Posts Tagged ‘weddings’

tidelands book mug bowl breakfast table

I’m surfacing from a sea of boxes in my new apartment, many of which (not surprisingly) contain books. Here are the ones I’ve been reading, when I can find them:

The Guest Book, Sarah Blake
For three generations, the Miltons have spent summers on their island off the coast of Maine. As Evie Milton – granddaughter, history professor – and her cousins face the reality of keeping or selling the island, long-held family secrets start to emerge. I loved Blake’s previous novel, The Postmistress. This one started slowly, but once I met Joan (Evie’s mother) and the two men (one black, one Jewish) who would upset her carefully ordered world, it took off. Gorgeous and thought-provoking.

Tidelands, Philippa Gregory
I’ve heard about Gregory’s historical novels for years, but never picked one up before. This one (first in a new series) follows Alinor, a wise woman living on England’s south coast during the English Civil War. When a priest who is also a royalist spy shows up at her cottage one night, she agrees to hide him, setting in motion a chain of events she could never have foreseen. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Aug. 20).

The Key to Happily Ever After, Tif Marcelo
This was an impulse grab at the library, and the perfect lighthearted book for the pre-move craziness. Three Filipina-American sisters take ownership of their parents’ D.C. wedding planning business, Rings & Roses. Personality clashes ensue, as well as outside challenges for all three sisters, and maybe a little romance. Fresh and fun.

The Frame-Up, Meghan Scott Molin
Another impulse library grab (God bless the BPL). MG is a comic-book geek and writer (the only female in an office full of male nerds). When a local criminal starts imitating one of her favorite comic characters, a non-geeky (but irritatingly handsome) detective asks her to consult. Cue car chases, double agents and so many references to various fandoms. A well-plotted mystery and a smart-mouthed, badass main character. Loved it.

Kopp Sisters on the March, Amy Stewart
Constance Kopp is depressed after being fired from her job as deputy sheriff. She and her two sisters head to a National Service School, which purports to train American women for war work as things heat up in Europe. Not surprisingly, Constance finds herself acting as camp matron, while Norma shows off her trained pigeons and Fleurette tries to organize camp theatricals. Less of a mystery plot than Stewart’s previous novels, but highly enjoyable. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Sept. 17).

Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church, Megan Phelps-Roper
Megan Phelps-Roper grew up as a cherished daughter of Topeka’s notorious Westboro Baptist Church – she joined her first picket line at age 5. But as a twentysomething, she began to question her family’s increasingly hate-filled actions and the church’s need for absolute control of its members. This memoir is a powerful, thoughtful account of her journey toward a different understanding of the world. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Oct. 8).

On the Come Up, Angie Thomas
I loved (and was heartbroken by) Thomas’ debut, The Hate U Give, so had been waiting for this one. Bri is an aspiring teen rapper who’s struggling with family problems and her own insecurities, plus confusion over boys. I found her frustrating, especially at first, but really liked the second half of the book. As in The Hate U Give, I loved the supportive (and struggling) adults in Bri’s life – we don’t get that in so many YA novels.

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

What are you reading?

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invisible ghosts book cherries lemonade

My reading has slowed down a little as I adjust to a new rhythm (and fewer commutes). But I’ve still read some great books recently. Here’s the latest roundup:

Invisible Ghosts, Robyn Schneider
Rose Asher has gotten used to being invisible, spending most of her time watching Netflix with the ghost of her dead brother, Logan. But when her former neighbor Jamie moves back to town – and it turns out he can see Logan too – lots of things begin to change. A sweet, funny, moving YA novel about grief, love and moving on. A serendipitous find at the Harvard Book Store.

Virgil Wander, Leif Enger
I won an ARC of Enger’s new novel (out in October) from the publisher. (I loved his first novel, Peace Like a River.) This is a quiet story of some odd, likable, utterly human people living in a forgotten Minnesota town. The narrator/title character runs the nearly-defunct movie house. Full of lovely sentences and vivid details, like the intricate kites one character makes by hand. I didn’t love the ending but the rest of it was wonderful.

