from my own two hands while at the book store. I’ll admit, I told myself I wasn’t going to get anything that day but very quickly had several paperbacks catch my eye on the tables at the front (book lovers, you know what I’m talking about). I could feel the tension in my upper arms building as the muscles worked to restrain my fingers from snatching up everything around me. Cue my mother seeing the mania in my eyes and pushing me towards the coffee section of the store in hopes of my indulging in a different vice.

Jokes on her because within actual days of moving to North Carolina I dragged my parents on an expedition to the nearest Barnes & Noble and absolutely lost my damn mind. You would have thought I was a contestant on an episode of Supermarket Sweep, Bookstore Edition. Pretty sure I was the only person actually utilizing the plastic baskets pushed off to the corner of the entryway and let me tell you, utilize I did.

Here’s my haul.


GO SET A WATCHMAN | HARPER LEE

Confession #1: I only just recently read To Kill A Mockingbird. It was never required reading for me and so many people talked it up as a fantastic book (rightfully so, Harper Lee was a literary goddess of an inspiration) that I avoided it at all costs. I didn’t want other people’s opinions clouding my own judgment so I waited. Then, this book was released last year and I had to wait a little bit longer but finally got around to the start of Scout’s story back in January. Seeing this particular paperback, a little something whispered into my consciousness that it was finally time to start the end. I know it has received mixed reviews, but I really liked it.

THE LAST STAR | RICK YANCEY

Super refreshing to see a trilogy on the table again. These days I feel like a lot of young adult novels are going for gold in the length of series competition and I am not about it. The Lunar Chronicles? Fantastic, capped out at 4 and very well planned out. The ones where the authors willingly admit, having just published book 6, that they aren’t sure when they’ll get around to giving us closure? Unsubscribe. In my days of being a pre-teen youngin’, I could keep up with a 10+ book series! These days? Ha.

That being said, I’d have to admit that I was unimpressed with this final book. No spoilers, but also no closure.

SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE | KURT VONNEGUT

Confession #2: never read this either. Kurt Vonnegut seemed to be the first runner-up to Shakespeare in every other high school English class in the country as so many people, real and fictional, referenced it as required reading. I only had one teacher who assigned us some of Vonnegut’s short stories but this book just never pulled my attention. Probably because I was too busy begging the same teacher to incorporate more Victorian literature. Apparently other kids thought that was boring but potato, tomato. So for years I’ve skipped this and then happened to walk by a copy in my already manic state. I made a bet with my mom that if it was more than $10 I wouldn’t buy it… $7.99, guys. $7.99.

Another personal opinion? Not my cup of tea. In fact, I consider this a regret.

GHOST FLEET | P.W. SINGER & AUGUST COLE

I had some doubts about adding this book to my pile. I still have doubts. I get easily scared by things. I also consider myself to be a pretty paranoid person about the future and humanity and all of that from time to time so this book seemed as though it had the potential to instigate a massive panic crisis inside of me and yet it also seemed too interesting to skip over? That’s the exact train of thought that chugged on through my mind and I can promise you there are many more cars to come on that thing.

To summarize, this is a novel about the next world war. An opening note reads “the following was inspired by real-world trends and technologies. But, ultimately, it is a work of fiction, not prediction.” This is my current read.

RED QUEEN | VICTORIA AVEYARD

Okay, let’s talk about the hard cover epidemic. Actually, you know what? Let’s bump it up to a pandemic. Let’s talk about the hard cover pandemic. I love a good hard cover, I truly do, but the concept of waiting almost an entire year to get a book in paperback is distressing. A few months? Fine. 6 months, even? Okay, for some kind of popular/renowned bestseller, sure. ONE YEAR? ARE YOU KIDDING? Not to mention as a series is published, the earlier hard covers tend to disappear from the shelves. So if you arrive at the series a few volumes late, you’ve got to wait that much longer to get books that will stay in format with the set you have already started to accumulate! This is a cause I very much believe in, people. Shorten Paperback Releases, 2016.

Anyways, yeah, I wanted to read this series and didn’t want the hard covers so I waited until the first one was comfortably paper backed before I picked it up and here we are, very excited about it. I can already tell that this will be my next Young Adult Fantasy Series pick because the first book just really hooked me in. As in, once I started I didn’t stop until I was finished. An actual blood versus blood war where people have evolved to have super powers… basically. It gets more complex, read the summary elsewhere.

THE OUTSIDERS | S.E. HINTON

My mom was astounded when I told her that I hadn’t actually read this book. It’s an 80s movie classic! And I love the 80s! And I always read the books before seeing the movies! Well, I’d done neither for this particular story and the platinum edition absolutely threw itself at me from the New Releases shelf so I couldn’t say no.

This freaking book… honestly, top of my list for Must Read recommendations to people now. It hits you in all sorts of places. Literally as soon as I finished it I watched the movie (the complete novel version, not the original) because I could not get enough. The story that S.E. Hinton creates is so… I’m at a loss for words. It’s incredible. Read it immediately.

Stay gold… *bursts into tears*

THE ROOK | DANIEL O’MALLEY

My Uncle is my go-to recommender of sci-fi/fantasy books. He usually tells me to read things and I think “mhm, sounds like I’d like that, okay” and add it to my Goodreads list and then, oops, 10 months later it’s pushed down to the third page of the list. Riding his ‘The Kingkiller Chronicles’ recommendation wave, this time I made more of a conscious effort to pick up a copy. This is my up next read.

THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA | ERNEST HEMINGWAY

Darling, dearest Hemingway is my absolute favorite male author to exist in this here universe. His prose style is captivating and almost meditative, really. I was surprised when I saw that this particular work, one of his shortest, was a Pulitzer Prize winner but considering Hemingway won the Nobel Prize in Literature a year later, it makes sense that this would be the one to make a splash (anyone? anyone?).

Anyways, I went into it not anticipating to really relate to the story much and came out of it in my own sea of tears (I can’t stop). It’s a quick read, there’s no reason not to.


As always, please feel free to follow along with my recent reading escapades over on Goodreads and if you’re curious how I’m doing on my 20[16k] reading challenge then go check out my progress.

If you’ve read or will read any of these, let me know what you think!

Follies & Fixations: May 2016

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“The Kingkiller Chronicles” by Patrick Rothfuss… on second thought, also just Patrick Rothfuss

Raise your hand if you’re over A Song of Ice and Fire. Okay, maybe not over but raise your hand if it’s been quite the wait for any new material on that front and you’re sick of it and want something else to bide your time with besides the dumb TV show. Yes, you read that correctly, I said dumb. Anyways, this particular series was recommended to me several times, by several different people, and even though it’s also unfinished as of my writing this I decided to give it a try. Not only is the story wonderful and interesting and different, but Patrick Rothfuss has such a style – man, can that guy write! The issue I personally come across in a lot of adult sci-fi/fantasy books is that the writers tend to be too concentrated on making a unique world and language and culture that they forget that the reader is not going through that process in their own minds with them. Sometimes I get lost with the maps and the reference guides and the family trees and then opt to skip them altogether rather than flip around in the middle of reading and then lose my page and then get exasperated as I try to find my page and then give up altogether and settle for just reaching the end with no clue why anything was significant because you had to understand all those stupid charts to do so.

But this series absolutely does not present that problem. Sure, a map is offered but it’s simple and when Rothfuss writes about other cultures or areas he explains them right there in the text so when I flip to the map it’s out of genuine curiosity. As far as Rothfuss himself is concerned, I’ve taken to reading through old posts on his blog and have since decided that he is my favorite contemporary author. I appreciate honesty and candor and this whole blog post about book two made me laugh. Some of you may not agree with me but I don’t mind waiting for book three because the other two were so damn good that I’d be heartbroken if he rushed through the ending. Big fan, give it a try and pace yourself.

Innis & Gunn beer

A rad Scottish brewery that created this beer by accident. I had a few pints of what I presume was the original draught when I was over in the homeland and became obsessed. Lucky for me, and also you, they do distribute their brews in the US so take a look to see if you can find some near you and lets share in the deliciousness together. Unluckily for me, and also you, they aren’t selling merchandise internationally yet and that really bums me out. It is imperative that I acquire a set of the branded IPA pint glasses because they are the most beautifully designed imbibing instruments I have ever seen.

Copacetic

Adjective, meaning “in excellent order.” And yes, it’s been stuck in my mind recently because of that Local H song. Ousted the long time list topper – complacency – for my favorite, coolest sounding word. You just don’t get it… or do you?

This music video

Kaleo did a music video last year for their single “Way Down We Go” inside of a literal Icelandic volcano and I am fascinated. Also, the most liked comment is “these guys could play row row row your boat and it would sound kickass” – wholeheartedly agree, Alice A.

This article

Ever since I stumbled my way onto Medium like 3 years ago, I’m pretty sure I’ve been at the top of the leaderboard for ‘people, no – not people – suckers, who read those articles about being a more productive person before 4/5/6/7/8am.’ It was refreshing to finally see something that made me feel better about the fact that I too wake up hating myself and my life.

Adult(HAHA)-life homeware shopping

As I’ll be moving to a whole new state, apartment, job, situation, existence at the end of this week, a lot of what’s been on my mind lately revolves around acquiring things to fill said apartment situation existence with. Might do a special little show and tell of what I’ve been purchasing after I’ve settled it all in, but for now just know that this type of shopping has been a very favorite folly of mine. And has also been exceptionally Halloween-themed… I’ll keep you posted.

Tuneage

Instrumentals have been on my mind recently mostly because I feel like I’ve been watching more movies than I usually do, and therefore appreciating more movie scores. Every song has been included on this list because it hit me with chills influenced by being well placed, emotionally, within their respective movies (and one TV show…). These are a few of my favorites from what I’ve been watching recently, so take a listen.

Books I Brought Abroad [@WestCorkIRL]

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Travel Tip: figure out if your hosts used to own a bookshop in London and therefore have MASSES of reading options available for your perusal before you travel…

Packing to go anywhere is a struggle for me, as it is for most others as well. Some agonize over shoes, some over makeup, some over sweatshirts. I happen to agonize most extremely over books. Depending on how far out from the trip I am, I can spend weeks planning what reads to take with me. They get stockpiled in a corner of my room until the dreaded day when I have to see what fits. This year, I almost had to leave behind two whole paperbacks but I made the game time decision to kick out a pair of nicer boots in order to fit them in my case and let me tell you, I don’t regret a thing.

