Travel reading wrap-up (fall 2021): A batch of mini-reviews — high school drama, Aztec vampires, and classics retold

I’ve just returned from a one-week trip (which was all sorts of awesome), and realize that I’ve fallen way behind on my reviews. Here’s a quick wrap-up of what I read while I was away (and the week before, when I was already in pre-trip mode). As always, a mix of genres, topics, and new vs old.

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado: A YA story starring a plus-sized Latina high schooler who dreams of a first kiss, even while feeling like she’ll never measure up. The story emphasizes the importance of true friendship and trust, as well as body positivity. Charlie experiences a first relationship, has her relationship with her best friend tested, gains confidence as a writer, and learns to stand up for herself and not let others’ negativity undermine her belief in herself. While there are some plot points that I found frustrating (such as a mother whose toxicity about Charlie’s weight is never truly resolved, and unnecessary break-ups with both her boyfriend and her best friend), I loved the lead character enough to make this a really enjoyable read overall.


Rating: 4 out of 5.

Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: This is my 3rd book by this author, but it definitely won’t be my last. Certain Dark Things is a gritty, noir-ish story of vampires, gangs, and drug runners in Mexico City. The main character is a teen boy who devotes himself to helping a lone Aztec vampire escape the city and the various other clans of vampires who want to see her and her people wiped out. It’s a fascinating spin on the world of vampires, and while I would have liked to have seen a bit more on the origins and natures of the different vampire species, I still really enjoyed this book. It’s dark, fast-paced, and surprising.


Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers: I guess I should have read the full synopsis, instead of deciding after just the first sentence that this book sounded like fun. The main character wakes up alone in a Las Vegas hotel room with a vague, hung-over memory of having married an adorable woman the night before. All she has to go on is a note left by the woman with a radio station listed. Grace decides to track down the mystery woman… but for the most part, despite the potential rom-com set-up, this is a story about a woman trying to find her place in the world, figure out who she’s meant to be, and understand her relationships with family and friends. Maybe because I went into it with incorrect (or incomplete) expectations, I was mostly frustrated and annoyed by the depth’s of the main character’s introspection and occasional selfishness.


Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle: This YA retelling of Romeo and Juliet offers a fresh perspective — that of Rosaline, the girl Romeo loved before meeting Juliet. Here, the teens are seniors at an upscale California high school. Rose has been looking forward to reuniting with Rob, her best friend and boy next door since they were small children, especially since their near-kiss right before he left for his summer job. But within a few days of school starting, Rob dumps Rose for the new girl in town — the mysterious Juliet, who also happens to be Rose’s cousin. I really liked the way the author turned the classic story into a contemporary YA drama, and found her portrayal of Rose very thoughtful as well as being a creative twist on a tale that’s been told and retold so many times. When You Were Mine follows some, but not all, of the original’s storyline, and the little differences keep this book fresh and engaging. Sure, I have a few quibbles and would have liked to see a few plot points handled differently, but overall, this is quite a good read.


Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Bennet Women by Eden Appiah-Kubi: Another classic retold! This twist on Pride and Prejudice centers on the “Bennet Women” — the young undergraduate women living in Bennet House at Longbourn College. EJ (the Elizabeth stand-in) is a senior studying engineering and the RA of Bennet House, who holds the values and standards of Bennet House dear to her heart. Her best friends are a trans woman, Jamie, who’s our Jane stand-in, and Tessa, who has a smaller role and seems to be taking the place of Charlotte Lucas. While hitting the major plot beats of P&P, it’s a fresh take full of woman power and feminism, with a nicely diverse cast and some clever approaches to the expected storylines. I really appreciated how EJ’s education and aspirations were given prominence. Here, marriage isn’t a goal or even talked about much — it’s about finding love and respect while also finding themselves, pursuing their dreams, and not giving in to the many ways the world outside of Bennet House might want to limit their opportunities or pull them down.


Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

That’s my reading round-up! And now, back to all the ARCs and other books calling my name…





The Monday Check-In ~ 7/29/2019

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.


My little vacation last week was lovely (but too short). Sun, sand, good books! Some strawberry tiramisu too. What more could I ask for?

What did I read during the last week?