Death on the Menu, Lucy Burdette
I like Burdette’s cozy Key West mystery series, narrated by quirky, nosy food critic narrator Hayley Snow. This eighth entry involves a big catering event gone awry, Hemingway’s Nobel Prize medal, and (of course) murder. Fun and a bit zany, though some of the recurring plot threads are getting a little tired. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Aug. 7).

Love & Gelato, Jenna Evans Welch
Reeling from her mother’s death, Lina goes to Tuscany to spend the summer with the father she’s never met. Once there, she finds a journal her mother kept during her art-student days in Florence, which may hold clues to Lina’s own story. Sweet and romantic, if a little predictable. Made me crave gelato, of course. Recommended by my girl Allison.

The Wild Places, Robert Macfarlane
I love Macfarlane’s keen-eyed, lyrical nonfiction about walking and wildness. This book traces his journeys through various wild places – forests, mountains, islands – in the British Isles. Luminous, thoughtful, keenly observed, like all his work.

My Years at the Gotham Book Mart, Matthew Tannenbaum
Matt owns and runs the wonderful Bookstore in Lenox, MA, which I recently (re)visited. This is his slim, rambling self-published memoir of working at the now-defunct Gotham Book Mart in NYC. I picked it up mostly because I love talking to him (and I got him to sign it). So fun.

Save the Date, Morgan Matson
Charlotte “Charlie” Grant’s big sister is getting married, which means Charlie’s whole family will be back together at their house for the first time in a while. But once the wedding weekend gets underway, everything starts to go wrong. A hilarious story of wedding disasters, and an insightful look at how even the people we love are more messy and complicated than we might expect. Matson’s YA novels are so much fun, and this one was no exception.

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

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julies bookshelves book stack

I’m starting 2016 off right – with a few good books. Here’s what I have been reading so far this month:

After You, Jojo Moyes
The sequel to Moyes’ blockbuster Me Before You finds Louisa Clark stuck in neutral after losing the man she loved. When a lonely, angry teenage girl turns up on her doorstep, Lou is forced to make some tough choices. Compulsively readable, like all Moyes’ books, though I was consistently frustrated with Lou and her decisions.

The Witches of Cambridge, Menna van Praag
Hiding in plain sight among the spires of Cambridge (England) is a group of witches: sisters Kat and Cosima, Heloise and her daughter Amandine, outspoken Noa and shy George. During a turbulent year, they employ a little (white) magic to help each other through personal challenges. Fluffy and enjoyable; sprinkled with gentle magical realism. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Feb. 9).

The Hired Girl, Laura Amy Schlitz
Joan Skraggs longs to better herself and to see the world, but she knows she’ll never do either working on her father’s farm. Running away to Baltimore, Joan changes her name to Janet Lovelace and ends up working for a wealthy Jewish family. I loved Joan’s narrative voice – guileless, plainspoken, often funny. Also a sensitive exploration of faith, both Jewish and Christian. Recommended by Shelley and Nina.

Heirs of the Body, Carola Dunn
Daisy Dalrymple’s 21st case hits close to home: helping her cousin Edgar, Viscount Dalrymple, find the heir to the family estate. Several potential heirs from various countries make up an ill-assorted house party, and when one candidate ends up dead, Daisy and her detective husband Alec must help solve the mystery. Reminded me of the first season of Downton Abbey (with a mystery angle). Really fun.

Flight of Dreams, Ariel Lawhon
On May 6, 1937, the airship Hindenburg met a spectacularly disastrous end when it went up in flames over a New Jersey airfield. The cause was never clear, and the ship’s fate has long been a subject of debate. Lawhon brilliantly weaves the facts together with several intertwined narratives of passengers and crew members, over the ship’s three-day journey from Frankfurt to the U.S. Taut and well-crafted, with complex, vividly drawn characters. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Feb. 23).

