photo friday: no YOU are

10 Feb

The other morning I was at the gym, and tossed my stuff into a locker without a second thought. I finished my workout and came back into the locker room to retrieve my stuff, only to see something I’d missed earlier.

20170119_070638

Thanks, Gym Locker. You are, too.

things i’ve been meaning to tell you: february 2017

8 Feb

One: Why is damn near impossible to find a face lotion that is A) cruelty free, 2) has SPF, and III) doesn’t cost an arm and a leg? I don’t think this is terribly too much to ask. I’m just trying to keep my skin, the animals, and my wallet as safe as possible. If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know. Seriously. And for the record, I’ve tried the Yes For fill-in-fruit-or-vegetable here ones, and I don’t care for them because they’re so damn thick I look like a lifeguard from a bad 80s movie.

Two: The other day I had an epiphany when hearing the song Hook by Blues Traveler. The chorus, the hook, if you will, is “the hook brings you back,” NOT “the heart brings you back,” the latter of which I thought were the lyrics for the past twenty-odd years. Why? Hard to say. But the song makes so much more sense now!

In other news, I still have no clue what the shit Eddie Vedder is actually saying in the song Yellow Ledbetter.

Also, this reminds me that I still really love the band Better Than Ezra.

God, I love 90s music.

Three: Baby McSwedolish’s godfather Wild Turkey Dave gave us an Alexa, and one of my favorite features is you can ask her to play lullabies, and she magically emits a station that is full of sweet songs to soothe Baby McSwedolish. There are some classical hits, some songs that are calming, some songs that have become favorites (such as Return to Pooh Corner by Kenny Freaking Loggins).

And then there are plinky-plinky lullaby versions of…Guns N Roses’ Sweet Child ‘O Mine. As well as Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing. And Bette Davis Eyes.

WTF?

It’s not a little disconcerting, to be tidying up the kitchen, listening to the coos and whines of your baby as he tries valiantly to not put himself to sleep, and you’re ignoring him and humming along and then you stop and think, “Wait, what am I humming? What are we listening to? Is that Lullaby Shakira?”

And it sure it.

And it’s not a little fantastic. It’s amazong.*

Four: One of the things I managed to accomplish on my maternity leave, besides becoming inordinately annoyed by certain TV theme songs, was making a cheesecake.

It wasn’t just any cheesecake, mind you, it was a cheesecake that I’ve been wanting to make for nine years.

NINE. YEARS.

It’s this cheesecake.

It has always looked very involved and mildly intimidating to me, but I decided that it was time to just buck up and do it A) Because for God’s sake, did you not read the part about NINE YEARS? And 2) I could make it for the 2nd Annual Friendsgiving, which means that if it sucked or I screwed it up royally it really wouldn’t matter because everyone would be drunk by the time we got to dessert anyway.

Ta da!

Thankfully I didn’t screw it up, and everyone else thought it was a resounding success.**

I thought it was only okay.

The cheesecake itself, and the chocolate ganache topping were extraordinary, I will give the recipe that. But the part that I was most excited about—the pistachio crust—was a huge disappointment to me. It wasn’t really connected, so to speak, to the rest of the cake. You just sort of set the cake on top of it. It would be better, IMHO, if it were baked in, and thus intertwined with the cake, and further thus wouldn’t break off in chunks and go skittering across your plate like candy. (Delicious pistachio candy, but candy nonetheless.)

Now that I’ve made this cake once (NINE YEARS!) and know just how involved it is (and it is on the medium side of involvement, and also requires quite a bit of fridge space to chill the cake and ganache), I’m ready to make it again, this time with a few tweaks to see if I can’t take it from great to Magical by my McPolish standards.

(And sadly, I don’t have any pictures of the cake, but I’ll do my damndest to get some next time.***)

*Amazong—adjective. A step above amazing. Tell your friends.

**Entirely possible they were lying. See aforementioned Drunk by Dessert.

***Look for said photos sometime in 2025. 

 

 

photo friday: melting

3 Feb
img_20170202_111024_723

Was keeping watch. Got tired. 

I was worried that when we brought Baby McSwedolish home the dog wouldn’t like him.

I needn’t have worried.

She loves him very much, and shows said love by thoroughly cleaning his face and hands and nose holes, and, when he’s kicked off his socks, his toes, though there is no denying that she also is terribly sad that she is no longer the baby.

But still.

