2016 Reading

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One of my specific goals for 2016 and ongoing goals for life is to continue to make time to read for pleasure. It’s so easy to get home from work and sucked into television or netflix, but I’ve tried to make a conscious effort to spend some time in the evenings reading, especially before bed. A few other factors helped me reach my goal: Joining a book club provided incentive to read more and to look outside of my usual favorite authors and genres. I also traveled quite a bit this year and I always bring a book to read while traveling – reading intently during take offs/landings/turbulence helps distract me and ease any stress I feel while flying. I’ve always been partial to having an actual book in my hands, but I have loved using my kindle since Adam gifted it to me for our anniversary back in March.

Here are my thoughts on some of the books I read during 2016 – let me know what you thought if you’ve read them too and leave some comments about what should go on my 2017 reading list!

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Kell is one of the last Travelers-magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes, connected by one magical city.There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad king-George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered-and where Kell was raised alongside Rhys Maresh, the rougish heir to a flourishing empire. White London-a place where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.

Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure. Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

I’m kind of into fantasy novels so this book was right up my alley! The first book of a trilogy, it was a fairly quick read that kept my interest and made me want to learn more about the universe the books were set in. I just purchased the second in the series from Amazon and am planning to start it in the next few days. The final book of the trilogy comes out next month!

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The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

Every family has its problems. But even among the most troubled, the Plumb family stands out as spectacularly dysfunctional. Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point on an unseasonably cold afternoon in New York City as Melody, Beatrice, and Jack Plumb gather to confront their charismatic and reckless older brother, Leo, freshly released from rehab. Months earlier, an inebriated Leo got behind the wheel of a car with a nineteen-year-old waitress as his passenger. The ensuing accident has endangered the Plumbs’ joint trust fund, “The Nest,” which they are months away from finally receiving.

Something like a cross between a Liane Moriarty book (for character development) and Devil Wears Prada (for dysfunctional NYC elite) and The Goldfinch (for post-9/11 art) without being quite as good as any of them, but still really good. I was pulled in by the story of each of the Plumb siblings and the sort of overarching sadness that the family held.

 

Divergent by Veronica Roth

One choice can transform you. Beatrice Prior’s society is divided into five factions—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). Beatrice must choose between staying with her Abnegation family and transferring factions. Her choice will shock her community and herself. But the newly christened Tris also has a secret, one she’s determined to keep hidden, because in this world, what makes you different makes you dangerous.

On one of my many work trips to Chicago, I finally decided to start reading the Divergent Series – appropriate as it takes place in a futuristic dystopian Chicago. The first book was so, so good and I literally could not put it down. Book 2 was good, book 3 was meh. As with the Maze Runner series below, I just never seem to like the subsequent books in a series as much as I like the originals.

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Maze Runner by James Dashner

If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.

 When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone.

 Nice to meet ya, shank. Welcome to the Glade.

 Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive.  Everything is going to change.Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.

 Remember. Survive. Run.

COULD NOT STOP READING the first book in the series. Or the second one, which I bought on a later flight. By the third though…I was struggling and ultimately dissatisfied with the ending and I haven’t bothered with the two prequels. Like many YA fantasy series, Hunger Games, Divergent (see above), my interest fades after the first couple of books and I am almost always disappointed by the third. So definitely read the Maze Runner but then maybe just stop there?

 

The Rosie Project by  Graeme Simsion

The art of love is never a science: Meet Don Tillman, a brilliant yet socially inept professor of genetics, who’s decided it’s time he found a wife. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which Don approaches all things, he designs the Wife Project to find his perfect partner: a sixteen-page, scientifically valid survey to filter out the drinkers, the smokers, the late arrivers.

Rosie Jarman possesses all these qualities. Don easily disqualifies her as a candidate for The Wife Project (even if she is “quite intelligent for a barmaid”). But Don is intrigued by Rosie’s own quest to identify her biological father. When an unlikely relationship develops as they collaborate on The Father Project, Don is forced to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie―and the realization that, despite your best scientific efforts, you don’t find love, it finds you. 

This book is a super cute, light-hearted read. I couldn’t quite stop thinking of the main character as Sheldon from Big Bang Theory, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it.I ended up reading the second book, The Rosie Effect too which I didn’t like quite as much (I also read it in the throws of morning sickness not realizing that much of the book is about Rosie’s pregnancy), but still found to be entertaining and I enjoyed the ending.

