Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Reading and Running (& more) in the OBX

Hello, reader/runner friends!  Yes, a long absence around here, but for good reason.  If you saw my Instagram post the other day, you know that the Well-Read Redhead family recently returned from a 10ish day long summer vacation.  Woohoo!  Add in the time required to recover from said vacation (because all vacations with children require substantial recovery periods), and wait a minute, when did August get here...?

Let me fill you in on the trip, especially the reading and running highlights!

(I'll warn you that this "brief" update post turned into a rather long vacation review, reading discussion, and race report, so...just read the highlights that interest you most, I guess?  BEAR WITH ME PEOPLE, I'M STILL IN VACATION MODE.)

Our first stop was at Sesame Place down in Langhorne, Pennsylvania.  We added Sesame on to the front of our summer vacation last year as well, because our kids are at PERFECT ages for it (2.5 and 5), and it's a fun way to kick off a big trip.  This year, we broke family records by staying at the park for NINE HOURS.  My kids are serious troopers for hanging in there that long!!  We had a great day, then hopped in the car and let the kids sleep while we drove to a hotel in Maryland.
The Happiest Place on Earth (for kids who have not yet been introduced to the actual Happiest Place on Earth)
The next day, I impressed myself by getting up at 6:30am to work out in the small, but well-equipped, hotel gym.  I had the place to myself, and ended up doing 30 minutes of cycling, plus a bunch of core/strength work with the free weights and BOSU.  I thought about trying a treadmill run, but one running step told me my right leg was still not okay (more on that later).  Boooo.  Still, this was good for spending 9 hours running around a theme park the day before!
Up in the gym just workin' on my fitness. Pretty sure someone famous said that.
After checking out, we headed to our final destination: the Outer Banks in North Carolina.  We vacationed here in 2012 as well, and fell in love with it.  A return trip was most certainly in order.  We shared a beach house with our 2 good friends and their 2 kids in Corolla, and had an absolutely AWESOME week.  We managed a beach trip (or 2 or 3) every day, as well as a side excursion to the aquarium on Roanoke Island.  It was fun, relaxing, exhausting, and rejuvenating all at the same time.  :)
More of this please.
Reading highlights...well, there aren't too many.  You do a beach trip with two young kids, and you don't end up with much reading time (see: Reading with a Toddler, an old guest post on the blog from 2013...very appropriate here! Sorry for all the broken pic links though. Too lazy to fix right now...).  I packed my book into my beach bag on day 1, and promptly removed it that evening, knowing that the oceanside reading of my 20's was just never gonna happen.  However, after the kids went to bed and during their afternoon downtime, I did often get some pages in on the deck.  My book of choice was Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter.  Full review to come, but WOWZA, this was an enthralling mystery, albeit an extremely, horrifically graphic one.
View while reading. Not sad about it.
Running highlights...again, not many, this time because of my injury!  (I still don't have a name for said injury, but I'm finally seeing an orthopedist tomorrow, so stay tuned.)  Other than my hotel biking/strength session, I also got in some sunrise yoga on our deck (AMAZING!!) and on a whim I decided to run a local 5K on the 27th.  I knew it would stir up my injury, but how could I resist a local race along the ocean?  I mean, just one little 5K, right...
My sunrise view during yoga on the deck. Seriously? Stop it.
The Brindley Beach Lighthouse 5K is run every Wednesday during the summer months in Corolla.  I was afraid that a race that is put on every single week would be kind of shoddily done (like, are they going to go all out for something they do over and over?), but holy moly--OBX Running Company has a pretty amazing thing going on!!  Every race employee I talked to was super friendly and helpful, the entire race was smoothly executed, all the little details were taken care of...it was great.  Very nice finisher medals and race tshirts for all participants, plus an email later that day with your official race results, finisher video, and pictures.  Seriously awesome.  They also do a 5K every Thursday in Nags Head, so I highly recommend checking one out if you are ever vacationing down there!

I got to the race site near Currituck lighthouse early to register, then spent some time stretching, warming up, and exploring the area.  The race started a little after 8am, which in Corolla means HOT HOT HOT.  It was 81 degrees with 96% humidity, to be exact.  YEAH.  For an upstate New Yorker, that is literally trial by fire, because I can't remember the last time I ran in those conditions.  Between the heat and my leg, I decided to keep myself going no faster than 8:30 pace, and just push as comfortably as I could.

The race started, and a minute or so in, I looked at my watch to see 7:45 pace.  Nope nope nope.  I dialed it back and fell pretty comfortably into the 8:30 range.  I finished mile 1 at 8:35 and felt surprisingly good.  Mile 2, I encountered the one water station and decided to walk through it.  I knew I NEEDED the water, and the thought of choking down 1-2 mouthfuls while I ran was not appealing.  I still managed to complete the second mile in 8:55.

As expected, the heat was getting to me badly by the third mile, but I still finished it out at 9:03 pace, for a final result of 27:27, good enough for 2nd in my age group.  Not bad!!  Only about 1 minute off a PR in fact, and that's damn good for those conditions.  I attribute much of it to the fact that my legs were very (very very?) well rested from no running lately, and that I put zero pressure on myself, since I did this race at the last minute anyway.
Sweaty me + medal + Currituck Lighthouse
So glad I participated in this race--the whole experience was so fun, and it ended early enough that I still had enough time for a long, fun day with the family on the beach afterwards.  :)

(I did pay for it with my leg afterwards though.  OW OW OW.  Le sigh.  Damn injured leg.)

