Posts Tagged With: Summer

A Very Gothic Vacation


It is a scant 4 weeks away from the summer vacation I’m taking this year.  It’s just for 4 days, but that’s still a miracle considering I started this job less than 6 months ago and I really thought I wasn’t going to get to go anywhere this year.  Everything was approved this week at work, though.  I really CAN go!

Vacation means vacation reads, which I’m already thinking about.  I’ll be gone for about 5 days, which means 5 books with a couple to spare maybe, if things get interesting.  I like to have themes for vacation, because I find that it makes books inseparable from the landscape.  I’ll never forget reading Tolkien in Yosemite, or Always Coming Home while road-tripping up the California coast, Jonathan Livingston Seagull at my aunt’s beach house, or Jane Austen in my other aunt’s house on the river.

I’ve decided I’m going for gothic fantasy on this one.  There’s a lot of that genre I want to read, by authors I love, and I hate to read books that consume me when I’m not able to devote time to them.   Vacation is the perfect time for that.  I’m going to Massachusetts with a visit to Plimoth Plantation planned.  You might think I should go straight to Phillbrick’s stuff and get all the pilgrim I can out of the vacation.  But Massachusetts is also the home of Salem…  Gothic horror is totally legit, I think.

What am I planning to read?  Here goes:

  • Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray: 2nd of the Diviner books, in which Evie O’Neil is now a famous seer, but can she and her friends stop the crazy sleeping sickness that’s plaguing the slums of New York?
  • The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black: I have no idea what this is about save that there’s some sort of beast in the forest that the main character was told to stay away from. And it’s Holly Black.  That’s all I really need to know.
  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater: A girl named Blue hooks up with 3 boys from a local prep school who are looking for a dead Welch king. Tumblr can’t get enough of it, so I’m taking their advice.
  • The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters: Victorian mesmerist gives the main character supernatural powers.   I saw this at my local indie shop and have been wondering about it ever since.
  • Witches of Lychford by Paul Cornell: An old lady opposes the building of a big box store on the town border because it will literally unleash hell if the town’s borders are breached. It’s a novel, so…
  • A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness: Descendant of first witch to ever be murdered in Salem accidentally comes across a book in a library that makes her run to a vampire for help. Sounds like just the kind of smut I love.

The Back Ups:

  • The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
  • The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Valiant by Holly Black
  • Of Sorrow and Such by Angela Slatter

That will more than do me for the trip.  I sort of consider all of the Maggie Stiefvater books of the same thing since they’re all the same series.  Whether I move on to Holly and Angela or not depends on how infatuated I am with Maggie’s stuff.  Tumblr loves those Raven Boys, but Tumblr is sometimes wrong (I know, I said it).

I’ll report back in a few weeks on the stuff I ACTUALLY read.  Much thanks to TOR for their recommendations, and also to The Book Seer (and my sister, for sending the link to me).

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Those Summer Tomatoes


Life feels pretty frantic right now.  Spring came to California overnight, it seems.  The tree in my front yard has gone from bare to bright green in just a few days.  The neighbor’s plum tree is flowering white.  The Roger’s Red Grape is budding with tiny silver leaves.

Spring (of course) means gardens, and garden goals include summer tomatoes in my house.  That is non-negotiable.  Home grown tomatoes are the one produce item that are nothing at all like the store bought version.  California summers get CRAZY hot, though, and in Redlands it is even worse than I am used to.  The advice for tomato planters in a hot climate?  Plant early and you will have a crop before the hot comes.  They recommend February.

When did it get to be almost March, you guys?

I put the tomatoes in the front planter last year to thwart the gophers, but now it has ornamental stuff in it.  Brian and I regrouped, and we’ve decided that if we put our veggies in raised beds in the back, we can line them with chicken wire and hopefully keep the gophers out.  Which means that we need raised beds STAT, or we won’t have a crop.  We bought the redwood boards, fought with the battery on the drill, and still didn’t quite get the planter built.  Next weekend for sure.  I have the compost, we have the dirt, and those tomatoes will be.