The Real Thing: Lessons on Love and Life from a Wedding Reporter’s Notebook, Ellen McCarthy
As the weddings reporter for the Washington Post, McCarthy interviewed hundreds of couples, and gleaned some solid advice for how to find “the one” and make love last. She shares what she’s learned through wise, often hilarious anecdotes, with glimpses into her own love story. Funny, smart and so readable. Recommended by Anne.

The Year of Miss Agnes, Kirkpatrick Hill
Teachers don’t stay long in Frederika’s remote Alaskan village. The smell of fish and the lack of amenities drive them away. But Miss Agnes is different. Fred tells the story of Miss Agnes’ time in their village, and how she makes everyone see the world in a new way. Fun and fresh and well told. This is the first pick for the Reading Together Family Exploration Book Club, co-hosted by Jessica and Sheila.

Ruby Red, Kerstin Gier
Gwyneth Shepherd comes from a family of time travelers, but she never expected to become one. But when she suddenly finds herself thrust backward in time, she has a lot to learn: about her own history, a secret lodge of time travelers and an infuriating (but handsome) time-traveling boy. A reread, and so much fun.

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

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Some of the best living this summer has gone unblogged.

Of course, some experiences should remain unblogged. Even in our age of constant social sharing, I believe in keeping parts of my life private and sacred. Some experiences also slip through the cracks because they are so ordinary. I could wax lyrical about the pints of raspberries I’ve eaten this summer, the pleasant lunch breaks with my book in the Public Garden, the sound of the harmonies when we sing hymns at church on Sunday mornings or with friends on Sunday nights. I do talk about these things, sometimes, but I don’t always blog about the things I do, the people I see, daily or weekly.

And sometimes I can’t fit an experience into the blogging box; I can’t come up with anything terribly original to say about an evening with friends or a dinner out or a weekend away. Sometimes I don’t have photos to go with a post. Sometimes, honestly, the effort feels like too much, and I want to simply enjoy it for what it was, without drawing a lesson from it.

I am headed to Texas this week, to see some old friends and cuddle that sweet nephew of mine and hang out with my parents and eat scads of Tex-Mex food. And I thought I’d share, briefly, some bits of this summer that haven’t yet made it to the blog.

We headed to Maine in late June, spending a cool, grey long weekend wandering around Bar Harbor:

maine bar harbor smiling photo

The occasion was the wedding of two dear friends, Isaac and Katelyn, who are utterly in love and simply adorable:

gibsons brays wedding maine

(Small victory: I got to re-wear my bridesmaid dress from Bethany’s wedding.)

We watched them dance amid the twinkle lights:

katelyn isaac dance wedding

And then I put my camera down and we all danced for another three hours. One of the best wedding receptions I’ve ever been to.

In early July, Allison came up for a weekend, from New York, and we showed her around the city:

allison katie lunch sweetwater summer

Her fiance (now husband), Duncan, joined us the next day, and we all walked the Freedom Trail, with a stop at Paul Revere’s house:

jer duncan silliness paul revere's house

The British are coming?

There are no photos of the excellent Italian dinner (or cannoli) we enjoyed, nor of the hours on end we spent talking and laughing together. This is why I don’t always blog about time with dear friends – it is deep and rich and full and unrepeatable, uncaptured on camera but so vital to my soul.

This summer, there have been a few trips to Cafe Luna for brunch:

cafe luna cambridge waffles brunch

But there have been far more simple patio dinners that look like this:

pasta dinner patio lemonade summer

I’ve also managed to do nearly everything on my summer manifesto list (though the outdoor movies didn’t happen this year, the ice cream and fireworks and vacations certainly did). And I’ve savored every last one of my summer addictions, even when I didn’t talk about them here. The dailiness, blogged or unblogged, is precious and life-giving.

What have you left unblogged this summer?

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I wanted it to be you. I wanted it to be you so badly.