Anywho, after that 5K, all my other working out for the week went out the window.  I will admit that I had MORE than my fair share of wine last week, participated in a lot of late nights laughing with our friends and playing ridiculous rounds of Cards Against Humanity, and ate a lot of not-workout-friendly foods like Duck Donuts and cookies and ice cream sandwiches.
In case you've never met Duck Donuts. LET ME INTRODUCE YOU.
But hey--no regrets!  Honestly, I'm starting to feel like this injury was "meant to be", as cheesy as that sounds, because it would have been hella hard for me to continue marathon training last week and still have the fun, carefree vacation that I enjoyed.  Plus, it's saving me from heavy training in the hottest months, and I gotta tell ya, all you runners with the hot-weather-running Instagram photos are NOT making me miss it.  ;)

Does taking a running break suck?  OH YEAH.  Watch my face turn green with envy every time a runner goes past my house.  I find it mentally painful to open my newest edition of Runner's World right now.  If it's possible for a Garmin to rust, I'm sure mine is currently doing it.  But if I have to find the bright side, then I will, because I can't let a speed bump get me down.  (More on this in a later post...)

Oh man, are you loving my rambling today, or what???  I have lots of upcoming posts for you though, and I promise they will be better organized!  I owe you a Shoreline Half race recap, I have a bunch of mini-book-reviews to publish, and I have some deep thoughts about running to share in the wake of this injury.  STAY TUNED!

Monday, February 16, 2015

GIVEAWAY! The Last Good Paradise by Tatjana Soli


Title: The Last Good Paradise
Author: Tatjana Soli
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: February 10, 2015
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

On a small, unnamed coral atoll in the South Pacific, a group of troubled dreamers must face the possibility that the hopes they’ve labored after so single-mindedly might not lead them to the happiness they feel they were promised.

Ann and Richard, an aspiring, Los Angeles power couple, are already sensing the cracks in their version of the American dream when their life unexpectedly implodes, leading them to brashly run away from home to a Robinson Crusoe idyll.

Dex Cooper, lead singer of the rock band, Prospero, is facing his own slide from greatness, experimenting with artistic asceticism while accompanied by his sexy, young, and increasingly entrepreneurial muse, Wende.

Loren, the French owner of the resort sauvage, has made his own Gauguin-like retreat from the world years before, only to find that the modern world has become impossible to disconnect from.

Titi, descendent of Tahitian royalty, worker, and eventual inheritor of the resort, must fashion a vision of the island’s future that includes its indigenous people, while her partner, Cooked, is torn between anarchy and lust.

By turns funny and tragic, The Last Good Paradise explores our modern, complex and often, self-contradictory discontents, crafting an exhilarating story about our need to connect in an increasingly networked but isolating world.


My Review:

First things first: how can you pass up a book with such a beautiful cover?

The Last Good Paradise is a unique read.  I initially wanted to try it because it seemed to bring together many of my reading interests: complicated family relationships!  Travel!  Food!  Yup, can't go wrong with that.  I got all of those things in spades throughout the book.  But that makes this novel sound rather simplistic, and simplistic it is not.

Soli has taken some risks in terms of the narrative style.  As the description implies, there are 7 different protagonists, and the storyline moves quickly between them throughout the book.  The POV is always third person, but the focus changes from one character to the next quite often (and rather quickly at times).  Those shifts in focus are not signified by a change in chapter (as I often see in other multiple-perspective novels).  When I first noticed this, I was afraid that it would quickly become confusing and muddle the story.  However, despite having so many primary characters, it came together surprisingly well.  Probably not my favorite POV choice for a fiction novel, but Soli made it work.

I did enjoy the touches of wanderlust in this book.  You can't go wrong with a story set in a beachy paradise.  Plus, the many references to Moby Dick, Robinson Crusoe, Mutiny on the Bounty, etc. added a nice literary element that played up the setting (though I will admit they got a little much sometimes--if you are unfamiliar with any of those texts (and Shakespeare, for that matter), you're sure to miss a lot of the literary allusions that Soli goes for).  All of the characters are ultimately trying to find their version of happiness, and despite the idyllic setting, they all come to realize that the happiness of their dreams might not be exactly what they want (or need).

The narration, the setting, the quests for happiness--all good things.  But the characters themselves?  That's one part of the book that I didn't roll with.  I had a hard time finding any of them likeable, even though I'm pretty sure I was supposed to, as I was privy to their inner struggles to find peace and love.  I'll admit that part of it was likely because they all regarded infidelity with such a ho-hum attitude.  So many of the couples cheat on each other in this book, with the expectation that forgiveness is right around the corner.  I didn't find this realistic or sympathy-inducing in the least.

The other character issue for me was that they all made very abrupt changes in personality and decision-making throughout the book.  One minute Wende is Dex's mindless hottie, the next she's a politically-minded revolutionary who wants to leave Dex for film school.  And that's only one example of many.  It was enough to make my head spin.  I appreciate that these people were all going on a bit of an emotional journey, but at times their sudden metamorphoses were rather hard to process.

Ultimately, The Last Good Paradise is a very ambitious novel.  If you're like me, and want a solid piece of contemporary fiction that delves into some intriguing relationship issues, you're sure to get a lot of that!  And the atmosphere of this book can't be beat--that is probably what will stick with me the most.  However, I had a tough time building sympathy for the characters, and that makes me hesitant to rave about it too hard.  Even so, an enjoyable read that gave me a lot more than what I initially bargained for...and I do enjoy surprises.

As always, much thanks to Lisa and TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
Want to find out more?  Check out the other blogs on this book tour HERE.  And connect with Tatjana Soli on Twitter.

GIVEAWAY TIME!
I have two copies to give away to 2 lucky readers!  One is a new copy (delivered to you from TLC Book Tours) and the other is my gently-used ARC copy (delivered by me).  Winner #1 will get the new copy, Winner #2 gets the used ARC from me.  Just use the Rafflecopter below to enter!  US/Canada only.  Ends 2/23.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Honey, I'M HOOOOOME

READERS!  HI!  I'M BACK!