My vacation reading (all reviewed here):

  • Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev
  • We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory
  • I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin

And since returning home, I’ve also read:

Ellie and the Harpmaker by Hazel Prior: A sweet, engaging debut novel. My review is here.

Fresh Catch:

Oof. I bought myself a copy of Wanderers by Chuck Wendig. This book is BIG. I need to steel myself a bit before diving in.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Unholy Land by Lavie Tidhar: Israeli science fiction revolving around alternate realities. Really mind-bending! I’ve read about 75% — can’t wait to see how it all works out.

Now playing via audiobook:

Anne of Ingleside by L. M. Montgomery: The 6th Anne book! Loving the series, although I’m not sure that I love the shift of focus from Anne herself to her big brood of children. Still, carrying on…

Ongoing reads:

Two ongoing book group read right now:

  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens — our current classic selection, reading and discussing two chapters per week.
  • Virgins by Diana Gabaldon: Our newest group read — a novella telling the story of teen-aged Jamie and Ian during their time as mercenaries in France. I’ve read it before, but I”m excited to be sharing it with the group this time around.

So many books, so little time…


Vacation reading wrap-up (summer 2019)

I haven’t done a vacation wrap-up post in a while… mainly because I haven’t had a real vacation (i.e., travel plans not involving family health visits) in AGES! As vaactions go, this week’s was a mini — just four days, but hey: I found sunshine!

My husband and I drove down the California coast to San Luis Obispo county, where we spent a few days hanging out in beach towns, enjoying balmy weather, good food, and even venturing into ocean water that was just a shade warmer than ice. But seriously, it was a good time, even if a bit too short.

And now I’m back, waiting for my laundry to finish (yes, I lead an exciting life), so I thought I’d share a taste of the reading I did these past few days. Because hanging out in beach towns means lots of time basking in the sun on comfy chairs, beach mats, and towels — book in hand, sunglasses on face, not enough sunscreen on body. (Ouch).

Here’s a quick wrap-up of what I read on vacation, with my take on the vacation-worthiness of each book. The number of little beach umbrellas reflects my own personal feelings about whether or not this is a good choice for tucking into your beach-tote!


Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev: A modern day retelling of Pride and Prejudice (obviously), set in the Bay Area and featuring the unlikely pairing of world-class neurosurgeon Trisha Raje and up-and-coming master chef DJ Caine, whose initial meeting is fraught with haughtiness and false impressions. As it turns out, Trisha is the only doctor offering a cure for DJ’s beloved sister’s brain tumor, so despite their mutual dislike, the two are forced together again and again. I liked that the author didn’t follow the P&P plotline 100% — there are plenty of familiar beats, but the story here stands on its own and isn’t shoehorned into unnatural shapes just to make it fit the pattern. I also like that it’s Trisha who’s in the Darcy role here, hiding behind her snobbiness and self-image and repelling the very person she finally realizes she wants to attract. The story moves quickly, has some key emotional moments, LOTS of mouth-watering descriptions of DJ’s culinary creations, and definitely succeeds as a love story with plenty of modern twists. Quite fun — I’m hoping Sonali Dev writes more in this world!

A five-umbrella vacation read for sure! Between the romance and the food, what more could you want?

Vacation ratingumbrellaumbrellaumbrellaumbrellaumbrella


We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory. This book (and this author) have been recommended to me repeatedly — so I finally tossed it in my beach bag and gave it a go. What a weird but oddly compelling story! We Are All Completely Fine is about a group therapy session for people who’ve survived encounters with the supernatural, and have the scars to prove it. Each of the group members has their own horrifying story to tell, and all are joined together through their process of sharing and healing, ultimately banding together to fight off a big bad coming after one of their own. It’s a short read, easily digestible in one sitting. I really liked it, and now that I’ve dipped my toe into his work, I’ll definitely be reading more by Daryl Gregory!

Giving this one 4 beach umbrellas — easy to read on the beach, but the subject matter didn’t really meld well with the bright light of day.

Vacation ratingumbrellaumbrellaumbrellaumbrella


I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn & Allison Raskin: I went at this story a little bit backwards — this is book #1 of 2, but I read #2 first (reviewed here). Oh well. It still works! In this first book, we meet Ava and Gen, two best friends embarking on their freshman year of college on opposites sides of the country. The story is told through their emails and texts, which really capture their personalities and their quirky friendship. It’s light and sunny, but also contains moments of self-discovery, pain, and challenge, as the two characters discover new aspects of themselves and question whether their friendship still works as they grow into their college selves.