—Kathleen Kelly, You’ve Got Mail

Serving the wedding cake

Four years ago today, we stood up in front of God and our families and our friends who are also family, and we promised each other: It will always be you.

In Maine, last weekend

Happy anniversary, love. You’re my favorite.

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Since my beloved Bethany, college roommate and friend extraordinaire, got engaged in December, I’d been anticipating her wedding weekend in Nashville. I bought a dress, booked a plane ticket and hotel room, found her some pretty lingerie and a custom cake server, and packed a suitcase with warm-weather clothes (and, ahem, four books). We woke up waaay before dawn on Thursday to catch a 5:15 flight out of Boston. And the next three days were pure friendship and fun and giggles.

(Bridesmaids. Yes, I know we’re cool. Don’t be jealous.)

Of course, the ceremony was beautiful; they’re so much in love; I’m thrilled for them; etc. But what makes these wedding weekends so much fun is being there for your friends – decorating, chauffeuring, helping make decisions and fix makeup and set up tables and straighten veils and reassuring the bride’s sister that, no, the cake is not going to fall. (It didn’t. Though it did lean.)

(I don’t know what Abi is saying. But I love these faces.)

I loved all of it. All of it. Walking down the aisle to “Africa” (which is, for some unknown reason, Chad’s theme song) and taking goofy pictures before and after the ceremony and making sure the garter stayed where it was supposed to and calling the groom from the bride’s cell phone after she left it at the church. (Fortunately, they were only a few miles down the road, so they circled back for it, still with birdseed in their hair and lipstick on their car windows.)

The other best part of these weekends is being there with your friends. Namely, five of us squishing into a hotel room and quoting Friends all weekend; relaxing with the girlies as we all sat side by side getting spa pedicures on Friday; catching up with friends I hadn’t seen in six months or a year or three years; grabbing frozen yogurt with a newly-returned-to-Nashville friend and her husband, who grew up in a town 50 miles from mine. It felt so good, all weekend, to be with old friends, and to relax into being known.

(Amanda and her daughter Virginia came up from Abilene, to hug the bride. Abi, Kelsey and I, on the right, were all bridesmaids.)

(Stealing kisses from the bride, who has called my husband her “roommate-in-law” for years.)

Happy Love Thursday. May you spend at least part of this day with people who love you.

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That’s what I’ve been doing since we got home on Sunday. Or trying to do.

Bethany’s wedding was so much fun – a whole weekend spent with old and dear friends, five of us crammed into a hotel room just big enough for us and all our stuff (and about a million inside jokes). Jeremiah serenading everyone at the wedding with Sister Hazel’s “This Kind of Love.” The guys making faces whenever a camera appeared. The welcome sound of so many Southern accents. Bethany, nervous and beautiful in her white dress and veil. Angela, sister of the bride and baker extraordinaire, working hard to make sure the cake didn’t fall. Lots of lip gloss and curling irons, silver high heels and jewelry, and yards and yards of twinkle lights and white tulle. Hugging one dear family who made it all the way up from Abilene.

But between flight delays on Sunday, houseguests when we got home (though we thoroughly enjoyed them), cold rainy weather in Boston, a stack of stuff waiting for me at work and bad health news for one of J’s aunts, it’s been a tough reentry. Still is, actually – it’s not over yet. I’m not quite back to a regular sleep/work/cooking/life routine, and 57 degrees does not feel like summer.

So I’m trying, trying, to take it slowly. Letting (some of) the laundry wait; stocking up on (some) essential foods and also picking up takeout; treating myself to a chai latte here and there; spending my lunch breaks reading at my favorite cafe. Listening to Frank Sinatra as I edit webpages; reading young adult books and Agatha Christie mysteries and Laura Harrington’s gorgeous debut, Alice Bliss. Trying to shut the computer down in the evenings and get some sleep. And remembering all the lovely moments from the weekend. (Photos + stories to come.)

How do you reenter after vacations or time away?

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