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In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez 

It is November 25, 1960, and three beautiful sisters have been found near their wrecked Jeep at the bottom of a 150-foot cliff on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. The official state newspaper reports their deaths as accidental. It does not mention that a fourth sister lives. Nor does it explain that the sisters were among the leading opponents of Gen. Rafael Leonidas Trujillo’s dictatorship. It doesn’t have to. Everybody knows of Las Mariposas―“The Butterflies.”

In this extraordinary novel, the voices of all four sisters―Minerva, Patria, María Teresa, and the survivor, Dedé―speak across the decades to tell their own stories, from hair ribbons and secret crushes to gunrunning and prison torture, and to describe the everyday horrors of life under Trujillo’s rule. Through the art and magic of Julia Alvarez’s imagination, the martyred Butterflies live again in this novel of courage and love, and the human cost of political oppression. 

This was a book club book that I loved! Based on a true story and told from the point of view of each of the sisters, this pulled me in and captured my attention the whole way through. Even though you know there is ultimately a sad ending, you can’t help but root for the sisters as they fight for the cause against an oppressive dictator.

 

Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty 

Sam and Clementine have a wonderful, albeit, busy life: they have two little girls, Sam has just started a new dream job, and Clementine, a cellist, is busy preparing for the audition of a lifetime. If there’s anything they can count on, it’s each other.

Clementine and Erika are each other’s oldest friends. A single look between them can convey an entire conversation. But theirs is a complicated relationship, so when Erika mentions a last minute invitation to a barbecue with her neighbors, Tiffany and Vid, Clementine and Sam don’t hesitate. Having Tiffany and Vid’s larger than life personalities there will be a welcome respite.

Two months later, it won’t stop raining, and Clementine and Sam can’t stop asking themselves the question: What if we hadn’t gone?

I’ve seen that this book, Liane Moriarty’s latest, has gotten some negative reviews, but I have to disagree! It wasn’t my favorite of hers (Big Little Lies), but I still loved it. Something about the way Moriarty develops each character with so much insight into their personality keeps my attention even as the “big mystery” of the story was pretty slow to unravel. I wouldn’t say it’s an uplifting read as the characters are dealing with some heavy and depressing stuff, but if you’re looking for a good, juicy novel, this is it.

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Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

In Why Not Me?, Kaling shares her ongoing journey to find contentment and excitement in her adult life, whether it’s falling in love at work, seeking new friendships in lonely places, attempting to be the first person in history to lose weight without any behavior modification whatsoever, or most important, believing that you have a place in Hollywood when you’re constantly reminded that no one looks like you.

I don’t typically read non-fiction, but like most of my books I bought this in an airport and the options in Houston were fairly limited. Good thing I love Mindy and the writing in her book is similar to the writing on her show, the Mindy Project. It kept my attention, kept me laughing and gave some interesting backstory into her career and relationships.

 

What books did you love last year? What should go on my 2017 reading list? 

2016 Year in Review

Happy New Year, Baltimore! Long time no blog, but in 2017 we will be back at it. To catch up real quick on what’s been going on, I’m here today with a year in review! See what happened in May that temporarily derailed blogging.

January – The first month of 2016 was bookended by travel – in early January, Adam and I spent a few days in Miami and at the end of the month I met my bff in Nashville for the NHL All-Star Game. Nashville is such a fun city and even though I was there for work, we managed to squeeze in some fun. Both the skills challenge and all-star game were a blast and Jessie and I snagged a pic with the Stanley Cup.

February – We celebrated Valentine’s Weekend with dinner at Brendali , made the trip to College Park to watch the Terps lose to Wisconsin and had a Galentine’s Day lunch at Cheesecake Factory. Work travel continued with a trip up to Buffalo for an event with the Sabres. Since it was my first time in Buffalo I had to see Niagara Falls and even though it was absolutely freezing, the falls were gorgeous and so impressive!

March – Obviously I was feeling the travel bug in 2016 because in March I flew to Athens for five amazing days with a couple of my best girlfriends. We ate Greek yogurt and Greek salads with tons of fresh feta, souvlaki, spanakopita, moussaka, octopus and it was all fabulous. We rented an AirBnb downtown and walked all over the city from the Acropolis to Lycabettus Hill. We took a ferry to nearby Aegina and rented a car to spend the day exploring. The whole trip was super affordable and we felt so welcomed by all of the Greeks that we met. Every morning we made a pit stop at Coffee Island (a coffee chain that’s probably the Greek equivalent to Dunkin’ Donuts) for frappes – an icy, sweet drink made with Nescafe instant coffee that I wish I could find in the US! Greece was clearly my March highlight, but I also did some fun things when I got back in town: Jeanette and I ran the Shamrock 5k and had a great time at Light City and Adam and I celebrated our first anniversary!