Another 5-umbrella read — once you start, it’s impossible to stop!

Vacation ratingumbrellaumbrellaumbrellaumbrellaumbrella



And that’s it! Not too shabby for a four-day vacation!

Now I need to go plan my next get-away… I’m not ready for a return to reality just yet.

Travel reading wrap-up (summer 2018): A big batch of mini-reviews — bread, tea, roller derby, and more!

As I mentioned in my post-vacation blog post, I’m home again after three weeks away. And yes, as always, my reading time was an essential part of my fun! (But try explaining that to my 16-year-old son, who is most adamantly not a believer in recreational reading…)

Here’s a quick wrap-up of what I read while I was away. Definitely an odd assortment of topics and genres, which is just how I like it!


The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See: A haunting, beautiful story of a young woman’s life in a remote village in the Yunnan province of China, growing up as part of the Akha ethnic minority with their unique blend of rituals, traditions, and superstitions. Li-yan’s family depends upon the rare tea trees they nurture for their income, but as the outside world discovers their valuable tea, their entire way of life is changed by their collision with the modern world. Meanwhile, Li-yan’s personal life leads her into sorrow and redemption, and we span the globe as we follow Li-yan and her family members through this touching saga. Fascinating and lovely, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane is a provocative look at a culture I knew nothing about previously. Above all, it’s a moving story of a woman whose life changes dramatically and the power of family bonds and traditions.



Sourdough by Robin Sloan: Sourdough takes the prize for my weirdest read of the year. I bought it on a whim at the airport, despite having a fully loaded Kindle in my backpack. Well worth it — I “devoured” Sourdough in a day. (Mmmm, sourdough.) This is such an odd book. It’s the story of a young woman who comes to San Francisco for a tech job that sucks the soul out of her, until her life turns around thanks to a strange pair of brothers who gift her with their mysterious sourdough starter. As Lois learns to nurture the starter, she is slowly introduced into a (literally) underground world of foodies who attempt to reinvent peoples’ relationships with food and eating. Meanwhile, the sourdough starter has an uncanny tendency to display odd lights and make strange sounds… and oh yeah, the bread loaves baked from the special starter have faces etched into the finished crusts. The writing is funny and quirky, and I just loved it. I think I’m the only person on earth who hasn’t read Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (by the same author), and I know I need to fix that pronto.



The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror by Mallory Ortberg: This collection of retellings is a mixed bag, which includes some truly creepy fairy tale retellings, and some stories that simply failed to make an impression. I particularly loved The Daughter Cells (a retelling of The Little Mermaid) and The Six Boy-Coffins (a retelling mash-up of the Grimm stories The Six Swans and The Twelve Brothers). For sheer creepiness, you can’t beat The Rabbit, a retelling of The Velveteen Rabbit that’s just awfully bloodthirsty and disturbing and wonderful. As a whole, the collection is worth reading, especially if you’re familiar with the original stories. I’m really not much of a short story reader, and some of the stories here left me cold — but the ones I liked, I really liked.




Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne: This was a re-read for me — I read the book when it was first released two years ago, but after seeing the show on Broadway, I just had to read it again. The visuals and presentation of the live show are stunning, and having experienced it, I was able to much more fully enjoy reading the book. (I’ve since learned that the show will be coming to San Francisco in 2019, and I definitely want to see it again!)






InCryptids! Books #5, 6, 7 in the delightful series by Seanan McGuire: Saving the super awesomeness for last! I couldn’t help myself — I binged my way through the remaining 3 books in the InCryptid series, and now I’m stuck waiting for the next new book, which doesn’t come out until 2019. Sob. This series is just so much fun. Chaos Choreography goes back to the original lead character, Verity Price, who battles snake-god-summoning idiots while competing in a reality TV dance competition. Weird, wonderful, absolutely delicious. In books 6 and 7 (Magic for Nothing and Tricks for Free), the focus shifts to Verity’s younger sister Antimony, who ends up joining a carnival and later, working at a Florida theme park that’s almost (but not quite) Disney World. The magic at this kingdom is not particularly friendly, mayhem ensues… and there’s plenty of trapeze work and roller skating too. Oh, and an awesome boyfriend who has quite a few secrets of his own. The InCryptid series, about a family of cryptozoologists who battle evil in order to keep the world safe for all sentient creatures, is silly and funny and totally hilarious — but also contains moments of real emotion and pathos. And hey — talking mice!