First off, I hope you loved The Well-Read Vacay.  I pretty much go Internet-Silent when I go on vacation, but while I wasn't responding to comments/tweets/etc I did see all the lovely interactions happening on the guest blogs.  I hope you all adore Katie, Cari, Shannon, and Jennifer as much as I do, and continue to frequent their awesome bloggy blogs!

Second, where was I?  I don't usually post about the specifics of my vacation plans on the Interwebz beforehand, because I am a paranoid superfreak, but I will gladly share them with you now.  We rented a condo down in Cape May, New Jersey, and it was fantastic, though admittedly also hectic.  I actually had to leave last Saturday (with Small Fry in tow) without my husband, which was NOT the original plan. 

(**Potential buyers of our house should stop reading this post now and go do something awesome...like read a book!  WOOOO!**)

Okay, are they gone?  My husband had to stay home because the downstairs of our house FLOODED 3 days before we left.  And did I mention that we are trying to sell said house, like ASAP??  We have never, ever had flooding before, but Mother Nature chose THIS moment to gang up on us.  So dear Hubs stayed behind to dry out the house and replace the carpet so that the Open House and showings we had scheduled could go on.  Luckily, he did a fantastic job and was able to join us in Cape May on Tuesday.

(If any buyers DID accidentally read that, please rest assured that we fixed everything...AND it's all written up in our property disclosure now...nothing but honesty here, people!!)

Despite that hiccup, we had an awesome time playing on the beach, going to the zoo, eating too much candy/fudge, and hanging out with my brothers (who are in the Coast Guard and stationed in Cape May).  Oh, and stalking Tina Fey.  She was vacationing there last week too!  I was on a mission to make us meet, share witty banter, and become BFFs, but sadly our stars did not align.  Next time, T...next time.

In reading news, I actually managed to read 1.5 books, plus most of an audiobook during the drive (though I did take Cari's advice and left my Kindle in the condo during beach trips with Small Fry...very helpful!!).

So now I am off to unpack, and hopefully get these latest reviews written up for you soon.  Hope everyone had a fantastic week!

Friday, June 21, 2013

TWRV: Books That Take Me Away


Today is your third-and-final guest installment for The Well-Read Vacay 2013.  Please join me in welcoming Jennifer from The Relentless Reader!  I heart Jen's blog because she and I have SUPER similar taste in books.  Plus, she introduced me to the awesome idea of Google-mapping all of the books I read throughout the year (check out her map below!).  A great way to mind-travel from the comfort of your living room.  Speaking of which, read on to check out her latest book travels!

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Reading makes immigrants of us all. It takes us away from home, but more important, it finds homes for us everywhere.  ~Jean Rhys

One of the great things about being is reader is being able to travel the world without leaving the comfort of my own home. I can visit every corner of the globe without breaking my budget. I can satisfy my curiosity while staying true to my introverted roots.

I've been to Africa while wearing my fuzzy slippers. I've walked the streets of New York in my smiley-face pajama pants. I've been to Japan and India while cuddled up in bed. I spent a long weekend enjoying the sun in Chile while my hometown was being pummeled with 15” of snow.

Here are a few books that have recently swept me off to distant lands:


...Moloka’i by Alan Brennert led me to Hawaii...


...and Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter set me in a seaside town in Italy.

This year I also decided to keep track of all of the places I visit through literature.

So, where have books taken you?

(Don't forget to check Jennifer out at therelentlessreader.blogspot.com, or on Facebook and Twitter!!)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

TWRV: The Trip of SEVERAL LIFETIMES!


Today is your second guest installment for The Well-Read Vacay 2013.  Please join me in welcoming Katie from Words For Worms!  Katie harbors an unusually enormous love for penguins and writes some of the most entertaining book reviews on the interwebs.  Today she's taking us on a fan-flippin'-tastic journey through children's literature.  Buckle your safety belts, kiddos.