I am determined.

It’s the tomato plants that are indeterminate (you see what I did there?  It’s a tomato joke.  It was funny.  No, really).

Now I just have to decide what tomato varieties to plant… and frantically plant them so they can grow in time.

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Maine vs California, and Some Pictures


I am back from Maine.  It has been almost five years since Brian and I have been together, and it was lovely to have a partner in crime.  It’s always so funny coming home again, though.  I fly into Boston and am deposited into a whole different world, and then I fly out again and am deposited in my own life in California.  There is no transition, and no in-between.  Just one dichotomy and then the other

Maine was gorgeously green this time.  The humidity clung to us, but there was a light breeze most times that if you could catch it would blow the mugginess away.  The mosquitos bit, but I did not get munched by a green-headed fly even once.  That is a victory.  We hiked on forest trails that suddenly rounded a bend and became a secluded bay; trees and calm waters stretching as far as you could see.  Maine is a place to eat your weight in halibut and lobster, watch the fisherman chug through the Gut on their boats, and watch the brilliant stars in the sky.  Life trickles by like a stream.

Back in California, I went to work on Monday morning in a dry heat.  The drought has made things so brown out here.  I raced freight trains to work in a sea of concrete and other cars, and then I went into my air conditioned building and froze. I came home to a cuddly black cat in the window, dinner made from my home-grown tomatoes, and a very handsome husband burning sweet incense in the back room (for his weekly meditation).  The streetlights are so bright they drown out all but the most persistent constellations.  My four-poster bed is the perfect combination of soft and firm.

I will be back to some semblance of a regular blogging schedule ASAP, but I have had to play massive amounts of catch-up at work (to the point where all I want to do at the end of the day is collapse).  In lieu of a full post, please accept this collection of photos from the trip.  Bookishness will recommence next week.  And incidentally, if you are ever in Damariscotta, their bookshop is full of wonderful.  They don’t have the biggest inventory, but they have everything I’ve been drooling over online for months (Laura Ingalls Wilder autobiography, anyone?), and local stuff that is hard to find (Maine historical atlases).  I wanted to stay for months and spend a fortune.  You should go.

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Summer Garden


Oh the summer weather.  And I don’t mean that in a good way.  It’s been HOT here.  And weird.  Brian managed to get some fancy drought-tolerant plants at a local fair, and we did some minor gardening this weekend.  It was already 89 degrees out at 8:00 am when we went out there to dig in the dirt for a while and make sure everything had a decent soaking.  About 10:00 am, a huge cloud rolled in.  Along with an atmosphere of mugginess not usually experienced in Southern California.

I don’t know why it’s so much different in Redlands.  It’s only 30 miles away from Claremont.  But when the summer clouds come up, the whole world smells like the sweet molasses of desert rain.  It didn’t drop anything on us, but it stayed hazy and dusk-like until late in the afternoon, making the mountains that surround us like a bowl look purple in the distance.  Like someone had ripped them out of construction paper, and not like they were real mountains at all.

I feel like such a Californian in Redlands amid the eucalyptus, the orange groves, the palms, the trains and the hills.We planted California Poppies this weekend.  You know, just for extra good California goodness.  Unless we started keeping quail, we can’t get more representative.

The tomatoes are insanely huge now.  I bought the big tomato cages, and they have outgrown even those.  The Roger’s Red grapevine is taller than the house.  We’ve been slowly adding drought-tolerant things to the front yard, and trying to nurse through the things that are already there in the heat.  The roses are burning before they even have a chance to bloom.  The lawn is brownish.  But the Roger’s Red seems to be thriving with just a very little bit of hose help, and has sprouted volunteers all over the front planter.  I’m thrilled, since gophers ate both of the plants I had in the back yard.  Come fall when the weather is cooler, I’ll re-plant them in back again.  This time in gopher-proof chicken wire pots.  California natives for the win, I guess.

