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Here’s my 2010 year in reading review. The survey is courtesy of the Perpetual Page-Turner

1. Best book of 2010? The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall. As I mentioned in my mini-review, this book had many of the individual characteristics that typically lead me to dislike a book, yet Udall made them work incredibly well.  If you’re a fan of literary fiction or are interested in stories about polygamist culture, definitely pick this one up.

1b. Runners up: The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

2. Worst book of 2010? Hello Kitty Must Die by Angela Choi. My brain felt dirty for days after I finished this dark novel.

2b. Runners up: Arsonist’s Guide to the Writer’s Homes of New England by Brock Clarke (apparently I have issues with homicidal narrators), Something Blue by Emily Giffin

3. Most Disappointing Book of 2010? The Possessed by Elif Batuman. I had very high hopes for this intellectual semi-memoir, but it suffered from an identity crisis.

3b. Runners up: Adam & Eve by Sena Jeter Naslund

4. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2010? Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner. Why did I not read this sooner? Oh yeah, my chick lit phobia. Well, this was my year for getting over several of my genre biases, and I’m glad I did.

5. Book you recommended to people most in 2010? In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, How to be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway

6. Best series you discovered in 2010? Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (a trilogy counts, right?)

7. Favorite author you discovered in 2010? Brady Udall

8. Most hilarious read of 2010? Didn’t read much in the way of humor this year.

9. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2010? The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson

10. Book you most anticipated in 2010? The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood. Yes, it came out in 2009, but it took a few months for me to give up on the miles long library hold list and buy this one.

11. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2010? Oh dear. I don’t pay enough attention to book covers to answer this one!

12. Most memorable character in 2010? Oscar Wao

13. Most beautifully written book in 2010? Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

14. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2010? So What Are You Going to Do with That? by Basalla and Debelius because it was a part of the wrestling-with-career-quitting-job-going-to-library-school episode that defined 2010 for me.

15. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2010 to finally read? Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner, Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami, White Teeth by Zadie Smith, The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Other 2010 reading details:

I read 79 books this year. This is by far the most I’ve read since I started keeping a reading journal in 2001, though much of that I credit to the speedy reading of graphic novels and fantasy books.

Fiction: 63

Short stories: 2

Graphic novels: 7

Fantasy / Sci-Fi: ~25

Nonfiction: 16

*Image courtesy of


53. Men and Cartoons by Jonathan Lethem – I don’t typically enjoy short story collections, but this book of quirky stories was quite good. Each tale has an element of science fiction that makes it interesting (like a spray the police use that shows the shapes of all the items thieves have stolen from a home), but Lethem keeps the worlds in these stories is still realistic enough to hit close to home.

54. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami – Such a good book! If you haven’t read anything by Murakami yet, you really should remedy that as soon as possible. I had already read his Kafka on the Shore and was surprised that Norwegian Wood didn’t include any of the fantastic elements found there, but it is an incredibly well told story. It does have some very depressing story lines, but on the scale of depressing literature (0 = Dr. Seuss; 10 = Andre Dubus) it’s probably only a 7.

55. How to be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway – The plot description sounded trite to me (it’s the story of a Japanese woman who marries an American soldier during World War II and movies to the US with him) , but I gave it a try thanks to the recommendation of assorted book bloggers. And? SO glad I did.  I highly recommend this easy to read and interesting story.

56. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman – I stole this 1970s sci-fi book off Cajun husband’s boookshelves after he mentioned that it was likely going to be made into a movie. For a book that spans thousands of years it’s quite brief, but in that small space Haldeman condemns the military industrial complex in a compelling and effective way.

57. Beguilement by Lois McMaster Bujold (The Sharing Knife, Book 1) – After hearing all about the loveliness of Bujold online lately, I had to give her a try. I know, I know. For someone who as recent as 2 years ago refused to read fantasy or sci fi, I’m reading quite a lot of it now. And I’m enjoying it! But back to Beguilement: this was the first Bujold book I picked up, and I enjoyed the tale. Bujold’s characters are well-drawn, and the plot is compelling. Beguilement is the story of Fawn, a young woman who runs away from her family only to face mystical malices and be rescued by a patroller. Despite the rescue plot line, Fawn is a strong character who doesn’t just sit around and wait to be saved.

Stay tuned for a full speed tour of the rest of the year’s reads as I catch up on my blogging!

*Photo is property of the author and her lazy cats.

Yes, I forced Bella-dog into a tutu this Halloween. She moped, but at least she kept it on long enough for a photo shoot.


This past May I didn’t think much about it being 10 years since high school graduation. Sure, it was weird to get the invitation to the reunion that will be this fall, but I didn’t spend time reminiscing about the good old days.