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Hola, Bookworms!
I'm Katie, and I have taken over this blog. MUAHAHAHAHA! I normally write over at Words for Worms, but, Kelly, our proprietress here at The Well-Read Redhead, is out this week VACATIONING. When she asked if I would write a guest post for her, I was more than happy to oblige. Now. We all love reading. And we all WISH we were vacationing. I'm going to play travel agent for a bit and offer you THE TRIP OF SEVERAL LIFETIMES!
Follow the Yellow Brick Road, dangit!
Follow the Yellow Brick Road, dangit!
We will begin our journey at a farmhouse in Kansas. We'll have dinner with Aunt Em and Uncle Henry before catching the first twister out of town. You know how RV's are always advertised as "taking your home with you when you travel"?! An RV has nothing on us. We're taking the whole dang farmhouse. We may sort of accidentally squash a witch upon landing, but her only family is a disgruntled sister whose case won't hold up in Civil Court (and whose, uh, self? won't hold up to water...) Upon arrival, you'll receive a pair of STUNNING shoes (though not the most practical footwear for a long journey. I hope you packed band-aids.) We will then embark on a walking tour through Oz's countryside and into the EMERALD CITY. Just don't take off your glasses, okay? It will ruin the effect. Oh yeah, we may or may not be detained by flying monkeys. (You'll have to sign a release, it's all there in the fine print...) Once you tire of Oz, you need only click your heels together...
phantomtollbooth
And you'll find yourself back at home. In your bedroom. Bored silly after your Ozian adventure, natch. Luckily, you'll notice a package containing a model tollbooth. (Who plays with a tollbooth? That's a ridiculous question. Nobody when presented with a toy tollbooth refuses to PLAY with it!) It's a good thing you brought plenty of change, because your trip to The Kingdom of Wisdom is going to get a little crazy. From Dictionopolis to Digitopolis, you will encounter miles and miles of idioms and homonyms before you can even hope to rescue the Princesses Rhyme and Reason. Luckily, you've got a Watchdog sidekick. Named Tock. Because he's both dog and clock, obvi! After all that rescuing and toying about with the English language, you're bound to be pretty worn out. You decide to turn your car around and head home.
Peter Pan, JM Barrie 2
Unfortunately, after your exciting day, you'll have a hard time sleeping. Your next tour guide should arrive punctually, looking for his shadow. All it takes is faith, trust, and a little bit of pixie dust before you're second star to the right and straight on till morning, my friends. Never-Never Land is pretty sweet. You don't age, for one thing, and you have no responsibilities! On the downside though, you're expected to hang out with a bunch of lost boys, a surly gang of pirates, and a bloodthirsty crocodile. Adventurous, sure, but probably not the sort of locale you'd want to set up shop in. Once you get home, I advise you to take a little nap...
alice-in-wonderland-book-cover
Just not a very long one. Or you'll be late for a very important date! You have your choice of conveyance here, you can either fall down the rabbit hole in the yard or walk through the looking glass. Both roads lead straight to Wonderland. You'll visit with the Mad Hatter, March Hare, the Tweedles, and a whole host of other oddities while growing larger and smaller based on the whims of your tea cakes. It's all fun and games until the queen gets all "off with her head." You'd be well advised to skedaddle when you hear that one. Never to fear. Your trip is not quite over.
LionWardrobe12
Now that you've made it back to your bedroom, take three steps to the left. There? Good. Open your wardrobe. Push past the coats. (Do NOT stop to wonder how you acquired so many coats, it will only lead to buyer's remorse.) You should emerge in Narnia, which will be pleasantly covered in snow. You'll see a lamp post and meet a centaur. You'll make friends with some beavers, too. And you'll somehow gain three siblings. Don't ask questions! Then you'll have to fight a massive battle and defeat the evil "Queen." Just make sure you don't eat the Turkish Delight. Trust me. It doesn't even taste good. 

Once you get back through the wardrobe, you'll realize you've only been gone a few hours. And had the adventures of several lifetimes. All this for the bargain price of ZERO dollars. Courtesy of your local library. Thank you for joining me on Storybook Tours. Please come again.

That's right folks. If you don't have the time or money for an official vacation? Take a few hours for a brain vacation. If the reason you have no time or money is your children? All the better. Take them on the trips with you! Now we're all much less jealous of Kelly's vacation, right? Right? Ah well. Distraction only goes so far. Kelly, you'd better be having a REALLY good time. Have enough fun for ALL of us!

(If Katie made you LOL (which she makes me do on-the-regular), check her out at wordsforworms.com, or on Twitter and Facebook!)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

TWRV: Reading on Vacation...With A Toddler


Today is your second lovely guest post for The Well-Read Vacay 2013.  Please join me in welcoming Cari from Sweet Sweet Nothings!  I am totes biased in choosing her to guest blog for me, because in addition to running a very cool mommy-slash-review blog, she is also my real-life BFF.  So I can verify that she is (mostly) not crazy and a super awesome person overall.  Even though we are polar opposites (a story for another day).  :)  ANYWAY, Cari has her very own Small Fry (Lexi), so she gets what I'm going through as I vacation with my little man this week!  Read on for her insights into squeezing in that reading when you vacay with kids...