Now if we can just get all the plants through September, I shall be a happy camper.  Cross your fingers for them.  They’re going to need it.

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Summer Vacation Reads


It’s summer, and I have been thinking about vacation.  I just got back from a lovely weekend in Oceanside, and it looks like I’ll have another trip on the horizon to Maine.  The all-important decision, of course, is what to bring to read.  I have found that by practicing careful vacation reading curation, I am left with books I’m unable to separate from the landscape.  It’s a lovely thing to have happen.

So in that spirit, I thought I’d make some recommendations.

It’s a bit of a mish-mosh, these lists.  They’re to my taste and to my whims as they stand today.  I tend to agonize over what I’m reading and pick a theme, even if it doesn’t have anything to do with where I’m traveling.  My first trip to Yosemite was steeped in Tolkien.  The Ross Lake adventure was mostly dystopia amid stark mountains and placid, cold waters.  I spent a bit of the summer in Maine at my Aunt’s house by the river, in a sunny room full of antiques, reading Jane Austen.  But if I had to pick on place alone, these are what I would recommend in this moment, depending on where you’re traveling.  It’s a little bit of heartbreak, some silly, a heap of amazing prose, and a pinch of magic to round it all out.

I also want to say that in reviewing this lists, there is not nearly enough Rainbow Rowell, nor Diana Wynne Jones here.  They didn’t seem to fit into categories very well, but you can’t go wrong in reading ANYTHING by these two.  I especially recommend starting with Dogsbody, Fire and Hemlock, or Howl’s Moving Castle with Jones though.  She has so many, it’s hard to weed-through.  Rowell’s backlist is still fairly manageable.

Happy adventuring, and happy reading!

The Beach:

  • Colony, by Anne Rivers Siddons: four generations of family secrets and betrayal on the shores of a summer colony in Maine; and the strength of the women who keep the colony intact.
  • The Moonspinners, by Mary Stewart: While on vacation in a remote part of Crete, Nicola runs into two travelers who have witnessed a murder and are being hunted by a man from the local village.
  • Lake Woebegone, Summer 1956: A coming of age novel about Gary, self-described tree toad, who writes stories about talking dogs and is somewhat obsessed with his bad-girl cousin Kate.
  • Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray: If you mashed up Lord of the Flies with the Miss America pageant, and then added a smidge of reality TV, you might get this novel.
  • The Summer I Turned Pretty, by Jenny Han: Belly is used to tagging after the boys all summer long at the beach house her mother’s best friend owns.  But now they’re all older, everything has changed, and the boys are running after Belly.  And the adults are hiding something life-changing.


  • The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien: Bilbo is very surprised when twelve dwarves show up on his doorstep and sweep him off on an adventure containing elves, wizards, a dragon, talking ravens, and a very strange ring.
  • Always Coming Home, by Ursula K. LeGuin: An ethnography of a matriarchal culture in California that exists after the nuclear apocalypse. Weird and interesting, and just beautiful.
  • Watership Down, by Richard Adams:  Because of Fiver’s presentments of doom and destruction, a group of rabbits go on an epic journey to find a new home.
  • Chalice, by Robin McKinley: With the Demesne ravaged by misuse, and a new Master who is part fire-demon, Marisol must attempt to hold the land together with her hives of bees and her chalice, or lose everything to the men who seek to usurp them.
  • Plain Tales from the Hills, by Rudyard Kipling: A collection of short stories featuring soldiers and others in India.  Usually of the heartbreaking sort.

The City:

  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith: Francie grows in Victorian New York, struggling against gender roles and poverty to become the woman she needs to become.
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot: The strange and sometimes terrifying story of a woman whose cancer cells are used in almost all stem cell research, yet her poverty-stricken family cannot afford health insurance.
  • Hospital Sketches by Louisa May Alcott: A tale of Miss Tribulation Periwinkle and her time as a nurse in Washington during the Civil War.
  • Isla and the Happily Ever After, by Stephanie Perkins: Isla has a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh.  When they both end up friendless at the American School in Paris, it looks like something might blossom – during senior year.  Just in time for them to have to part.
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris: A hilarious collection of essays, including his life as an artist in New York, and the time he spent in France.