But right now I’m going back to school, and as I get ready for my first class tonight I can’t help but think of when I started college 10 years ago this month. I can’t for the life of me remember anything about my first week of class, but I have vivid memories of packing up my car (with the help of the boyfriend who I thought was THE ONE at the time), driving down with my family, setting up my room, and meeting the friends I had made at freshman orientation, the friends who are still some of my favorite people. That first fall was fun and exciting and traumatic, full of late nights studying at Waffle House, of hiking down 3 flights of stairs into a creepy basement to do laundry, of going to class in pajamas, of sitting on the dorm steps with one of my best friends until all hours, writing and talking and writing some more.  I doubt I’ll be able to make it to the 10 year high school reunion thanks to my current classwork, but if there were a leaving for college reunion? If I could spend a weekend sitting on our favorite step and reminiscing with those dear friends? I’d be there in a heartbeat.

This trip to college won’t be the same. My first turn through grad school certainly took me by surprise, as I spent two years focused only on schoolwork while I dealt with a school and a town I couldn’t stand. But this time won’t be like that either because I’m married now and not moving off to start somewhere new. I’ve got my hubs and some pretty awesome cats and dog to come home to, and I have a few more years of school and work and life under my belt. It all feels pretty good this time.

Wish me luck!

A mystery has unfolded in my house.  We would leave a bowl of cherry tomatoes sitting on the counter, and in the morning one would be lying in the middle of the den with scary vampire teeth marks.  Hubs and I looked at each other and instantly said: BUNNICULA!

Did you read Bunnicula as a kid? It’s been, ahem, a few years since I read it, but apparently this tale of a family that finds tomatoes punched with vampire teeth holes and drained of their color made a lasting impression on both my hubs and me.

I’m not sure what inspired the sudden taste for vegetables, because our culprit is normally a carnivore.

Yes, he’s wrangling a buffalo. That’s the kind of swag you get when you travel to exciting west Texas for work. This morning I was amused to discover that the cat who could take down a buffalo had met his match: full size tomatoes. Fairly small full size tomatoes. Based on the number of vampire marks in these suckers, I think he made quite a few tries to carry them off before giving up.

My week back home was crazy, busy, exhausting, wonderful, good. Yep.

Here are the highlights:

*Milo’s. Speaking of ugly, awesome food. Yummm. If you’re ever passing through Birmingham and you have a high tolerance of onions and sugar, pick up one of these saucy burgers and a sweet tea.

*And I just happened to sneak by Dreamcakes (now in Homewood) for a caramel mocha sea salt cupcake. We had these as part of our groom’s “cake” spread, and they are DELICIOUS. We saved the top tier of the wedding cake for our upcoming anniversary (and I successfully transported it back to Texas from my maid of honor’s freezer!), but since I expect it will taste pretty frozen and stale, I’m going to attempt to replicate these amazing cupcakes.

*Hilly, windy, woodsy roads are good for my soul. In Dallas I mainly get flat, straight, and bordered by strip malls. Shockingly not so soul nourishing.

*Hanging with my three incredibly awesome nephews (ages 8, 6, and 2). I spent a couple of days romping around with them, and it was wonderful. Oldest boy is obsessed with sports, middle boy spends every spare second drawing (or stealing my phone to play with the artsy droid apps), and little one is just plain cute. Little one has also renamed me Grandma, which the older boys find HILARIOUS.

*And while the cool breezes of fall (aka football season) are still months away, I did get to see the new additions to Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. Roll Tide! And did I mention that I married an LSU fan?

*Kudzu may be an invasive plant, but it’s also one of those dear, familiar signs of home. They say that if you sit still enough you can hear it growing.

*Small town streets. With old trees! And people who actually know and take care of their neighbors! This is my grandmother’s street, where she has lived in the same house for nearly 60 years.

The day I drove up through the back roads of the state to see my grandma I sunk into total I LOVE HOME OMG WHY DON’T I LIVE HERE. I was in love with everything. Then as I drove back towards my parents’ new home, I saw a billboard that reminded me of the OTHER side of being from Alabama. I did not take a picture of this anti-Obama propaganda because it made me too sad. I took Mark Kemp’s Dixie Lullaby with me on this trip, and as I read of his conflicted feeling about being from the South, I felt echoes of my own story… I will always have a love/hate relationship with home because it’s a beautiful, wonderful place with a dark underbelly that hasn’t faded into history just yet.

(all photos by the author)

So… any entomologists lurking out there? No? Because something has colonized my porter tomatoes.

I would like to profess my eternal love and gratitude to Performance Bicycle. But… let’s begin with the beginning, shall we?

Here in the land of heat and dry and sun, it’s been raining. And raining. And raining. My garden is thrilled. My herbs are attempting to take over the world. And the other perk? If and when the rain ever stops I can take a midday bike ride without risking heat stroke.