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Helloooooo Well-Read Redhead readers!
Lexi18
My family on vacation in the Outer Banks
I am so honored to be guest blogging today on my dear friend's blog while she is off with her family vacationing.  I am completely jealous of her leisure reading chasing after a toddler right now! I am not a book blogger, but I do have a blog over at Sweet Sweet Nothings where I blog about my life, being a mom, and I also try to squeeze in reviews on all sorts of subjects.  Although I leave the book reviewing to this awesome blog because really even before Kelly started it I was always going to her for advice on what books to read and so 99.9% of the books I have read Kelly has reviewed already!  While Kelly is in a million challenges and has read more books in one year than I have in a lifetime (okay now I am just being dramatic, but I bet it is close), I only gave myself ONE book challenge this year.  My challenge for myself was to read 1 book each month and I am happy to report that I am right on track to meet this goal!
Lexi19
off in search of seagulls!
Some of my favorite times to read during the year is when I am on vacation.  I would normally bring about 5-6 books on vacation (now with a Kindle this is a much lighter feat).  I would start my reading in the airport before boarding a plane and usually wouldn't stop until we parked back at our house from our vacation.  It is great because both my husband and I could sit by a pool and read all day under an umbrella and sip on fruity drinks.   I have even been known to bring my book into the pool!  This was certainly my definition of a leisurely vacation.  
Enter in our life a baby. Our first vacation as a family of three my daughter Lexi was only 4 months old.  She was still a very sleepy baby and wasn't mobile and so I was still able to find plenty of opportunities to squeeze in a few books while on vacation.  Our next trip was to Florida without Lexi  for my husband's 30th birthday and we just sat by the pool all weekend long reading, relaxing, and drinking fruity drinks like the old days.   So when we took a trip to the Outer Banks this past April with a very mobile toddler I  was a bit naïve to think that I could stuff my Kindle with books and find plenty of time to read.  We did a ton of playing, digging in the sand, applying suntan lotion, running away from waves, swimming, keeping sand out of her mouth, building sand castles, collecting rocks and shells, and chasing after seagulls--but reading didn't really make our to-do list most days.  I would average about 4-5 books on a week long vacation and on our April vacation I didn't even get through an entire book! GASP!   Looking back there are a few things I would do differently on our next trip with Lexi to fit in more time for reading and I thought I would share with all of you avid readers out there! 
light-blue-bannerbook
1. Have the mindset of "If I was stranded on an island and could only bring 1 book...". 
Since I thought I was going to be reading a few books on vacation I didn't really put much thought on what book I would start off with while on vacation. I started my vacation with a slow moving book, which led me to choose other activities rather than pick up a book I was dying to keep reading.  I am not one to drop a book easily (like my friend Kelly!) and so I was trying to get through the book little by little, which in the end wasn't a smart move because I never did finish the book while on vacation.  I found that I didn't have the Big Mo' for reading while on vacation and this was my biggest downfall.  For me, once I start reading a really good book it keeps me in the reading mind set for an entire vacation and keeps me engaged in reading.  I wish I did some better research on the book I was going to read and picked one that had the description of a quick read to help with this dilemma. So my advice is to think to yourself if you only get through one book on vacation, which one do you really want it to be? Because it really could be only one book you get through on a vacation with a toddler. 
2. Make a plan with your partner. 
We love family time and hanging out all together so it can be hard to carve out some "me" time during a family vacation.  My husband throughout the week would tell me to go and do something for myself and I just felt the pull of staying with everyone. It felt weird to just leave and hang by the pool and read for even an hour while he was busy keeping Lexi entertained.  It probably has to do with some sort of mom guilt, but in the end it was hard for me to pull away from the family.  Towards the end of the trip,  I was really getting into my book and my husband said to stay up and read and that he would take the morning shift with Lexi.  I just thought this was so brilliant!  I like reading into the wee hours of the night and so this plan made perfect sense.  Plus I am not a morning person so this sleeping in idea sounded like a real vacation luxury! So I was really grateful to have the reading time for myself without worrying about the consequences it would bring when Lexi woke up early.  That next morning I was able to sleep in after a night of reading and in that moment I truly felt like I was on vacation with no mom guilt in sight!  It was a spontaneous plan, but a plan none the less to help structure my "me" time into the vacation and help with the dreaded "mom guilt" that can sometimes happen with "me" time.   For future trips I hope we do more planning about what "me" time would look for both of us.  It will really help out with making trips feel leisurely even with a very active toddler.
Lexi17
taking a break from eating the sand
3. Don't pack a book in your beach bag. 
Okay so this one might be a little bit of a stretch for you avid book readers (I know Kelly doesn't go anywhere without a book!), but it has to do with being realistic and not necessarily your beach bag.  At the beginning of our trip I would throw my Kindle into the beach bag thinking "if I get a few moments to read it will be nice to have..." In theory this sounded like a great idea, but it only left me frustrated.  There were a few times on the beach that I was thinking that I wish I could bust out my book and read a few pages, but with a toddler you need all eyes all the time on them near bodies of water.  A couple of times I said to my husband, "remember when we could just lay out on the beach and read for hours?" In that moment I was really missing our old way of vacationing.  Knowing the book was in my bag was just taunting me on the fact that I wasn't reading the book and it was taking my mind and focus from family time on the beach.   After two days of this, I realized  that I wasn't going to have a few moments to read my book on the beach/pool and left the Kindle back at the house rather than in my bag.  This act made a world of difference with keeping my focus on family time and my daughter rather than the book at the bottom of my beach bag.  It gave me a realistic view of what our time on the beach would look like with a toddler and helped me realize I needed to carve other time in my vacation outside of my normal sit by the pool/lay on the beach type reading I was use to.
4.  Lastly, read with your child. 
I know toddlers have an attention span of 5 minutes seconds for a task, but each day on vacation we would have some quiet playing time (around 15-20 minutes) to wind down from the day.  She was 13 months at the time of the vacation and so she was just starting to do some independent play.  It normally involved giving her some books for her to read, blocks to stack, paper to scribble on and other low energy games. Depending on the age of your child that will probably determine the length of time you get to read.    I wasn't able to get huge chunks of solid reading done during this time, but it gave me a chance to finish up a chapter I was in the middle of reading or a chance to read a magazine (magazine reading counts too!).  A few pages over the course of a vacation can really add up! Plus I want reading to be a part of my daughter's life and most of the reading that I do she doesn't get to witness.  This gives her a chance to see that reading is important to me too and that I love to read as well!  She sees me put on makeup every single day and so now she wants to be like mommy and put on makeup in the morning with me (I can't believe it already is starting!) and so if she sees me reading even a little each day it might give her the push to want to do like mommy and read a book.   I am hoping on future vacations reading can become a family event towards the end of the day to wind down from our awesome vacation adventures. We are taking toddler steps towards that goal. 
Anyone have any other reading tips while vacationing with a young child? How many books can you normally read on a family vacation?
 all pictures were taken by Beach Productions
Want to know more about Cari and her adorbs family?  Check out rennsnest.wordpress.com or her Twitter!

Monday, June 17, 2013

TWRV: Seeing The World, One Writer's House At A Time


Hi, readers!  As promised, today is the first guest post for The Well-Read Vacay 2013.  And so, I will now step aside and introduce you to the lovely Shannon from Giraffe Days!  In addition to running a fantabulous book blog, Shannon is also the brain trust behind the Around the World in 12 Books Challenge.  So she's like a certified book traveler, y'all.  Not to mention she's living in Canada and moving back to Australia this year...so she's a real life traveler too!  And today she's taking you on a trip to author's homes around the world.  READ ON!

