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not afraid shirt ocean brave

It’s been a year, hasn’t it, friends?

These past months have been crowded and stressful, both in the world and in my own life. But they’ve also held beauty and laughter and joy. Here’s my annual (long but non-comprehensive) list of what has happened this year.

In 2017, I have:

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  • spent a long October weekend introducing my parents to New York City.
  • returned to PEI with the hubs for our third blissful stretch of days there.
  • spent a week wandering Oxford, city of my heart.
  • tried my first boot camp workout – a six-week series taught by my favorite yoga instructor – and loved it.
  • surprised myself by taking up running.
  • run my first 5K (in the snow!).
  • moved (again) and settled into our new apartment, a lovely third-floor eyrie in Dorchester.
  • fallen in love with the river trail near our house.

river trail asters

midtown nyc skyscrapers blue sky

  • gone on a few weekend escapes with the hubs: a Florida beach, a wee Connecticut town, the Maine woods.
  • spoken (once) and listened (on many days) at Morning Prayers at Memorial Church.
  • done a lot of church work, as ever: sending emails, organizing events, reading Scripture, washing dishes.
  • learned a thing or two about protesting.
  • marked nine years of marriage.
  • helped my best friends pack up their apartment, and sent them on their way to Idaho with many tears.
  • finished paying off our little silver car (we call her Adele).
  • celebrated my eighth (!) Turkeypalooza with church friends.
  • filled up half a dozen journals.

I’m looking forward to turning the calendar on 2018: I love the idea of a fresh start, but there’s also some good stuff I want to carry over from 2017. Wishing you a peaceful, hopeful start to the New Year.

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travels with charley steinbeck

Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, Morgan Matson
Amy’s dad has died, her brother is in rehab, and her mother has moved to Connecticut, leaving instructions for Amy to follow her in their car. Enter Roger, a long-absent (and now really cute) family friend. Together, he and Amy deviate from the planned route, crisscrossing America while listening to wonderful playlists and gradually opening up to one another. Utterly charming.

Running Like a Girl: Notes on Learning to Run, Alexandra Heminsley
Curvy and nonathletic, Alex Heminsley never fancied herself a runner – but she is one. This candid memoir traces her journey, from her first disastrous run to several marathons. I’m a sporadic runner at best, but this book made me want to lace up my running shoes. Recommended by Kerry.

Baby Proof, Emily Giffin
My friend Rachael handed me this novel during a discussion about the perennial question of whether to have children. The protagonist, Claudia, is child-free and happily married until her husband decides he wants a baby after all. A thought-provoking premise, but I found Claudia selfish and shallow: not because she didn’t want kids, but because everything had to be about her.

Crocodile on the Sandbank, Elizabeth Peters
Amelia Peabody, a wealthy, opinionated Victorian spinster, heads off to explore Egypt by way of Rome. Love, intrigue and nocturnal mummies among the pyramids, all told with Amelia’s biting wit. So much fun. First in a series and highly recommended by Jaclyn.

Looking for the Gulf Motel, Richard Blanco
Blanco writes vivid poetry about love, memory, his Cuban-American family, and belonging. I recognized many images and characters from his memoir (which I confess I liked better than this collection).

The Curse of the Pharaohs, Elizabeth Peters
Amelia Peabody (see above) and her archaeologist husband return to Egypt, working on a dig supposedly plagued by the titular curse. Quirky characters and red herrings abound, but Amelia solves the case. Not as engaging as the first book, but still fun.

The Paris Winter, Imogen Robertson
Maud Heighton, a genteelly poor Englishwoman, struggles to get by while studying art in Paris. When she lands a job as companion to a charming Frenchwoman, Maud believes her troubles are over, but she is drawn into a web of lies, thievery and revenge. A dark, evocative portrait of Belle Époque Paris, with some wonderful characters. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Nov. 18).

Travels With Charley in Search of America, John Steinbeck
I broke my book-buying fast because I could not resist the charming, slightly battered copy (above) on the $3 book cart at Raven. I have no regrets. Steinbeck takes a rambling cross-country road trip with Charley (a large French poodle), searching for the language and spirit of America, and narrates it all in wry, witty detail. Wonderful.

And Only to Deceive, Tasha Alexander
After reading The Counterfeit Heiress for review, I picked up the first book in the Lady Emily series. This is clearly a first effort: well written but the mystery’s solution was obvious. I like the characters, though.

Links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

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the bookstore lenox ma

For Once in My Life, Marianne Kavanagh
Tess and George are soul mates – but they’ve never met. As their friends try to set them up and life pulls them in different directions, they both wonder if they’ll ever find true love. Fun concept, so-so execution. An accurate but depressing portrait of feeling aimless in your 20s.

The Great Greene Heist, Varian Johnson
This book became an emblem of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. But it’s also a fun, fast-paced heist story featuring an entertaining cast of middle schoolers. Reminded me of Ally Carter’s Heist Society series, or Ocean’s 11 for teens.

All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
Marie-Laure is a blind Parisian girl living with her father, the keeper of the keys at the Natural History Museum. Werner Pfennig is a private in Hitler’s Wehrmacht, obsessed with (and good at fixing) radios. Told in alternating short chapters of stunning prose, this novel traces Marie-Laure’s and Werner’s stories until they intersect in August 1944, in the walled French city of Saint-Malo. Gorgeous, heartbreaking, full of tension and small moments of hope.

Mambo in Chinatown, Jean Kwok
I loved Kwok’s Girl in Translation and loved her second novel even more. Charlie Wong struggles to care for her younger sister while keeping her new job at a dance studio a secret from their strict father. A beautiful novel about family, tough choices, being caught between cultures, and becoming someone you never thought you could be. Gorgeous and highly recommended.

Saving Lucas Biggs, Marisa de los Santos & David Teague
I love de los Santos’ adult fiction. This middle-grade time-travel novel (co-written by de los Santos and her husband) follows the fortunes of a small Arizona mining town. Margaret O’Malley travels back to 1938, attempting to change the life of the judge who has sentenced her father to death. A sweet, thoughtful and moving story.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Haruki Murakami
I’m not a runner, but I’ve been curious about this book for years. The parts about writing (and running in Cambridge) were far more interesting to me than the running chronology.

Mrs. Pollifax Pursued, Dorothy Gilman
After finding a teenage girl hiding in her storage closet, Mrs. Pollifax calls in her CIA connection to go undercover – to a traveling carnival. A slightly wacky plotline even for this series, but as always, Mrs. P saves the day.

Links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

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