And that’s what I read while I was away! No matter how busy we were, I always managed to sneak away here and there for a bit of reading in the sun. Bliss!





I’m back! Where I went, what I did, and what I read

Hi all! Happy 4th of July!

After three weeks away, I arrived home safe and sound early yesterday morning, and promptly fell into bed to sleep myself back to some degree of being human again. (Only partially successful, but hey, it’s only been one day.)

So what have I been up to while being absent from my blogging life? Quite the whirlwind, in fact.

First, I started off with five days in New York. We stayed at a hotel right at Times Square — and no, that’s not a mistake I’m likely to repeat. The hotel was fine, but the crowds were awful. No need to be quite that touristy! The absolute highlight was seeing the oh-so-glorious Harry Potter and the Cursed Child!

Side note: Going to see the HP production is an adventure two years in the making! Two years ago, when tickets were first released for the London production, I jumped through about a million hoops to get tickets for my daughter and me. We had plans for a trip to London last June… and then complications with my elderly father arose, forcing me to cancel my part of the trip. (Darling daughter and her boyfriend enjoyed the show tremendously, lucky them.) When the Broadway ticketing process opened, I was absolutely determined to make it happen… and it did!

For those not familiar with the HP production, it’s a two-part show, which we saw on two consecutive nights. Really, it’s the equivalent of seeing two full-length Broadway shows. Each part ran about 2 hours, 40 minutes, with intermissions. Drink lots of coffee before you go!

What can I say about the show itself? It’s magnificent. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, chances are you’ve read the book already. I had — but even knowing the plot basics, I wasn’t prepared for the spectacle and wonder of the live show. The staging, the lighting, the effects, and above all, the acting, make this a story that has to be seen to be fully appreciated. We were lucky enough to see the original London cast in the Broadway production… and, no surprise, they were simply amazing. One thing I didn’t get from reading the book is just how awesome the character of Scorpius Malfoy is — he really stole the show (and my heart.)

Around the theater, staff gives out buttons saying #keepthesecrets, so I suppose I’m duty-bound not to reveal too much! All I can say is that the show is magical and delightful, and well worth every moment.

Okay, that’s the Harry Potter stuff! Also in New York, my family and I went to see The Band’s Visit, which is a beautiful musical, full of humor and emotion, tightly woven together into a 90-minute production that’s human and moving and has truly lovely music. If you have the chance, definitely check it out! And what’s a trip to New York without a visit to the top of the Empire State Building and an afternoon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art? Add in some great deli, a walk through Central Park, and oodles of people-watching, and who could ask for more?

From there, I headed to Connecticut for a few days of family time, visiting my dad, spending time with other relatives, and basically just chilling out before stage 3 of the vacation, which was…

A two-week trip to Israel!

My husband was born and raised in Israel, and we try to get back to see his family every few years. Somehow, we let more time than usual go by, so this was our first trip in four years! A big chunk of the time there was spent in Tel Aviv, where the family is. Days of hitting the beach, nights of eating at different relatives’ homes. Food. So much food. So much hummus. So much yum.

Because we were traveling with our teen son, I wanted to make sure to include some travel and culture while we were there (although the boy probably would have been happy with nothing but beach, all day, every day.) So we spent two days in Jerusalem, including solemn places (Har Hertzl, Israel’s military cemetary, and Yad Vashem, the incredibly powerful Holocaust museum), the Old City of Jerusalem, the Western Wall, dinner in the newer parts of the city, and a spectacular light show at night within the walls of the Old City. If we’d had more time, we could have spent days and days exploring, but at least we have something to look forward to on the next trip!

Onward we went, heading into the desert for a night at the Dead Sea, where we did our requisite floating! From there, we ventured to Masada — by cable car, no climbing for me in the incredible heat. Masada is always fascinating, and the views are amazing.