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Years ago, while on holiday in Paris for two weeks, I had the chance to visit the château de Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas' country house. It was built in 1848 but after two years of partying there, Dumas was forced to sell it because he'd run out of money.
  Château de Monte-Cristo
 It was a pretty impressive building, even though, in person, it looked a bit squished, like a large building made miniature, like a dollhouse - I think this effect was mostly due to the fact that the house was built in a little dell, with a steep hill rising above it. What made it interesting were the details, everything from the carved faces of famous people above the windows and doors (with Dumas himself above the front double doors - the man had quite the ego!) to the Moroccan room inside (it was the fashion at the time). What I really loved was the adorable writers' studio outside, though. With its own little moat and a tower housing a staircase that went nowhere, it was the place Dumas used to flee to to write, often abandoning his own lavish parties and ignoring all his guests. Amongst the brickwork are hundreds of white plaques, each bearing the title of one of his works of fiction. Like I said, he was quite pleased with himself!
Château d'if 389px-Le_Port-Marly_Château_d'If_001
I've never forgotten the exciting pleasure of seeing the home - now a museum - of one of my favourite writers. It reminded me that my sister had once given me a book called Writers' Houses as a gift, and it makes me think: what other authors could I visit, posthumously? I bet I could travel the world, hopping from one author to another! Though only the deceased ones: there's something definitely stalkerish and creepy about the idea of standing outside Margaret Atwood's Cabbagetown house here in Toronto, peeking through the windows!

Here's one possible itinerary:
Kenya: I'm not sure how many African authors have had their homes turned into museums, but I can't help but think it's a bit of a western white thing to do; in Kenya you can visit Danish author Karen Blixen's house (otherwise known as Isak Dinesen, who wrote Out of Africa).

Ireland: it's a bit of a cliche but then how many of us have done the James Joyce walking tour in Dublin? or visited the James Joyce House of the Dead?

United Kingdom: from Jane Austen's House Museum in Chawton to Elizabeth Gaskell's Manchester house to the Charles Dickens Museum in London, you'll get a real dose of classic British lit. I would have to visit Hill Top, too, Beatrix Potter's home in the Lake District. And then there's Shakespeare, of course...

Russia: check out Leo Tolstoy's "Yasnaya Polyana" (Bright Glade) home, now a museum, which he called his "inaccessible literary stronghold" - there is also the Tolstoy House Museum on Arbat Street in Moscow to see. And while you're in Moscow, stop by the Dostoevsky House Museum, the Bulgakov Museum, the Gogol Memorial Rooms and the Chekov House Museum - or his country house Melikhovo, also a museum. Lots of famous dead white men in Russia!
Yasnaya Polyana

Germany: I'd love to visit Germany, with its stunning landscapes and rich history. While there, I could check out Goethe's Home and Goethe National Museum.
Goethe's Home and Goethe National Museum
Goethe's Home and Goethe National Museum

The Netherlands: I'm ashamed to say I haven't yet read Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl, but if I ever have the chance to visit this country I would visit the museum where she wrote her diary while hiding from the Nazis.

The Czech Republic: I would love to visit Prague, it's one of my top-3 places to see, and while there I'd love to see the places Franz Kafka called home, starting with the house where he was born, which is now a restaurant.

United States: like the UK and Europe, there are plenty to visit in this country; the question is more, how to pick and choose when you've limited time? There's Margaret Mitchell's house in Atlanta, Mark Twain's house in Connecticut, or the very picturesque Steinbeck House in California.

Canada: Prince Edward Island is, of course, otherwise known as LM Montgomery-land, and I'm bummed that I won't be able to visit before moving back to Australia later this year. There's also the museum home of Gabrielle Roy and the Margaret Laurence House, both in Manitoba, and Joy Kagawa's house in Vancouver.

And here in Toronto, you can discretely gawk at LM Montgomery's Swansea home (which remains a private residence) and check out where Ernest Hemingway lived at 1599 Bathurst Street for a while during the years he worked for the Toronto Daily Star, even though he apparently felt mostly contempt for the city and Canada in general. We'll take what we can get, thanks! A great website I came across while looking these houses up is WritersHouses.com, full of news and interesting information as well as details about authors' houses you can visit.

Have you ever visited an author's house? What writer's house(s) would you love to visit?

(Don't forget to check out Shannon at giraffedays.com, as well as on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads!!)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Get Ready For...The Well-Read Vacay!

Hello, my dears!  You probably heard me mention a few times that The Well-Read Redhead (and family) are traveling to semi-distant lands next week for a vacation.

(And a much-needed one, I might add...selling your house should be an Olympic sport.)

Does this mean that I will be leaving you in the lurch during my absence?  OF COURSE NOT!  I dare not abandon my lovely followers in their time of need.  Nope, instead of ditching the blog for the week as I sip margaritas and nap in the sand chug water while chasing my toddler out of the riptide, I have a series of awesome-sauce guest posts coming to you in celebration of:

The 2013 Well-Read Vacay!
(sorry, no cool graphic for this.  I stink at graphics.  But here is a gratuitous photo of me on a past vacation:)

That's right, y'all.  I might not be able to take you to the beach with me, but I can help you hop a plane through the blogosphere to some other amazing bloggers who will get you to travel...in a more figurative sense.  I'm officially calling it The Well-Read Vacay (TWRV for short.  Let's Twitter-hashtag it #TWRV.  I can do that, right?).

So, starting tomorrow, get ready for a week of vacation-themed posts (one from me, the others from my super cool bloggy pals who agreed to help a sista out for the week).  It will be like taking a super amazing world-class trip...IN YO' MIND.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Book Review: The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost



Title: The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific
Author: J. Maarten Troost
Publisher: Broadway
Publication Date: June 8, 2004
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

At the age of twenty-six, Maarten Troost—who had been pushing the snooze button on the alarm clock of life by racking up useless graduate degrees and muddling through a series of temp jobs—decided to pack up his flip-flops and move to Tarawa, a remote South Pacific island in the Republic of Kiribati. He was restless and lacked direction, and the idea of dropping everything and moving to the ends of the earth was irresistibly romantic. He should have known better.