Since reading is such a huge part of my life and experiences, I wanted to give a quick list and a little note on each of the books I took with me to Ireland. I’m not huge on reviews, but some thoughts and nice quotes never hurt anyone. Maybe you’ll see something that sparks your interest.

Note before going further: none of these books are contemporary so be advised that if you’re looking for the latest Stephen King novel you won’t find it here.

Okay, continue.


JANE EYRE | CHARLOTTE BRONTË

“I should have appealed to your nobleness and magnanimity at first, as I do now – opened to you plainly my life of agony – described to you my hunger and thirst after a higher and worthier existence – shown to you, not my resolution (that word is weak), but my resistless bent to love faithfully and well, where I am faithfully and well loved in return.”

This has been a long time pushed off book and to be honest, a huge motivation to read it recently has been all thanks to Netflix. Every time I logged in to my profile I would get the recent Jane Eyre movie as a recommendation and I swore never to watch it until I read it. Impatience got the best of me and here we are. One thing genuinely surprising about this book is its captivation. I adore Austen, don’t get me wrong, but her style is the first that comes to mind when thinking of 18th-19th century novels and how authors take a few pages to go off on descriptive tangents where they almost forget about the reader and write for themselves. Charlotte Brontë masters maintaining that connection and it genuinely turned this book into a hard to put down read for me. Not to mention it’s written as a memoir so there is a huge interest in following Jane’s life from early development to older (but still pretty young) adulthood. Not a crazy big fan of the ending, but all in all worth the weight.

THE TRIAL | FRANZ KAFKA

“He now decided to make better use of all his future Sunday mornings.”

We all know those people who use words like “Kafkaesque” and dolly garn I wanted to be one of them! Kafka, like Proust, is one of those authors I always assumed you needed a PhD to be able to read and a Masters to even consider reading. Now that I’ve read it, I can’t say that I agree. I also can’t say that I was 100% into this one because, well, I wasn’t. The day I began reading The Trial was the day I stopped by The Time Traveller’s Bookshop and while there I noticed a work titled “A Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory” by J.A. Cuddon. Forget the fact that it looked to weigh a million pounds and yet I still spent serious time considering whether or not to purchase it (I did), I was curious to see if it had a definition of “Kafkaesque” somewhere in its many pages. It did. And The Trial is cited as a top example of all that the term implies. So while I didn’t necessarily like this book, or Kafka’s style at all to be quite honest, at least I know that I’m semi-qualified to use his literary namesake as a reference in the future.

DUBLINERS | JAMES JOYCE

“That takes the solitary, unique, and, if I may so call it, recherché biscuit!”

A friend gifted this to me a few years ago with a note explaining how it’s one of his favorites and I, being the terrible person that I am, put off reading it for soooo long. However, I couldn’t think of a better opportunity to start it than on a quick trip over to the homeland so it found its way into the stash. Dubliners is a collection of short stories about the lives and trials of middle class people from, you guessed it, Dublin in the early 1900s. The key word here is collection, as in not to be taken separately. At first, I felt that every story seemed to end too quickly, and very few actually provided a concrete resolution to the problem or issue presented. Worse, I couldn’t find any sort of lesson/message in them. However, that’s because I was reading the whole book incorrectly. The short stories are not meant to be taken as themselves individually but rather altogether as a compendium of life in Dublin. After looking back at the title, I feel like that’s probably obvious to everyone else but me? Anyways, just keep it in mind if you pick up a copy. My favorite of the collection was “A Little Cloud” though I’ve seen a lot of people suggest “Eveline” as the most noteworthy – both make you seriously consider the concept of alternatives, both I highly recommend.

TESS OF THE D’URBERVILLES | THOMAS HARDY

“A very easy way to feel [souls] go is to lie on the grass at night and look straight up at some big bright star; and, by fixing your mind upon it, you will soon find that you are hundreds and hundreds o’ miles away from your body, which you don’t seem to want at all.”

God love Thomas Hardy. Also God love the edition of this novel I brought with me. It’s beautifully designed; I found it at Brookline Booksmith in Massachusetts so if you’re going to order a copy I highly recommend getting it from there. Support the independent sellers, y’all.

Anyways, back to Thomas Hardy. What a freaking writer! The style of that man is something else. I would say A but I’m inclined to say My Perfect Contrast with the king of simplification himself, Ernest Hemingway (my favorite male author, just a FYI). For every 1 word that’s needed, Hardy gives you 4. I love how descriptive he is and I would love to be able to emulate writing like that. However, that’s about all the love I can give for this book because to be completely honest I was not at all a fan of the story. I can absolutely see why this novel received so much criticism in its time of initial publication – but all I’ll say further on that matter is that those people were Wrong, with a capital W. The best example of a character you’re genuinely rooting for, despite all the malefactions that come her way.

WUTHERING HEIGHTS | EMILY BRONTË

“Be with me always – take any form – drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!”