One final road trip before heading home — Rosh HaNikra, at the northern tip of Israel along the Mediterranean, where we took cable cars down to the sea grottoes — one of my all-time favorite places! I try to get there on every trip to Israel.

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And now… ta da! We’re back home in SF, where the skies are cool and cloudy, and I have mountains of laundry, mail, and bills to tackle. The joys of post-vacation tasks!

Okay, as for the “what I read” part — here’s a peek at the reading that kept me busy during my quiet moments (amazingly, there were actually a few) during the last few weeks:

I’ll be doing some mini-review posts to talk more about what I read, once I finally catch my breath and finish unpacking and figure out what time zone I’m in!

It’s great to be home! I may be a bit slow to get back into my blogging groove, but I’m excited to be here and look forward to catching up with everyone!

Take A Peek Book Review: The Accident by Chris Pavone

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.

The Accident2


(via Goodreads)

As dawn approaches in New York, literary agent Isabel Reed is turning the final pages of a mysterious, anonymous manuscript, racing through the explosive revelations about powerful people, as well as long-hidden secrets about her own past. In Copenhagen, veteran CIA operative Hayden Gray, determined that this sweeping story be buried, is suddenly staring down the barrel of an unexpected gun. And in Zurich, the author himself is hiding in a shadowy expat life, trying to atone for a lifetime’s worth of lies and betrayals with publication of The Accident, while always looking over his shoulder.

Over the course of one long, desperate, increasingly perilous day, these lives collide as the book begins its dangerous march toward publication, toward saving or ruining careers and companies, placing everything at risk—and everyone in mortal peril.  The rich cast of characters—in publishing and film, politics and espionage—are all forced to confront the consequences of their ambitions, the schisms between their ideal selves and the people they actually became.

The action rockets around Europe and across America, with an intricate web of duplicities stretching back a quarter-century to a dark winding road in upstate New York, where the shocking truth about the accident itself is buried.

Gripping, sophisticated, layered, and impossible to put down, The Accident proves once again that Chris Pavone is a true master of suspense.


My Thoughts:

“Impossible to put down” is exactly right. This spy thriller is off-beat, unusual, and deceptively layered. I expected a certain type of story, but The Accident keeps growing and twisting and taking off in all sorts of unexpected directions.

Who would have thought that an anonymous manuscript could set off an international hunt and race against the clock? With altered identities, murder, surveillance, and high-stakes chases, the manuscript sets off ripples not just in the publishing world, but in corporate headquarters and secret intelligence organizations around the globe.

I read this book on vacation, and it was a perfect choice for lazy reading on a lounge chair with a cold drink in hand. It requires attention, but goes very quickly, and isn’t something that’s going to ruin your happy mood or keep you obsessed while you should be thinking about other things.

This is the second novel by author Chris Pavone, and there is some carry-over from his first, The Expats, as well as characters who appear in his next, The Travelers. I read this one out of order, and realized there were connections I’d missed in The Travelers because I hadn’t read The Accident first. It doesn’t matter a great deal, though. You can enjoy enjoy each novel completely on its own — but reading all three in the order of publication makes it all the more fun, seeing familiar names and places and making connections.

This is a great escapist adventure read — check it out!

Want to know more about this author’s books? Check out my reviews of his other works:
The Expats
The Travelers


The details:

Title: The Accident
Author: Chris Pavone
Publisher: Crown
Publication date: March 1, 2014
Length: 381 pages
Genre: Spy thriller
Source: Purchased


Vacation reading! The annual dilemma…

I’m at T minus a week and change until I leave on a trip, and I’ve entered the vacation obsession zone: Do I have enough sunscreen? What if I want one more sundress besides the two already in my packing pile? How many totebags do I really need?

And the biggie…

What books to read???

I love the whole concept of vacation reading. It’s so freeing! I look at it as a time to pull books from my shelves — books that I’ve always meant to read, but never got around to, or books that I just know will make me happy. It’s a weird and random process, but I think I’ve been narrowing it down lately. Here are the top contenders:

I need a King… or two… or three:

mr. mercedesBag of BonesLong Walk

Maybe a little historical fiction:

Sandcastle GirlsBlue Asylum

There’s the romance I need to read for book group this month:


And some of my newer acquisitions that I haven’t had time for yet:

EligibleWrath & the Dawn

Maybe a little fantasy would be a perfect compliment to a sunny, relaxing day:

Gobln EmperorTemeraire 1

And I am really itching to continue the Magicians series:

MAgician King 2Magician's Land

Did I mention that I’ll only be gone for 10 days? Do you think I might be over doing things just a bit?

