Monthly Archives: March 2015

Books I’ve read this year – Q1

Inspired by Maggie’s post documenting all the books she read during 2014, I thought I’d do my own version. Sadly, I lack the patience and conviction to wait until early 2016 (it’s so far away!) to share my list, so I decided to split my list into quarters (which also makes the accountant in me happy). This list is in chronological order, not in order of preference or enjoyment.

No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy. Rating – meh/decent. This was my third Cormac McCarthy book, and I’m experienced with his style, but I thought the other books of his that I’ve read (Child of God and The Road) were better. Both were creepier and more perverse (there are scenes of necrophilia and cannibalism, respectively) so I’m not sure what that says about me. I think I would have liked No Country more if the ending had been different, which is to say that I probably would have had it end with puppies and rainbows and that’s just not McCarthy’s style. Maybe I’m being too high maintenance here.

The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory. Rating – enjoyably fluffy. I am absolutely obsessed with the story of Henry VIII, and I devour any/all related biographies and historical fiction books of the king and his many ill-fated wives. I’ve read accounts from several different perspectives, but this is the first I’ve come across that tells the story of Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury and former Plantagenet princess. I already knew the final fate of many of the main characters in the book (because, you know, historical fiction), and I was still on the edge of my seat. There’s nothing earth-shattering here, but it is a good read.

Postcards from Europe by Rick Steves. Rating – LOVE it. Rick has written what I consider to be the absolute best guidebooks on Europe, but up until recently (when I started following him on Twitter) I had no idea that he had also written a memoir. Rick’s entire philosophy is “travel through the back door”, which means he gives travelers the insider’s perspective on destinations in order to help them engage with locals and have more meaningful travel experiences. In this book, he writes about how he got started and he recounts his favorite travel memories, including the trip he took after high school when his budget was $3 a day. The book was originally written in 1999, so it’s also fun for me to note how travel has (and hasn’t) changed in 16 years. I am addicted to European travel, and this book provided me with a temporary fix until we go again in the fall.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Rating – tiring at points, but overall entertaining and thought-provoking. This story is an examination into the nature of human psychology – what would happen if there were no consequences to our actions? I, for one, probably wouldn’t be a very good person and it turns out Dorian Gray wasn’t either. Dorian is young, rich, popular, and beautiful; a vain boy, but overall rather decent. Then he has his picture painted, and makes a wish that he should always be perfect and handsome, while the portrait grows old. His wish comes true, and Dorian discovers that whenever he sins, the painting suffers the consequences, while he retains his pure appearance. Cue a period of decline and depravity for Dorian. The middle of the book is exceptionally slow, but if you’re willing to skim through that, you’ll be rewarded with a great ending.

Mystery at Geneva: An Improbably Tale of Singular Happenings by Rose Macaulay. Rating – avoid at all costs. I added this to my Kindle because it showed up on a (an?) NPR list of recommended books. Usually they steer me in the right direction, but this was a complete miss. Mystery is book is about strange events that take place during a League of Nations meeting held in Geneva in the mid-1920s. There were funny, insightful bits here and there, and it provided an interesting perspective in international politics at that time, but overall it moved along at a snail’s pace and was just utterly bizarre. The ending was abysmal and poorly concluded. The best thing about this book is that it’s short (only 156 pages), so I didn’t waste too much of my life by reading it.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Rating – absolutely amazing; top 5 favorite books. This one was a little bit of a cheat, since I first read it in high school and have re-read it nearly every year since. I’m not exactly sure why I love it so much, other than every time I read it, I catch a new detail and feel new waves of emotion. Even though I know what’s going to happen, I get a little more out of the experience every time. This was the first time I’d re-read it since being married, and for some reason, one scene in particular completely gutted me. Unfortunately, I was on a plane at the time, so I’m sure the passenger next to me was a little concerned when tears started streaming down my face for no apparent reason. It starts a little slow and one of the characters’ diction is completely impossible to understand; if you get through the first few chapters and skip over everything Joseph says, it’s so worth it.

Murder in the Marais by Cara Black. Rating – wonderful thrilling page turner set in Paris. Everything about this book was great – the characters, the mystery, the setting, the writing. The Marais is the historically Jewish quarter in Paris and through the context of a murder mystery (an old woman is found with a swastika carved in her head), the book explores story lines that include Occupied Paris, WWII, racism (both historical and modern day), and forbidden love. I devoured this book in 2 days flat (granted, on 1 of those days I was on a plane for 4 hours) and I’ve already bought the next book in the series.