It wasn’t until I sat down to write this post that I realized I probably should have also brought one of dear Anne’s novels along with me to make it a real trilogy experience but alas. Wuthering Heights is one of my favorite rereadable books of all time and it is genuinely deserving of the habitual attention. I clarify rereadable because Anna Karenina is also a favorite but that puppy can only be tackled so many times, you know? And by so many I mean once for the very far off foreseeable future. I digress – for all intents and purposes I name this as my favorite book and this particular copy happens to go pretty much everywhere with me. It’s my safety novel. No matter where I am, I’ll always be able to turn to it in times of literary need. The story is unconventional to say the least. It’s chock-full of characters I love to hate because I hate to love them. It simultaneously invokes pity and indifference while conveying what it means to truly love someone, in all the ardent extremes. It’s also not everyone’s cup of tea, so if you’re looking for a sweet 19th century love affair allow me to direct you to the Austen shelf.

THE IDIOT | FYODOR DOSTOYEVSKY

“And what’s more, flourishes are permitted, and a flourish is a most dangerous thing! A flourish calls for extraordinary taste; but if it succeeds, if the right proportion is found, a script like this is incomparable, you can even fall in love with it.”

This goes back to my November sudden obsession with Russian literature. I packed this without actually skimming through the publishing style and what a doozie! If the look of Kafka was frustrating to get through (it was, it really pilcrowing was) then bringing The Idiot along was borderline masochistic. I saved this book for last for a good reason: plane reading. I can read just about anything on a plane, including all safety procedural guides (which everyone really should be reading anyway!), and at the time of packing this seemed like a nice fallback for when I inevitably did what I did and suffered from War & Peace flashbacks within the first 20 pages. It’s taking a little bit longer for me to get into the mood for The Idiot.

At the time of publishing this post, I am approximately not very far through this book and therefore I’m unable to offer any sort of thoughts on it. I’d say so far, so good but in case you were wondering Goodreads says “In the end, Myshkin’s (the main character’s) honesty, goodness, and integrity are shown to be unequal to the moral emptiness of those around him.” So… make of that what you will!


Please do reach out with thoughts and suggestions of your own for what books you absolutely refuse to travel without. Also, check out how these bad boys helped me in my 20[16k] challenge!

Voyages: Skibbereen & Baltimore [@WestCorkIRL]

Note: Remember back in the good old days when you’d have to avoid a lot of images on a web page because loading them with dial-up was a nightmare? I wanted to warn you just in case you’re not all initiated into decent wi-fi / 4s / 1080p horsepower or whatever the heck the good internet is these days. This post is extremely photo heavy because I’m combining two voyages into one so sorry not sorry (just reminiscent) about it.


Saturday mornings in Skibbereen are starting to become a routine for me and I’m for sure going to miss them when I’m gone. I love every second I spend in the quaint little market town, which apparently confuses some of the locals who don’t see much to do there, but I’ve only got a short window of time left to enjoy it. This particular Saturday before last was a cold one. The rain had been at it all night long and I was sure it was never going to let up. Shortly after being dropped off in the earlier AM hours, I made the commitment to stay indoors and read for as long as possible until moving on to outdoor adventures in the afternoon.

At one point in the midmorning I overheard a waitress saying to a nearby couple “’tis cold, but ’tis jolly” and I decided that never in a million years could I have come up with a better depiction of Skibbereen on a late February morning than that.

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The streets were bustling on Saturday morning, with locals milling about the farmers market and meeting up with each other in cafes and restaurants. You better believe that the girl walking around with a giant backpack and a camera stood out as “NOT FROM HERE.”

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A few people told me to check out this Church-turned-Restaurant, for aesthetic reasons at the very least, and I was definitely not disappointed. The place was buzzing despite the early hour. Anecdote: I have a terrible habit of not being able to tune out other people around me when I’m trying to read in public places (like cafes) and at one point I overheard the man at the table next to me saying “something about the way they burn the barley makes it neutral… so you can have as much Guinness as you like… that’s what my doctor told me.” I’m not sure who that doctor is, but I’m going to go ahead and rely on that advice which I don’t fully understand (as I do with most doctors) because YUM.

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Take a peep at the interior of Church Restaurant. I could not get over the fact that the cakes and baked goods were all laid out on the altar. Talk about a religion I want to be a part of.

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After some breakfast I went to scout out the local book shop. I mean, come on do I even need to explain why?

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There’s just something about wood and books that makes for an intimately relaxed feel. That very feeling here at The Time Traveller’s Bookshop was what enticed me to spend well over an hour perusing the shelves. I even got to hold a first edition copy of “David Copperfield” and subsequently tried very hard not to hyperventilate on it. Seriously considering leaving all my clothes behind at the end of my trip in favor of filling my case with these rare beauties.

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I’m gonna go ahead and make a generalization that a lot of people don’t know that Skibbereen played a huge part in The Great Potato Famine of the 1840s. I was one of those people until Paul, my host, kindly told me a lot more information on the subject (and gave me a great book to read about it). The Heritage Centre features all sorts of resources about the Great Famine years, the marine marvel that is Lough Hyne, and tracing family trees.

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Kalbos Cafe is situated between the West Cork Art Centre and a tiny little body of water flowing down into the larger river which Google Maps is not providing me with the name of. The huge glass windows looking outside were very cool and the cafe itself had a really great, cozy interior style. There is an adjoining deck and I’m betting that all the glass windows open right up to let patrons enjoy the, what I assume to be infrequent, sunshine in the summer.

Later in the afternoon, after a few too many cups of coffee, I met up with Tony from Inish Beg and we set off to check out some of the local attractions outside of the Skibbereen town center. Thankfully the rain had in fact let up a bit, but the cold was still lingering. We braved through it though. First stop, Lough Hyne.