Oh yeah, and there are these two, which could help me prepare for a different trip coming up later this summer:


Eep. So. Many. Choices.

But hey — I still have over a week before I zip up the suitcase. Anything can happen in a week. Maybe an entirely different stack of books will catch my eye between now and then!

North to the Future! (Or, where I’ll be for the next week…)

You won’t be seeing much of me for the next week — and that’s a good thing!

I leave tomorrow on a one-week vacation with my daughter… and if I can just get through one last work day without any more crises falling on my head, I’ll be good to go!

Where am I going? Here’s a hint:

Alaska 105

Need another? How about…

Alaska 417

Or this one?

Alaska 391

Give up yet? Does this help?

alaska-stampYup, I’m heading north to beautiful Alaska! My daughter and I are meeting in Anchorage and then hitting the road! Which means this trip should be fabulous in two ways — a week with my awesome daughter and spending time in one of my very, very favorite places.

I haven’t packed yet. I know I need hiking boots, warm socks, lots of layers, and plenty of t-shirts. The pair of jeans I frantically ordered last week never arrived, and I think I need some travel-sized shampoo bottles, so I may need to make one final Target run on the way home today. Mustn’t forget my armloads of electronics — phone, Kindle, laptop, GPS — and all of their assorted chargers.

Most importantly, my reading material! Normally, when I go on trips, I love to throw a bunch of paperbacks into my suitcase — books that I’ve had for a while, books that I’ve been meaning to get to, books that are already a bit battered so it won’t matter if they get smooshed or damp or left behind for someone else once I’m done. Since this is just a one-week trip, so I don’t need to be overly ambitious with my reading plans, but so far I’m planning to finish the book I just started (which is SO GOOD so far!):

Dead Lands

And then, I can’t wait to read:

All I Love and Know

And if I still need more to read (there’s a lot of flying time involved… ), my next choices will probably be one of these:

Bear Fall of Marigolds invention of wings

In terms of blogging, I’ll be mostly offline — or at least, that’s what I’m thinking right now. I’ll be skipping most of my regular weekly posts, and any upcoming reviews will have to wait until I’m back.

Don’t worry, Thursday Quotables will happen as usual! I’ve already scheduled a Thursday Quotables post for next week, so come join in and link up!

Meanwhile, here’s wishing everyone a terrific week filled with good times and great reading. See you soon!

In the immortal words of the former governor of my great state…


PS – Pretty photos up top taken by moi on my last trip to Alaska in 2013!

Bookish Confessions: Vacation Obsessions

The serious countdown has begun to a family trip in early June, and it’s quite telling to check out each family member’s vacation obsessions:

My husband can’t stop talking about power converters and adaptors… except when he’s focused on SIM cards, calling plans, and whether our GPS will work at our destination. (Quick answer: It won’t.)

My son has asked about five times so far if he can bring his boogie board. And we have yet to get a decent answer from the airline about whether we can, in fact, check it through without spending the equivalent of a pile of gold ingots.

(Sadly, my son does not seem so worried about whether his math textbook or any other books will fit in his soon-to-be stuffed suitcase. I wonder why.)

Me? It’s obvious, isn’t it?

I’m obsessing over my reading choices.

Sure, I spent the day yesterday frantically driving to shops and malls in search of a swimsuit that fits (ugh), a decent beach cover-up, and an outfit for the family party I just heard about that should be nice, not too dressy, but reasonably able to hold up to packing. But all that is secondary.

I’ll be traveling for almost three weeks. What to do about books?

Thank heavens and the universe and the powers that be and all of nature for the advent of e-books! Remember those ancient olden days, when you had to pack enough books to last your entire trip, and then throw in another 3 or 4 “just in case”? Because the gods forbid that you run out of reading material before you get home! (This happened to me once on a plane, where I’d read a book too quickly and then had two hours to go of just staring out the windows and reading in-flight magazines. Oh, the trauma!)