She knows that she must protect Baby McSwedolish no matter what.

Or at least for as long as she can keep her eyes open.

 

photo friday: sleeping beauty

27 Jan
20161011_120257

Jerk. 

We have been blessed: Baby McSwedolish is an excellent nighttime sleeper. He is not so fantastic at taking naps during the day times, unless he is in his crate car seat,* toodling around with us on errands and outings.

But if I had to choose, I will take his proficiency at nighttime sleeping over napping any day, because 1) I’m not terribly good at napping myself, so I get his inability to do so, and more important, 2) I’m not sure he can nap, because the amount of time the beasts in this house spend sleeping at any given time of the day or night is so great that it probably absorbs all of the nap power from the other living beings residing here, thus rendering us all un-napable.

In other words, it is the cats’ and dog’s faults that Baby McSwedolish does not sleep well during the day. Mostly, of course, the cats’. Because everything is always their fault. Forever and ever, Amen.

*Stop calling it a crate. He’s not a puppy, girl. He’s a baby. A baby.

a year of movies: year one

25 Jan

I’m not a big movie watcher, not nearly as I am a big book reader. But I like movies, so I’m not entirely sure why it is I don’t watch many. Last year I decided to watch more movies (and documentaries), so I did.

At least I think I did.

Honestly, I have no idea, really, because it was the first year I was keeping track.
But I definitely made a concerted effort to watch more movies, both at home and in the theatre, and I don’t regret it. Some are years, decades old that I never got around to seeing, some are new, all come with three thoughts/takeaways I had while watching.

What movies should I add to my To Watch list, Interwebers?