What about you – have you read any good books lately? I’m headed to my family’s beach house next week where there is nothing to do but eat, drink, and lay on a beach, and I’ve been known to devour up to a book a day, so I’m looking for recommendations!

Life lately – with supplemental iphone photos

This week marks my one month anniversary as a productive member of society [or it did, when I started drafting this post 2 weeks ago – whoops]. After being unemployed for our first two months in Denver, my old company reached out and offered to hire me back on as a contract worker. This means that I get paid hourly, which is awesome (and virtually unheard of for an accountant during busy season), but it also means that I spend a lot of time traveling back to DC, which is a mixture of good and bad.

In general, airline travel is not my favorite thing ever. I tolerate it, because it’s a means to an end; usually because it’s the only way to get me over the Atlantic and into Europe in a timely manner. Traveling for work has the redeeming quality that it means I’m getting paid to sit on a moving germ box, but I really wish Frontier airlines wasn’t the only provider of a direct flight between Denver to DC.

What even is this? (A tray table for ants?!) I don’t mind a reduction in amenities, having to pay for drinks, or even being charged to carry on my bag. But, come on Frontier – would it have killed you to build in decent size tray tables? I can’t do work in these conditions! Good thing I’m getting paid to sit here, regardless.

Traveling does have its perks, most importanly, that I get reimbursed for all my hotel and food expenses, which means my Starbucks addition is back in full force. Sometimes, they even spell my name right. But not usually.

“Erin” is too boring for the hip baristas. Let’s spice it up with a trendy spelling!

Also, on snow days, I order room service. I would never pay for it with my own money, but if someone else is picking up the tab, all bets are off. Because snow days and pants don’t mix.

Cost of crab cake sandwich in the hotel restaurant: $17. Cost of same crab cakes, delivered to my room: $29.

On days when I’m being less indulgent, I get to satisfy my other addition – Whole Foods. When booking hotels in DC, I do by best to choose ones in proximity to Whole Foods because their salad bar is my jam. Eating out constantly is almost guaranteed to pack on the pounds, so I do my best to eat as many veggies as possible to offset the other things I eat like, ahem, room service crab cakes. Give me a salad and a Fiji water to eat from my hotel room bed (because eating in bed really doesn’t get old, does it?) and I’m all set for the evening.

Fiji water is my favorite water (and don’t think I can’t taste the difference – because I can)

On to something that actually involves me burning calories, rather than consuming them. I absolutely love Denver, but nothing beats my old running route in DC. In just under an hour, I can circle all the highlights – the White House, Washington Monument, WWII Memorial, and Lincoln. DC does a lot of things I don’t agree with, but I will never dispute that the monuments (excepting the most recent instillation) are beautifully done.

A few weekends ago, by sheer coincidence, I was in DC at the same time that the Travel and Adventure show was taking place at the Convention Center. When I saw who was speaking there, I squealed (and I am not a squealer). Rick Steves, my favorite travel writer was giving not one, but TWO talks on Sunday and tickets were only $7 for the whole day! I don’t have a lot of celebrity idols, but Rick is definitely in my top 10. I have several of his travel books and he’s completely changed the way Americans experience Europe. After his first talk, I waited in line to get his autograph, and I warned my husband that we’d be hanging this on the wall.

That destination on the cover? Been there! It was incredible. Those stairs are no joke.

Back in Denver, my husband and I tried to squeeze a lot of skiing into a very short amount of time. Ski season is drawing to a close, and we’re trying to make our decision of where to buy season passes for next year. I think we’ve decided on the Rocky Mountain Super Pass, but we wanted to try a few other mountains just to make sure. Plus, when else is it acceptable to dress up like Hannibal?

After all that eating out I do during the week, I was really excited to get back home and be able to cook a few meals for my poor hubby, who usually survives on pasta and marinara sauce and/or cashew butter and jelly sandwiches while I’m gone. I’ve been drooling over variouszoodlerecipes from the Foodie Bride for a few months now, and I finally broke down and ordered a sprializer. I was too excited to read the directions, but assembly was easy enough for my husband and I was very pleased with my zoodle results. My husband, however, was more interested in the suspicious looking by-product.

And on that charming note, I think it’s time to wrap up this post. I’m back in DC for a few weeks (counting down the days until April 15th), then it’s time for a beach vacation with my family. That place is just good for my soul, and I can’t wait.