On my upcoming trip, we’ll be spending a lot of daytime hours at the beach. My kid and husband and various other family members will mostly be in the water. Sure, I’ll join them… for a bit, and then go back to my beach chair and umbrella and sit down to read. Kindles and beaches are probably a bad combination, though — I don’t think my handy little e-reader will be a fan of sunscreen, sand, and salt water. So, some paper books will need to come along, too.

What to read? Well, I’ve been meaning to re-read some older favorites this year, so I think my battered old copies of Rebecca and To Kill A Mockingbird might be great for beach time. Then again, because it’ll be noisy and hectic and I’ll be constantly distracted, maybe a book of short stories might be a good choice. I still haven’t read my copy of Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things, so now might be the time.

Less planning is required for my e-reading adventures. But do I continue trying to catch up with all the ARCs and upcoming new releases that seem to be constantly forming a logjam on my device — or take a break from so-called obligations, and use my vacation time to read whatever happens to suit my mood at the time?

And then there’s the biggest bookish issue of all for me: The book I’ve been waiting for for years is coming out in June — and I’ll be away. Book #8 in the Outlander series, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, will be released on June 10th. I have it preordered for my Kindle, and assuming the wifi where we’re staying works as promised (which may be an overly optimistic assumption), I should be able to download it that morning and dig in. BUT… well, I am on a family vacation and all, and maybe should focus on family? If I allow myself to start the book I’ve been dying for, will I actually want to do anything else at all until I get through all 1,000 pages? (Correction: Amazon lists it at 848 pages — that’s practically tiny, compared to some of the others in the series!) I suppose I should at least consider holding off on reading the book until the flight home… but I think I may literally shrivel up and die (yes, literally! I swear it!) if I have to wait one more day than necessary for this book! Plus, then there’s the issue of being careful online to avoid spoilers, and that just never works out for me. What to do, what to do?

I haven’t even solved the big question of what to read on our flight on the way there in two weeks, when I’ll have about 10 or so hours to fill. (I suck at sleeping on airplanes. Good books are essential.)

I’m spending more time than is probably necessary looking over my Kindle contents, then standing in front of my bookshelves staring at all the books I haven’t read yet. What will get me through the flights? What have I been wanting to read when I have more time? What would be a fun way to spend my reading hours away from home?

I don’t have any answers yet, but hey — I still have two weeks to obsess about it!

Meanwhile, I just learned that sunscreen expires after three years, so off I go to see what’s still usable and what needs to be replaced. Vacations are exhausting… and I’m not even there yet!

How about you? Do you obsess over your vacation reading? What’s your approach toward deciding what books to bring on trips? If you have any tips for me, please share!

I’ll just be sitting here figuring out how many more books I can put in my suitcase before I start going over the weight limit…



The Monday Agenda 9/2/2013

MondayAgendaNot a lofty, ambitious to-be-read list consisting of 100+ book titles. Just a simple plan for the upcoming week — what I’m reading now, what I plan to read next, and what I’m hoping to squeeze in among the nooks and crannies.

I’m out of town on vacation this week, driving through beautiful Alaska (with my beautiful daughter)! Here’s the quick version of the Monday Agenda.

How did I do with last week’s agenda?

The ReturnedThe Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic

The Returned by Jason Mott: Done! My review is here.

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker: In all of my pre-trip frenzy, I ran out of time, and since this is a long book, I’m going to wait until I’m back from my travels to dig into it.

The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis: My son and I have read about five chapters so far. Last book in the series! I’m sad to see the Narnia adventure coming to an end. The Last Battle gets off to a pretty depressing start; I hope it picks up — and lightens up! — before the kiddo loses interest.

Fresh Catch:

For my inner fangirl, a treat from the Buffy-verse:

Willow: Wonderland

What’s on my reading agenda for the coming week?

Here’s what I packed to bring on vacation. We’ll see how much reading actually gets done – after all, I have trails to hike, and hope to spend my nights enjoying the Aurora Borealis (fingers crossed!!).

Bring Up the Bodies (Thomas Cromwell, #2)The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime WalkThe Shining (The Shining, #1)

It’s crazy that I brought so many books, but heaven forbid that I run out!

So many book, so little time…

That’s my agenda. What’s yours? Add your comments to share your bookish agenda for the week.