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Another Wild Atlantic Way sign! And this one happens to be situated at the site of the only salt-water lake (“Lough”) in Ireland. Word on the street is that its fascinating ecosystems and marine life make it one of the most studied bodies of water in the world. My hostess Georgie, ever the superwoman, swims at Lough Hyne pretty much all year round.

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We were visiting the Lough at a beautiful close-to-sunset hour and the lighting was breathtakingly reflective. Upon review, most of my pictures were just of the water’s surface. Way off in the distance down that little channel is the area known as “The Rapids” – aka the place where the salt water flows in and out from the Atlantic Ocean. Not really sure that I have to clarify how peaceful of a place Lough Hyne is, but I will just in case.

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Holy wells apparently exist all over Ireland and some quick Google searching has told me that they were of Pagan origin before becoming mostly Christianized way back when. Regardless, there is one nestled back in the trees by a freshwater brook close to Lough Hyne and we took a little hike to seek it out.

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Many people consider the wells to be sacred and spiritual so they come to pray or make wishes or leave offerings, etc. etc. This one happened to be my favorite because come on, you’ve seen my sidebar. I agree that a nice cold Bud Heavy in a frosted glass bottle can feel like a religious experience. Suffice it to say, I took a drink from the well hoping it was filled with the King of Beers but unfortunately it was just water.

After marveling at the Lough one last time, we set off for Baltimore. You might remember my mentioning how the island of Inish Beg is situated between two towns so it was only fitting that Baltimore receive ample exploration time as well. Much smaller than Skibbereen, but in some ways I thought more beautiful.

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We drove over a few hills to get to Baltimore and had to weave our way down towards the water before hairpinning back up to the cliffs on the outskirts. As we arrived into town you could just spot the harbor ahead.

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The hike up the cliffs was sufficiently terrifying and I relied on my zoom to get me as close as I wanted to the edge, while staying physically very very far away. The water and the wind and the cliffs made for such incredible scenery. Fresh sea air unfortunately not included with this photograph.

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This is The Beacon! The very thing we hiked up to see! They don’t mess around when it comes to naming things, these West Corkers (Corkians? Cortians? … *Googles* … “Corkonians” – I wasn’t far off). They stick with the practical: The Baltimore Beacon was (and still is?) meant to guide ships into the harbour. This picture doesn’t do the size justice, but this thing is huge. ~50 ft high huge.

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Another thing I couldn’t get over was the turquoise water, even though it was so cold! And February! I’m used to seeing dark blue borderline black waters in the wintertime Atlantic Ocean but here it looked almost tropical. Not quite enticing enough for cliff diving, but close.

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Tony is the Head Gardener at Inish Beg and we spend a few days a week working together around the estate. He was a good sport about hiking around in the cold with me! Even though he was in Converses and I had on the hiking boots, he was able to climb back down the muddy slopes way faster than I could ever hope to. Can you tell from the outfit (hint: mine was even MORE bundled) how that water is in no way, shape, or form tropical?

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Andddd another Wild Atlantic Way sign. There are tons of islands that people can get to in this part of Ireland and a ferry waits patiently in the harbour to usher around to each of them. My being prone to seasickness and overall aversion to being out on the water in the winter does not make me a good candidate for the experience but it’s cool to know that it happens!

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As we were leaving and the sun was tucking in for the night, I couldn’t help but be struck by the resemblance the empty Baltimore Harbour had to my own hometown and more specifically to the stretch of water right down the street from my house. Seeing this some might think of homesickness, but for me it was more like a fond reminder.

Adventuring around the localities was a day well spent and, as per usual on my travels, now that I’ve finally started feeling comfortable I have to prepare to say my goodbyes sooner than I’d like. A few more short weeks of huddling with my tea and cake in the Skibbereen coffee shops, then it’s back home to my little Rhode Island reminder of Baltimore.


Special shout out to Tony, Paul, and Georgie for their excellent West Corkonian benignity!

Learn a Book! – 20[16k]

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“Seize the moments of happiness, make them love you, fall in love yourself! That is the only real thing in this world – the rest is all nonsense.” – Leo Tolstoy

For those of you who followed along with last year, learning some books was quite an accomplishment. In 2015 I read 30 books and racked up almost 12,000 pages. This year, rather than upping the same old ante again by tacking on a few more books to the total, I decided to shift the challenge over to those page counts. It’s something I track anyways, so why not make it the focus this go-around?

20[16k] pages. Let’s do this.