April – Since apparently I can’t stay in one place for too long, I flew to Chicago for a night in April for a Chicago Blackhawks game for work. The rest of the month was spent in Baltimore, celebrating Jeanette’s birthday and running my first 10k – the Sole of the City – completing one of my goals for 2016.

May – We packed a lot into May, we celebrated Mother’s Day, made a trip to the Maryland Zoo, saw Beauty and the Beast at the Hippodrome, and had friends over to watch the Preakness.  But, this particular May will go down in history as the month we found out we were expecting!

June – Most of the summer was a blur of morning sickness and exhaustion, but in June I celebrated the wedding of Adam’s cousin, ran walked the Baltimore Women’s Classic 5 and had a staycation at the Hyatt. June also marked the final blog post of the year because let me tell you, pregnancy is no joke and making it to work and home to bed was pretty much all I could manage.

July – Still not feeling so hot, but spent a week in Chicago for work including an afternoon of sightseeing in Millennium Park and dinner at Shaw’s Crab House. We also celebrated the wedding of friends at the Sheraton Baltimore. The ceremony was beautiful and we had a blast dancing and taking pics in the photo booth.

August – In August, we spent a week at the Outer Banks with my mom, soaking up the sun, drooling over Duck Donuts and playing miniature golf. We also spent a long weekend with Adam’s cousin and her boyf in Ocean City. People usually knock beach food, but we had a great dinner at Liquid Assets.

September – Back  to the beach, this time to Bethany with Adam’s family. We ate at Off the Hook (my fave kale caesar with a crab cake) and played more mini golf. Later in September, I celebrated my birthday with a few friends at Brendali followed by froyo at Afters. Brendali – with it’s no frills look and delicious food – was perfect for a festive group, especially since it is BYOB.

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October – The month of falltivities: Renaissance Festival, Larriland Farm and my cousin’s gorgeous fall wedding at the Homestead. I also spent a week in Houston for work and was finally feeling completely over morning sickness!

November – Celebrated Adam’s birthday with an amazing dinner at Charleston and spent a weekend in DC for a little baby moon. We stayed at a Marriott downtown and enjoyed great dinners at Zaytinya and Le Diplomate. We also made our first trip to the Newseum and to the famed Daikaya for ramen. We enjoyed Thanksgiving with Adam’s family and by the end of the month I had sort of almost recovered from the shock of the election.

December – Another busy month to close out the year! A weekend of showers with a bridal shower for one friend and a baby shower for another, two Terps games, a festive Christmas Eve dinner at Grano Emporio,  a visit to 34th Street in Hampden to see the lights and New Year’s dinner at Sobo Cafe.

And now here we are, January 2017 and baby due in three weeks! Hoping we won’t go silent for another six months and we’ll be able to update you all on our escapades in our favorite city.

Best wishes to everyone for an amazing year!

Weekend Recap: Staycation

This weekend was fun and BUSY. My bff since first grade came to visit from New York and we had a blast with a mini-Baltimore staycation. We did a staycation in DC last summer, and followed the same pattern this year by choosing a hotel with a rooftop pool. Backing up a bit, Friday night was low key with a frozen chicken parm meal from Trinacria. Saturday morning I woke up early for a mani/pedi followed by my favorite gyro salad for lunch at Samos before picking up my visiting bff from the bus station.

Then the real fun began as we checked into our room at the Hyatt Regency. This hotel was definitely a bit of a splurge, but worth it for the outdoor pool and location. We quickly changed into our swimsuits and headed to the pool deck to post up for the afternoon. The pool was small but perfect for our needs and surrounded by lots of comfy couches and lounge chairs. The view of the harbor was awesome and we enjoyed a lovely afternoon in the sunshine alternating between soaking in the pool, laying out and sipping bay breezes.

After a few hours by the pool we were craving Mexican food and ended up at Blue Agave for guac and enchiladas. Following dinner we ended up back on the Hyatt pool deck for s’mores at the fire pit! We bought a s’mores kit at the front desk complete with graham crackers, marshmallows, chocolate and a long stick for marshmallow roasting. It was a gorgeous night and we has a blast acting like kids and setting our marshmallows on fire. I can’t remember the last time I had a s’more and it was delicious.

Saturday morning we woke up early for the Baltimore Women’s Classic 5k.  I ran the race last year and was excited to participate again. It was another great experience and we enjoyed the supportive, inspiring feeling that comes from a women-only race. It was a HOT morning and we certainly worked up a sweat during the race. After the race we went back to the hotel for much-needed showers and checked out before post-race refueling brunch at Metropolitan. I ordered a croissant sandwich with egg, cheese and turkey sausage that hit the spot!