The Sex Lives of Cannibals tells the hilarious story of what happens when Troost discovers that Tarawa is not the island paradise he dreamed of. Falling into one amusing misadventure after another, Troost struggles through relentless, stifling heat, a variety of deadly bacteria, polluted seas, toxic fish—all in a country where the only music to be heard for miles around is “La Macarena.” He and his stalwart girlfriend Sylvia spend the next two years battling incompetent government officials, alarmingly large critters, erratic electricity, and a paucity of food options (including the Great Beer Crisis); and contending with a bizarre cast of local characters, including “Half-Dead Fred” and the self-proclaimed Poet Laureate of Tarawa (a British drunkard who’s never written a poem in his life).

With The Sex Lives of Cannibals, Maarten Troost has delivered one of the most original, rip-roaringly funny travelogues in years—one that will leave you thankful for staples of American civilization such as coffee, regular showers, and tabloid news, and that will provide the ultimate vicarious adventure.


My Review:

The region of interest for this month's Around the World Challenge is the South Pacific islands.  I've read several rather serious books for my ATWC selections in previous months, so I figured April was a good time to try a new tone.  Thus, this entertaining travel memoir, set in the far-off island of Kiribati.

Before reading this, the only reason that I had heard of Kiribati (pronounced kir-ee-bas) was because I've played a lot of sporcle.com geography quizzes that require you to know the names of all 197 countries in the world. (Yes, I know them, and I can list them alphabetically, because as you would expect, I'm a little bit of a freak.)  However, beyond the name, I knew nothing.  I mean, what was there to know?  My picture of the South Pacific was largely based on my friend's honeymoon photos in Fiji: gorgeous beaches, crystalline waters, beautiful weather at all times, and lots of quaint oversea huts.  That's it, yes?

Apparently, no.  Maarten Troost and his girlfriend Sylvia trekked to Kiribati for 2 years while Sylvia worked for a government agency.  That two years was full of rabid dogs, feces-infested waters, and drought...rather unlike those Fijian photos of my mind.  Luckily, Troost took the entire experience in stride (quite unlike how I might have done), and wrote this lively memoir to commemorate it.

I got sucked into Troost's narrative right away, as he has a lighthearted and sarcastic writing style that I immediately enjoyed.  He has no problem poking fun at the many (many, many) mishaps that he and his girlfriend endured before, during, and after their time in the tiny Kiribati town of Tarawa.  I think the humor was important here, because in reality, Kiribati is rundown and quite full of poverty--a situation that could easily lower the tone of the memoir.  But I think Troost did a nice job of illustrating Kiribati's economic difficulties in between the humor, without making light of the country's problems.

Troost does also offer some historical chapters, which give you a lot of important background about the island's colonial roots.  He continues the humor in those sections too, which keeps the emphasis from changing too much throughout the book.  I will say that the last 30 pages or so of their time in Tarawa started to drag for me as a reader.  I almost felt like Troost started running low on funny anecdotes, and some of those final sections began to feel like filler.  However, it picked up again when he and Sylvia left Tarawa, leading to a well-crafted ending...one that makes me curious to check out some of the follow-up memoirs that Troost has penned.

Overall, if you enjoy travel memoirs that don't take themselves too seriously, this is a great choice.  (Bill Bryson fans?  This may be a good one for you.)  While I did find a few slow parts towards the end, as a whole this book manages to be both funny and informative...and I like my information funny, when possible.  (Seriously, history textbooks, where are you on this?)

Other reviews of The Sex Lives of Cannibals:
Reading Through Life
Small World Reads
The Book Lady's Blog

Have you read any travel memoirs lately?  Especially humorous ones?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Book Review: Just One Day by Gayle Forman



Title: Just One Day
Author: Gayle Forman
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Publication Date: January 8, 2013
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

When sheltered American good girl Allyson "LuLu" Healey first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England, there’s an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines.

My Review:

"We are born in one day.  We die in one day.  We can change in one day.  And we can fall in love in one day.  Anything can happen in just one day."

After feeling lukewarm about Forman's If I Stay, and then absolutely loving her second novel (Where She Went), I was happy to find that my reaction to Just One Day was much like how I felt after reading the latter.  This novel is fun and thoughtful at the same time, with a whole lot of awesome travel-isms to boot.

When the novel opened, I'll admit that I was a little skeptical.  I felt like the text was trying too hard to be deep and insightful.  This is a problem I have with a lot of YA novels--they focus on mostly teenage characters, who just so happen to be the most sagacious and wise 16-year-olds on the planet.  They come up with revelations and quotes that my too-distracted-by-boys-and-Blink-182 self would never have so consistently done at that age.  This annoys me to no end.  I know that YA novels are, for the most part, supposed to be imparting important life lessons on their intended audience, but making those lessons so terribly obvious through "insightful" quotes feels kitschy and a bit condescending to me.

ANYWAY.  Obviously I took a turn after the first 20-30 pages.  As the story moved on, it was Allyson's personality that drew me in.  This is probably because I was a lot like her in my teen years.  Type-A personality, perfectionist, walked the straight and narrow, had the next 10 years of my life all mapped out.  Allyson slowly learns to break from this mold in a way that is neither abrupt nor contrived.  And she doesn't become the polar-opposite of herself either; rather, she blends the newly-discovered parts of her personality with the old ones.  I loved watching her blossom throughout the novel.