  1. “Scarlet” by Marissa Meyer [461 pgs]
  2. “Cress” by Marissa Meyer [550 pgs]
  3. “The Language of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh [308 pgs]
  4. “The Raven Boys” by Maggie Stiefvater [408 pgs]
  5. “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee [323 pgs]
  6. “Tuck Everlasting” by Natalie Babbitt [139 pgs]
  7. “Dr. Franklin’s Island” by Ann Halam [245 pgs]
  8. “The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss [662 pgs]
  9. “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brontë [524 pgs]
  10. “Skibbereen: The Famine Story” by Terri Kearney & Philip O’Regan [84 pgs]
  11. “The Trial” by Franz Kafka [210 pgs]
  12. “Dubliners” by James Joyce [192 pgs]
  13. “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Brontë [326 pgs]
  14. “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” by Thomas Hardy [464 pgs]
  15. “Memoirs of a Mangy Lover” by Groucho Marx [224 pgs]
  16. “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows [240 pgs]
  17. “The Dream Thieves” by Maggie Stiefvater [437 pgs]
  18. “84, Charing Cross Road” by Helene Hanff [94 pgs]
  19. “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” by Jesse Andrews [295 pgs]
  20. “Blue Lily, Lily Blue” by Maggie Stiefvater [391 pgs]
  21. “The Little Paris Bookshop” by Nina George [370 pgs]
  22. “Lights Out Till Dawn” by Dee Williams [341 pgs]
  23. “Opening Belle” by Maureen Sherry [352 pgs]
  24. “The Big Short” by Michael Lewis [270 pgs]
  25. “The Wise Man’s Fear” by Patrick Rothfuss [1,000 pgs]
  26. “hush, hush” by Becca Fitzpatrick [391 pgs]
  27. “The Marriage Plot” by Jeffrey Eugenides [406 pgs]
  28. “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway [127 pgs]
  29. “Red Queen” by Victoria Aveyard [383 pgs]
  30. ** “The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton [180 pgs]
  31. “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut [215 pgs]
  32. “Go Set A Watchman” by Harper Lee [278 pgs]
  33. “The Last Star” by Rick Yancey [338 pgs]
  34. “Ghost Fleet” by P.W. Singer and August Cole [379 pgs]
  35. “Rapture” by Lauren Kate [466 pgs]
  36. “Northanger Abbey” by Val McDermid [343 pgs]
  37. “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” by JK Rowling, John Tiffany, & Jack Thorne [308 pgs]
  38. “Not My Father’s Son: A Memoir” by Alan Cumming [282 pgs]
  39. “The Gunslinger” by Stephen King [251 pgs]
  40. “The Rook” by Daniel O’Malley [482 pgs]
  41. “Diary of an Oxygen Thief” by anonymous [151 pgs]
  42. ** “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman [286 pgs]
  43. “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller [143 pgs]
  44. “Between Two Thorns” by Emma Newman [327 pgs]
  45. “The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide” by Stephenie Meyer [543 pgs]
  46. “As Old As Time” by Liz Braswell [484 pgs]
  47. “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by JK Rowling [309 pgs]
  48. “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” by JK Rowling  [341 pgs]

Total Pages: 16,323


Bolded books come recommended by yours truly. Please do reach out if you want to know why.

** This signifies an absolute must read, irrespective of genre or author or any other segregating factor. I consider it the top recommendation I could ever give to a book – so definitely go pick up a copy right this instant.

Feel free to follow me on Goodreads as well. I don’t write reviews, I seldom remember to rank the stars, and you won’t see a status update from me until the book is moved from “Want to Read” to “Read.” So… enjoy that.

 

Follies & Fixations: November 2015

Ceramic Hedgehog Pals

Technically it’s a salt and pepper shaker but I named mine Autumn and she sits as a little figurine on my bedside table. If I can’t have a real pet hedgehog, this is certainly the next best thing.

Jane Austen Literary Mug

Come ON, can you believe something so wonderful as a Jane Austen quote mug exists?? I bought this in my favorite place on earth – Salem, MA. Specifically, at a fantastic store there called Roost & Company. They sell all sorts of cool knick-knacky home ware and other bits and bobs (think stationary, books, jewelry, etc). The saleswoman ringing me up commented on how she watched me walk around the store for 15 minutes clutching it to my chest, so that should be an indication of my excitement at owning this. Not to mention, it makes an excellent companion to the famous first lines quote mug my best friend got me for my birthday.

Russian Lit

Speaking of literary things, this is my latest phase. When I read, I tend to spend a few months on a particular author or genre. Naturally, I also spend obscene amounts of money on as many books as I can carry and usually weeks later end up dropping away from the phase before I finish them all. Rinse and repeat for infinity. Nikolai Gogol had been on my list for quite some time and when I went to pick up a copy of “Dead Souls” I figured what the heck, let’s stock up on some ‘stoys, ‘kovs, and ‘evskys too.

A goal of mine, albeit an ambitious one, is to read “War and Peace” in a week once I’m officially through with my last semester of college. I had a professor in Cambridge who told us that he read “Bleak House” in a week and because I’m the most competitive person to ever exist, I got it in my head to do something equally as impressive. Given that I am continually inspired by Professor G.M. much in the same way that Tolstoy was inspired by Dickens, I thought W&P was an appropriate choice for the challenge. Not to mention it’s almost 200 pages longer…

Apple Cider Everything

No specific brand, no specific way, just all of it all the time.

Society of Grownups

I can’t even think of a way to describe what this place is other than an amazing incredible resource. A friend and I attended a few classes in the beginning of November and color me so impressed. Society of Grownups hosts classes, chats, guest speakers, events, and more all around the important aspects of Grownuphood. I personally went to the “Basics of Investing” and “You’re a Grownup Now (Don’t Panic)” sessions and am planning to return in December. Even though I’m a finance major and I work at a Center for Financial Independence, personal finance is still a really scary thing for me to confront! SoG makes it relaxed and fun, not to mention their Brookline location has an indescribably comfortable vibe. I couldn’t sing higher praises. Worth stopping by, even just to see the space and peruse their really great bookshelves (they make a kick-ass cup of coffee too).