To cap off the weekend with more eating, we got carry out pasta from Grano. You choose your noodle and you choose your sauce. Hello drool-worthy spaghetti Bolognese, house salad and bread with olive oil.

 

What was the highlight of your weekend? Have you ever done a staycation?

Weekend Recap: Wedding Festivities

This weekend we celebrated the wedding of one of Adam’s cousins to his amazing longtime girlfriend. There were multiple days of celebrations and I enjoyed the opportunity to soak up quality time with Adam’s extended family. I’d say the weekend really kicked off Thursday at lunch when I got this delicious pizza from Blaze. At Blaze they offer a myriad of toppings and let you design your own pie which they then fire in the pizza oven right as you wait. I went pretty simple with red sauce, mozzarella, ricotta and turkey meatball. It was piping hot and oh so yummy.

Blaze Pizza Baltimore Inner Harbor

Keeping in the Italian food theme, Thursday night we headed to Sabatino’s in Little Italy for a wedding welcome dinner. We had private space in their lower level and all enjoyed calamari, sausage and peppers and salad. We were offered a number of entree choices and I opted for the chicken alle marche – rigatoni with chicken, broccoli and alfredo sauce. It was very rich and I brought home enough leftovers to enjoy for lunch the next day! It was a fun place to kick-off wedding festivities and welcome all of the out of towners who had traveled in.

Friday was the wedding and I left work early for a blow out at Houte Blow Dry Bar in Harbor East. After a quick blow dry, I left with bouncy waves and went home to change before heading to Belmont Manor Historic Park. The venue was gorgeous and we sipped on strawberry lemonade while we waited for the ceremony to start. After a beautiful ceremony (that included the couples’ dogs), we enjoyed cocktail hour on the lawn and spent the rest of the evening sipping champagne and tearing up the dance floor.

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Saturday we ventured across town to Captain James for a post-wedding crab feast! This was a blast and such a great, relaxed way to see everyone again after the wedding. Our party took over the covered patio overlooking the water and dined on crab soup, steamed corn on the cob and crabs, crabs, crabs. It was so fun to see out of town family trying their hand at cracking crabs and getting a real taste of Baltimore!

After all of that celebrating, I was exhausted and passed out for a nap. Adam snapped a photo of the hilarious way Jack is snoozing with me!

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Sunday we got back together with family for brunch to celebrate all the dads. We noshed on bagels and cream cheese, mini quiches and shrimp cocktail and finished things out with birthday cake for my father-in-law’s bday. We rounded out the weekend with some grocery shopping and ramen and went to bed early!!

Friday Five: Summa, Summa, Summatime

Happy Friday, everyone! This Friday Five is brought to you by my scatterbrain that just wants to go outside and play. ::looks longingly out the window::

  1. I have GOT to get to a farmer’s market this weekend! I’ve been so busy lately I haven’t gotten to one yet this season, but I love a good excuse to wake up early, soak in the sunshine, pick up a breakfast sammy and get my veggies for the week. I think I might head to the Baltimore Museum of Industry’s farmer’s market after Dance2Fitness on Saturday, but the market under the JFX on Sundays is always a good option, too.
  2. Looking forward to the Chesapeake Crab & Beer Festival next weekend! I sort of wish I opted for the 5K + crabfest ticket, but let’s be honest… when the time arrives, I’ll just want my crabs, sans three-mile sweatfest beforehand.
  3. My sister will be in town in a few weeks and I’ve been trying to brainstorm some fun things to do with her that aren’t your typical tourist activities. She’s a UMD alum and has been to Baltimore several times before, so she’s already done the Inner Harbor tourist-trap thang. I’m thinking Mount Vernon Marketplace and duckpin bowling. Any other must-do activity ideas?
  4. Want all-you-can-drink beer + a chance to win a trip to an adult camp in Colorado? Baltimore Social is throwing an end-of-season party next Thursday, June 23. It’s free if you played in the league this season, but if not, register online and pay $10 at the door. The event includes free beer, a flip cup tourney (winner gets free camp registration), sailing regatta, cornhole and more.
  5. I’m sad I haven’t gotten to any WTMD First Thursday concerts yet, and it looks like I’ll be out of town for their July concert as well! If you’re around, definitely plan to head to the Canton Waterfront on the first Thursday of the month (through September) for a free concert with incredible bands handpicked by Baltimore radio station WTMD.

What are you all excited about this summer? Let us know what’s going on in the comments! I’ll leave ya with a summer jam.

 

Linking up with Heather for Friday Faves.