Road Trip:

  • Paper Towns, by John Green: Pretty, perfect Margo Roth Spiegelman climbs through Qs window one night and they go on a spree of pranking.  But then she disappears, and it looks like she’s left him clues to find her.
  • Candy Freak, by Steve Almond: About one man’s search through the candy factories of America and abroad in an effort to sate his sweet tooth, or perhaps just to ferret out the other Candy Freaks.
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman: Richard runs into a woman bleeding on the pavement one night, and finds he must help her.  He wakes up to discover that he no longer belongs to London.  He belongs to a strange world called London Below; and he must go on a perilous journey to restore the status-quo.
  • Forever Liesl by Charmian Carr: a lovely memoir not only of the making of a Hollywood starlet, but of the movie The Sound of Music and of the lives it touched across the globe.
  • Travels with Charlie In Search of America, by John Steinbeck:  Steinbeck travels America in the 1960s, with nothing but his trailer and his poodle, Charlie.  This is his beautifully written memoir of the people and attitudes he encountered along the way.
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Daylight Savings


I hate daylight savings with a passion.  I’m always tired that week, and the different light messes with my sensibilities.  It feels like I’ve been gypped out of a whole hour.  If we could just dispense with it, I would be a much happier camper. There is the inevitable changing of ALL THE CLOCKS in the house.  And we have plenty, because I think they’re decorative and neat.  I have to make sure that Brian hasn’t already turned them.  And then I have to remember that all of them exist.  Sometimes the one in my office and the one on the fireplace mantle don’t get changed for weeks.  But despite the fact that an hour of my life was sucked away, I still like this time of year the best.

The lighter days mean that I have more time to enjoy home.  Instead of pulling my car into the driveway of a dark house with only the porch light a beacon of yellow in the darkness, I get to march to my door in the daylight.  I can enjoy the little white flowers on my neighbor’s plum tree.  I can marvel at how much the grape vine has grown in the time I was away (seriously, it’s like inches every day.  The dime-sized leaves of last week are now closer to the size of the bottom of a water glass).  I can inspect the multiplying buds on the rose bushes.  We have pink roses in addition to the red ones, I found out. It’s amazing what a little rose food and weeding will do for them.

There was a bluebird in the yard this morning that I wouldn’t have seen if it had been an hour earlier.  He was surveying the weedy field that is currently my backyard.  He would twitch his head this way and that and swoop down into a thicket of green, his blue wings wide, decorated with racing stripes of gray and white.  He’d flit back to the fence, and munch on whatever it was he had pulled from the ground.  Then he’d do it again.

And then lighter days always meant summer was coming.  Summer was concerts in the park with a picnic on Mondays, fireworks and Sousa on the 4th of July, dollhouses in the dining room, swimming lessons, lazy days spent reading and doing nothing else, our vacation to Maine.  As an adult, I get the abbreviated version sometimes.  Tantalizing bits and pieces.  It still feels good.

When I was a kid, I never wore a watch.  I don’t know why, exactly.  I owned a watch, I just never wore one.  It never seemed to matter during the school year.  I was a slave to the school bell, or I could consult the classroom clock, or there was one in my mother’s car.  But during the summer, when I was out on my bicycle or frolicking at the park, I learned to tell time by the sun.  I was hardly ever more than 15 minutes off.  I can’t make it work in the dark days of winter. When the world is light, I have some semblance of the time again.  I’m usually closer to 30 minutes off these days.  Use it or lose it, I suppose.

So, Daylight Savings.  Blessing or curse?  I don’t really know.  I hate losing that hour, and adjusting to new times, and twirling clock nobs.  But I feel like the time change gives me back to myself.

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