Halloween @ Home

I know, technically an October folly but November 1st is my December 26th so deal with me for a moment. Ever since I can remember, my family has gone all out with turning our front porch orange for the month of October. I love dressing up, I love eating candy, I love every possible activity that has to do with Halloween (I’m even coming around to haunted houses and scary movies, thanks to my best friends who really love forcing me through them… and by coming around I mean I mull it over for .7 seconds longer than I used to before begging “NOOOO!”) I’m the most basic of New Englanders in saying that Autumn is my favorite time of the year, but know that being home for Halloween makes up a solid 90% of that favoritism.

Tuneage

The Men of Pop have been coming out with all sorts of jams to kill the game lately. Obviously I’m in love with the new One Direction album, but here’s some other stuff I’ve been listening to on repeat. Enjoy! (Also, do yourself a favor and watch this video – WOW, you’re so welcome)

spotify:user:cmccarthy122:playlist:0KrLqzgYOcl6fX8ewgX7bo

Voyages: Scotland’s National Book Town [@WigtownUK]

One evening in the beginning of the summer, on a bus back from London, I got into a conversation with a friend of mine about books. It wasn’t long before we discovered our mutual adoration for second-hand shops and she said to me “Oh, you absolutely have to go to Wigtown!”

Now, I’ll be honest. I’m not one to take other people’s suggestions for these types of things. I get instantly skeptical and usually just nod and smile and think to myself “I absolutely have to go where I want to go, thank you very much” (but that’s because I’m inherently a grumpy old witch just waiting to retire to my creaky house on the hill). But I took the bait. I listened as my now very dear friend told me more and more about Scotland’s National Book Town and by the time we got back to Cambridge she had convinced me. I resolved that at the end of August I would make a voyage out of Wigtown.


Day One

Getting to Wigtown is not easy. It’s in a southern region of Scotland (think way southern, like practically England southern) known as Dumfries and Galloway. To get there you have to take a train, or as I found sometimes two, and two buses. I like adventure and all but no way was I going to drive myself there. So a family friend dropped me off at Glasgow Central at 9am and I set off on a train with no more than 15 people on it for a little town called Barrhill.

According to Google Maps this was called ‘Cross Water.’ It feeds into the Duisk River. Don’t ask me how to pronounce that.

When I say ‘little’ I am not exaggerating. This place was a 10-house town and I was the only one getting off the train for it. Thankfully the people in the UK are very nice and willing to help an American girl who is clearly far from home and her mind for coming to a place like this. With some direction from the locals, I stumbled my way down a winding abandoned road to get in to the village and find my bus stop. I had quite some time to wait before the bus actually came so I sat next to a little burn (aka stream) to bide my time with reading and laughing at the overall hilarity of this journey. I had never been to a smaller town in my entire life, and here I was doing it for the first time all on my own. I kind of wished I had a travel buddy so we could walk around saying “Are you seeing this???” to each other – but I’ll settle for having you, my dear reader.

The views from the bus rides were unreal. My neck hurt from swiveling back and forth the whole time to take it all in.

The bus to Newton Stewart finally arrived and I boarded to find I was only the second passenger. It remained that way for the next 45 minutes in to town. The driver and elderly woman (passenger #1) chatted away while I sat laughing to myself in the corner. Seriously! I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. Once I got to Newtown Stewart it was just a switch over to the final bus that carried me on to Wigtown (there were a total of 3(!) people on this one).

Upon arrival in the National Book Town, I took advantage of the unusually beautiful Scottish weather and went out to walk around a bit. I could tell that this was the type of place most people could crush through in a quick day trip, which meant it would be perfect for my leisurely exploration over the next two days. Huge emphasis on the leisurely.

Note: this voyage was by no means meant to be action packed. I was there to shop for books, yes so action-filled, but also to relax and recharge and have time to myself before heading off to America and thus back to school. I needed a few days to laze around as much as my little heart desired so what I’m trying to say here is don’t expect any pictures of cliff-jumping in this post. Okay, back to it.

Day Two

Rolled out of bed late Tuesday morning and decided I deserved some cake for breakfast. After stopping by one of the darling little cafes, I hit up my first bookshop right across the street.

I discovered The Open Book was run by a woman from Lexington, Massachusetts! Imagine my surprise, you can’t, at finding a person from my home region tucked into the middle-of-nowhere, Scotland. We chatted for a bit about how to combine my soon-to-be-had Finance degree with the wonderful world of publishing. Scored a few books here and then decided on the brilliant idea to make the walk a mile out of town to visit the Bladnoch Distillery and a sci-fi/fantasy bookshop.

Desperately wanted to steal this sign, but I’ll settle for moving back to live on this road.

Unfortunately, I found both were closed down but it wasn’t for nothing. I had quite the time walking out on the thinest sidewalks I’d ever seen and back on no sidewalks at all. I took two different roads there and back – both of which were very fast-going highway type things on which I happened to be the only foot traveller… more laughing to myself ensued.