Allyson's relationship with Willem was pretty great as well.  Their dynamic was captivating, given that they were two such different people, and I like that the end didn't come together perfectly in a way that is typical for most romances.  I'll be picking up the sequel when it comes out for sure.

Two other small things to mention: one, all the travel in this book made me giddy!  As a travel-lover myself, I was completely glued to the tales of all the wonderful places Allyson traveled throughout the book.  Plus, I loved this quote:
"You thought too hard.  Same with travel.  You can't work too much at it, or it feels like work.  You have to surrender yourself to the chaos.  To the accidents."
I know, I was just complaining about all the overly-insightful quotes in this book, but that was a good one.

The other small thing I'd like to mention is in regards to Allyson's college advisor (Gretchen, I think her name was?).  As a higher ed professional, I HAVE TO COMMENT ON THIS.  First, she gets an A+ for her advising skills.  I would hire her any day.  And second, as a note to Gayle Forman, colleges don't call it the "guidance office".  After high school, they are Academic Advisors, not Guidance Counselors.  This detail drove me TOTALLY CRAZY and I felt it was crucial to add this to my review.  Ha.

My picky professional twinges aside, this book was truly a journey...and a fun one at that.  Allyson is a fabulous protagonist, and I can't wait to see what happens to her in the sequel.

Have you read Just One Day?  Any other recent YA reads that you want to share?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Where do your books take you?

Any parent will tell you that life pre-kids is very different than life post-kids.  "Different" doesn't mean better or worse--just different!  You have to give some parts of your carefree lifestyle up, but you get an awesome bundle of awesome in their place.  WIN.

One of the things that the husband and I gave up after Small Fry's arrival was our frequent travel.  We traveled a LOT in the 6 years of our relationship before the little dude was born.  We still travel now, but child-related travel (wholesome family fun in the Outer Banks) is way different than pre-child travel (let's go to Vegas and see how quickly I can double-fist margaritas).
Not really kidding about those margaritas.
Anyway, now that we travel less in person, I find myself wanting to travel more in the literary sense.  I love reading books that either take me back to the beautiful places we've been, or transport me to new destinations that I haven't yet had the chance to explore.  I guess that's part of why I'm so into Giraffe Day's Around The World in 12 Books challenge this year.

With that in mind, here are a few books that have helped me travel to both once-visited and new-to-me destinations:

Italy

The Borgia Bride and I, Mona Lisa by Jeanne Kalogridis
The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons by Dan Brown
Juliet by Anne Fortier

Italian cities are some of my favorites to visit in novels.  I've been to Florence, Rome, and Naples, and these particular books cover those cities very well.  The authors get VERY detailed about places, people, and atmosphere, and it really transports you right along with the characters.  Plus, how fun to go to Italy and try to retrace Langdon's steps?

The Netherlands

A Heart of Stone by Renate Dorrestein

I already talked your ear off about Park's novel and how beautifully he portrays Amsterdam, but Dorrestein is a Dutch author who sets most of her books in that country as well.  A Heart of Stone is not a lighthearted read by any measure, but I enjoyed that it was set in the Netherlands and told from a native's perspective.

Coastal North Carolina

Basically all Nicholas Sparks books ever

I read a lot of Sparks novels before we visited the OBX last summer, and once we got there, I realized why he likes to use the beaches of North Carolina in his books.  They're beautiful, peaceful, and relaxed...very conducive to romance.  I am not the biggest Sparks fan in general, but I do love his settings.

Nantucket, Massachusetts

Basically all Elin Hilderbrand books ever

I've never been to Nantucket, but Hilderbrand's romances are usually set there, and they make me desperate for a beach vacation.

The UK/Ireland

Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
The Lace Makers of Glenmara by Heather Barbieri
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

I have never been to the UK or Ireland, but I am DYING TO GO.  (I know I have some UK readers, who wants to put up this ginger for a week or two?)  There are so many good books that highlight the flavor of these countries--this list is but a few.  You can also read pretty much any Sophie Kinsella or Jane Green novel to get a London fix.

Hawaii

Moloka'i by Alan Brennert

This book highlights some of the more devastating parts of Hawaii's past, but the islands themselves are painted so gorgeously by Brennert.  I want to go to there.

Sweden

The Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson

Nothing could ever make me more interested in Stockholm as a vacation destination than The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series.  I was researching flights by the end of the trilogy.  Larsson wins for making it sound awesome to eat open-faced sandwiches in the cold.

Africa

A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

None of these books illustrate Africa in the most positive of lights, but as a lover of travel, they leave me feeling intrigued about what a trip to the continent might be like.

Mount Everest

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

Krakauer does not make climbing Everest sound fun.  At all.  (See: parts of book where 8 people die trying to climb it.)  But I'd be lying if I said it didn't make me wonder what it would be like to scale the darn thing.  Maybe just to base camp?

Russia

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (or any classic Russian lit, really)
Stalin's Children by Owen Matthews

I know this is a tad crazy, because neither of these books make Russia seem like the most inviting place in the world.  Plus, Russia is actually not a very safe place for American travel these days, but books set in that country make me insanely interested in checking it out.  Maybe one day.

Around the Globe!

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
A Cook's Tour by Anthony Bourdain
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Can't argue with a novel that basically takes you around the globe!  And two of these are nonfiction books, making the travel experiences even more vivid for the reader.  (Bonus: Bourdain's book will make you want to Eat All The Things.)

There are also a few favorite destinations that I haven't read books for yet.  Have you read any books set in these locations?  I'm dying to find some!:

Bermuda
Spain (specifically Barcelona)
Montreal
Turkey
Greece (either Athens or the islands, Mykonos and such)

Do you like to "travel" when you read?  What are some of your favorite literary settings?

 
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