The sun came out on Friday and the temperature wasn’t oppressive, so I hopped on my bike. I noticed as I rode east that the sky was a bit on the ominous side, but I was determined to get some more miles in before the rain started up. Somewhere after the monstrous crickets and well before I was ready to turn home, I realized that I was about to be stranded in the rain. Did I turn back? Make a run for home? Stop at shelter? Nope. I kept going. Smart, huh? I was determined to ride until the rain hit, which of course it did with a vengeance. Oops… I hightailed it to a picnic pavilion to wait it out.

Being stranded goes in stages.Step 1: Message the husband and check the weather report. Step 2: Tweet about it. Step 3: Take pictures of it. Step 4: Sit and enjoy it. Step 5: Get antsy and stretch. Step 6: Get antsier and check the weather report again. Step 7: Get antsiest and start cleaning up the pavilion. My finds? 14 juice box straws, 6 plastic tubes for those frozen fruity things (what the heck are they called?), 3 lanyards, a few kids’ coloring projects, and a stack of bud light caps. Sounds like I missed quite a kiddy party, right?

Just as I was starting to think that the rain was going to settle in for the long haul and I would have to either get soaked or ask the hubs to rescue me, the rain slacked off and I started my ride home. Much as I had enjoyed my rain break, at this point I just wanted to GET HOME. Also at which point, four miles from home and without an air pump, I got a flat tire. I must have been living in some kind of lucky bike bubble (other than the stolen bike…) because I have absolutely no memory of ever changing a flat. Since I was woefully unprepared, I buckled down (and perhaps grumbled/cursed/kicked bike) and started the hour walk home that would have gone much faster on a fully functional bike.

But after getting stuck in the rain and getting a flat tire, something went right. I remembered that not far off my path (and FAR closer than my house) I could run into Performance Bicycle. I hadn’t packed my debit card, but I did have an emergency $10 stashed in my bike bag. Now I’m not sure exactly what the guys at Performance Bicycle were thinking when I came in… Maybe “I wish this hottie in the embarrassingly tight shorts weren’t wearing bike gloves so I could see if she had a wedding ring on.” More likely “this girl is so stupid that if we don’t help her out she may never make it home.” Either way, they took mercy on a rain/sweat/mud-soaked damsel in distress. I didn’t have enough cash to pay for labor (note to self: increase emergency stash), but they kindly changed it out for only the cost of a new tube. I promised to come back and spend $$$ soon. We usually make the drive into town to the independent local bike store, but if these dear folks will save me in a crisis, I’ll happily support their chain store!

The last three miles of my trip home were blissfully uneventful, but my should-have-stayed-in-bed day wasn’t quite over yet. If you need a good laugh, just picture me running into the grocery store in flip-flops in the rain, losing one shoe, running back for it, running forward, losing the other shoe, and finally scooting successfully in the door.

Things I did right: Riding with a phone (I was able to map the fastest route home, let hubs know I was stuck, check the weather radar). Carrying emergency cash. Wearing an ID bracelet (at least I didn’t put this one to use!). Packing an energy gel (lunch time came and went, and I needed energy to get home). Batting my eyelashes (just kidding).

Lessons I learned: $10 will only deal with small emergencies. People riding more than 5 miles from home should carry a portable pump (we went back to Performance on Saturday and bought this one for both of our bikes. It was super easy to mount), patch kit, and tire lever. Being unprepared is bad for the whole independent woman image. Getting stuck in the rain is kinda like being at home at night when the power goes out – you may gripe about it, but it’s pretty wonderful too.

Today I’m saying a bittersweet goodbye to Unnamed Publisher. I now get almost 2 months of being a housewife (if I don’t go completely stir crazy), then I’ll be starting back to school at the end of August. Leaving the pub and my lovely coworkers behind is incredibly hard, but I think it will all be worth it in the end.

Posting will be spotty over the next few days (heh, as if it isn’t spotty the rest of the time…). I’ve got pictures floating around as they move from the work computer to their new home, so several posts will have to wait for the great sorting to wrap up.

And… we’re headed to Austin for the weekend! I’ve only been there for work in the past, so we’re excited to have some fun time around the city. We’ve got family to visit, husband’s coworkers to picnic with, and a city to explore! Let me know if you have any Austin advice.

Have a good weekend!

This morning, I took Bella-dog and Dory (aka Dorian Gray, the not-so-vain fat kitten) to the vet. I had been preparing myself for weeks for the cat weight lecture. Dory has a fairly small frame, but it carries a good bit of belly (and yes, a lot of fur).
I was shocked to discover that THIS is considered healthy. I looked at my vet like she was craaaaazy.

Maybe if he would just avoid this “must let my beer gut breathe” pose… Either way, I decided we should all be as comfortable with our jiggly parts as he is.

Twitter Updates

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