River Bladnoch

After I made it back into town without being mowed down by a cattle truck, I stopped for some lunch to reenergize for the rest of my bookshop tour. This was where the serious shopping began. I strolled my way through seven different second-hand shops throughout the course of the day and ended up splayed across my bed clutching my new books with tears of joy. Then I crawled into bed to watch Coronation Street reruns, my fave.

Reading Lasses makes the best mac & cheese AND trivia team name.

Byre Books was tucked down this hugely overgrown path. Made me feel like I was walking right into a fairytale.

The Book Shop – the largest bookshop in Scotland! The place went on and on with dozens of book-packed rooms. Could have spent eternities here. The quote over the fireplace made me laugh: “Give a man fire and he’s warm for the day. But set fire to him and he’s warm for the rest of his life.” – Terry Pratchett

Day Three

On my pack-up-and-go-home day I started to feel the weight of the fact that I had been abroad for 2 whole months and the travel ahead of me back to Glasgow wasn’t even the last I had to do before I could finally settle in and stop moving about for a while. In fact, my trip home to the States wasn’t even going to be the end of it. My exhaustion at the mere thought of all this coaxed me into spending my morning reading and drinking tea and eating scones – which I tried for the first time on this trip and learned that I LOVE! Why don’t people eat more scones?

So many things about this postcard are my favorite and I practically fainted after reading it. Counting down the days until Autumn hits and its time to go back to Salem.

All of my traveling directions were written on the backs of little slips of paper with the names and addresses of all my relatives in Scotland on them. Guess who left those directions at Reading Lasses when I finally accepted the fact that my trip was over and it was time to head out for the bus? To revisit that whole nice-people-in-the-UK point, one of the waitresses tracked me down at the bus stop and gave the papers back to me just before I realized they were gone. Those trusty little slips of paper got me pretty far! Who says you need a Google-Maps-equipped-cellphone to have a good time?

The travel back to Glasgow felt long and exhausting but when I finally stumbled off the train with a backpack full of books and pockets full of mint humbugs, into the arms of my beloved family friends, it finally hit me that my time in the UK was officially up. My study abroad in Cambridge had finished, my adventures off in the lowlands of Scotland were done, and it was time to finally go home.

Couldn’t help but sing “Take Me Home, Country Roads” with a view like this on the walk back up to the Barrhill train station.

Thankfully, I had a beautifully illustrated copy of Wuthering Heights and the fondest of memories of my summer voyages to keep me company on the trek.

Learn a Book! – 30 in 2015

Pembroke Library

Pembroke Library

Remember the good ol’ elementary school days where you had to read 25 books over the course of a school year? Which was a big freaking deal? Well, now I’m an “adult” (by law, not by choice) and it feels like reading 25 books in a year is still a big freaking deal! In 2014, my goal was to meet that elementary school standard again and let me tell you, I struggled.

This year, I’ve upped the ante to 30 books and, in an effort to hold myself accountable, I’m sharing that list with you! (Disclaimer: you can judge me all you want for my choices in Young Adult Fantasy books but I am going to once again refer you to my This Is Me page and consequently tell you to go stuff it…)

Bolded books come recommended by yours truly. Please do reach out if you want to know why.


  1. “The Bone Clocks” by David Mitchell [624 pgs]
  2. “The Remains of the Day” by Kazuo Ishiguro [245 pgs]
  3. “One Direction: Who We Are” by One Direction (lmfao, I know, okay? I know.) [350 pgs]
  4. “Torment” by Lauren Kate [452 pgs]
  5. “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens [466 pgs]
  6. “Practical Magic” by Alice Hoffman [286 pgs]
  7. “Dancing With Myself” by Billy Idol [312 pgs]
  8. “Etta and Otto and Russell and James” by Emma Hooper [277 pgs]
  9. “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” by Seth Grahame-Smith [319 pgs]
  10. “Persuasion” by Jane Austen [249 pgs]
  11. “Charm” by Sarah Pinborough [187 pgs]
  12. “The Mime Order” by Samantha Shannon [501 pgs]
  13. “Half Bad” by Sally Green [394 pgs]
  14. “Grey” by E.L. James [559 pgs]
  15. “Northanger Abbey” by Jane Austen [251 pgs]
  16. “Sense and Sensibility” by Jane Austen [335 pgs]
  17. “On The Beach” by Nevil Shute [312 pgs]
  18. “Wyrd Sisters” by Terry Pratchett [297 pgs]
  19. “Honeymoon” by Amy Jenkins [297 pgs]
  20. “Twilight” by Stephenie Meyer (I read this saga every year, ya dig?) [498 pgs]
  21. “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury [165 pgs]
  22. “1984” by George Orwell [297 pgs]
  23. “Dead Souls” by Nikolai Gogol [292 pgs]
  24. “Steppenwolf” by Hermann Hesse [248 pgs]
  25. “The Casual Vacancy” by JK Rowling [503 pgs]
  26. “Passion” by Lauren Kate [420 pgs]
  27. “Life and Death” by Stephenie Meyer [387 pgs]
  28. “Cinder” by Marissa Meyer [387 pgs]
  29. “New Moon” by Stephenie Meyer [563 pgs]
  30. “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy [1,224 pgs]

Feel free to follow me on Goodreads as well. I don’t write reviews, I seldom remember to rank the stars, and you won’t see a status update from me until the book is moved from “Want to Read” to “Read.” So… enjoy that.