Movies I Watched + 3 takeaways from each

January 1, 2016-December 31, 2016

  1. Dallas Buyers Club*–1. Holy shit, is everyone scrawny in this movie. 2. I had no idea Jennifer Garner was in this film. 3. This movie was a lot longer than I thought–I’m not complaining, it was a good movie, just seemed very long.
  2. Seven Years in Tibet–1. Brad Pitt’s Austrian accent is just awful. 2. The fact that the Dalai Lama depicted in this movie is the same one who is still alive today blew my mind (it’s not hard to do). 3. I wonder if the Dalai Lama has seen this movie (since he’s such a big fan of movies) and what he thinks of it.
  3. Jurassic World–1. BD Wong! That’s two movies in a row with BD wong! 2. There is no way in hell that Clare could run around the whole g-d park and be chased by dinosaurs in those goddamn heels. WTF? She’d have been eaten within five minutes. 3. I know they’re fake, but the field of dying brontosauruses really broke my heart. I can’t even stand to think about it. Sad. Really sad. They are my favorite dinosaur.
  4. The Professional*–1. Gary Oldman plays creepy and crazy really, really well. 2. I like Natalie Portman better as a child actress, even though she has some Lolita-like moments in this flick. 3. I have never been as sad to see a hitman die as I was when Leon was taken out.
  5. American Experience: Murder of a President*–1. James Garfield was quite a dashing man in his youth. 2. It is fascinating to be reminded that there was a time when cleaning surgical devices and general medical equipment was not the norm, and it makes me want to shout at the television, “Just clean the wound, you daft doctor!” even though I know that will help no one. 3. Charles Guiteau was part of the Oneida community, but could never grasp the rules. So there’s that.
  6. Kung Fu Panda 3*–1. The more you gain, the less you have. 2. There really IS no reason to eat only one dumpling at a time. 3. Cartoon pandas remind me of my dog, and I have no idea why. Might be the “sad eyes,” like Puss in Boots, but in black and white.
  7. The Godfather*–1. A surprising lack of cursing in this movie. I must be jaded from today’s foul-mouthed movies that I find this so intriguing. 2. Oh, Talia Shire. Sheesh, dial it back a notch, your hysterics are not terribly believable. 3. This storyline was not what I was expecting at all.
  8. Trumbo*–1. Is it just me, or does Bryan Cranston’s voice in this movie sound like he could be auditioning for a Wurther’s Original commercial? 2. Diane Lane gets more beautiful with every year. 3. John Goodman. John Goodman! And of course his scene with the baseball bat will be what I will remember about this movie always.
  9. The Jungle Book* (The Jon Favreau live action film, not the Disney cartoon)–1. Why aren’t there any lions in the jungle? 2. After watching Idris Elba as Stringer Bell for so many seasons on The Wire, it’s a bit disconcerting to hear him speaking in his natural British accent. 3. Christopher Walken was a perfect choice to voice King Louie, and while I liked Bill Murray as Baloo, his rendition of “Bear Necessities” had nothing on Phil Harris’.
  10. Spotlight*–1. Stanley Tucci. Stanley Tucci! I feel about him the same way I feel about John Goodman: He makes every movie better. 2. I always find it fascinating when movie people can make such an intriguing, engaging movie out of something (working for a newspaper, even if you are an investigative reporter) that is not terribly interesting in real life. 3. The level of scandal in the Church is astounding, and disgusting, and who the hell is so drunk on power that it gets as deep and as far up as this one did? It’s revolting.
  11. Sisters–1. Tina Fey who talks like an irresponsible party girl is not terribly believable and feels like an over-drawn out SNL skit. 2. Dianne Wiest and James Brolin make this movie. 3. Maya Rudolph’s dancing outside while the dance routine to Informer is happening is phenomenal.
  12. Dope*–1. The soundtrack in this movie is everything. 2. I love Forrest Whitaker, even though you never see him. 3. There is a reason people no longer wear flat-tops and jean jacket vests. And that is because they are unflattering on everyone.
  13. Get Shorty*–1. Gene Hackman! I love Gene Hackman. I’d forgotten he was in this movie. 2. You know, I don’t think I’ve seen a lot of John Travolta movies, besides Grease, so to see him acting in something else is quite intriguing. He has a quiet way about him, of sorts, doesn’t he? 3. Holy crap–you can really tell how dated this movie is by the style of “Cadillac of Minivans.”
  14. Mad Max–Fury Road–1. About 95% of this movie seems to be one big atomic car chase. 2. There’s not so much dialogue as there is a lot of grunting. 3. I don’t think I need to see any more Max Max movies.
  15. The Infiltrator*–1. I was worried that this movie would be super violent or some such; thankfully, it’s not. 2. Bryan Cranston! Again! It’s like the Year of Bryan Cranston movies for me. Not that I’m complaining. 3. Oh, Benjamin Bratt. I do feel bad for you and your wife in this movie. I’m so sorry you’re a drug overlord.
  16. A Beautiful Mind*–1. Every time there was a shot of Russell Crowe’s character that was pulled back from him a little, I couldn’t help but think, “Man, he looks short and dumpy.” 2. So many ‘00 actors in this! Anthony Rapp! That guy from Dazed and Confused! Paul Bettany! It’s like a blast from the turn-of-the-century past! 3. The whole thing about Paul Bettany being an imaginary friend kind of blew my mind. Ed Harris? Yes, I could see that. But Paul Bettany I was not suspecting, and I was all, “WHOA.”
  17. Straight Outta Compton*–1. They got some really good lookalike actors for the roles of the NWA members. 2. I’m always fascinated by this time in music, because the rise of gangsta rap was around the same time as the rise of alternative/grunge/Seattle music scene. 3. How was this only nominated for best original screenplay?
  18. Wall Street–1. I can understand why Michael Douglas won the Academy Award for this movie, unless you are talking about the last 10 minutes, which fit with the rest of the movie not at all. (Seriously? Beating Charlie Sheen up in the middle of an open field in Central Park? Whatever.) 2. It’s always strange for me to see Martin Sheen in roles other than President Bartlet. 3. Daryl Hannah has the most expressionless face I’ve ever seen.
  19. Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief*– 1. That Scientology shit is fucked up. 2. I can see how people might get sucked into the beginnings of it–self-help stuff is always catchy and provocative to people who are searching for something in their lives (and I don’t mean that in a bad way). 3. I share a birthdate with L. Ron Hubbard, which I find mildly disturbing.
  20. My Friend Rockefeller–1. The word for “hoity-toity” in German is “itsy-pitsy.” 2. The directors make it seem like this con artist was intimately involved with the Rockefeller family, but he’s really not. Just tells people his last name is Rockefeller, and people believed him, and there’s not much into it beyond that. Disappointing. 3. Meh. So this guy was a con artist and probably killed a couple of people. Overall not as compelling of a documentary as I wanted it to be.
  21. Great Performances: Hamilton’s America*–1. I learned more about American history watching this making of the musical than I think I learned in all of my history classes combined. 2. Before watching this, I was lukewarm on seeing the show, but now I would jump at the chance and sell one of the cats for a ticket. 3. I love the guy who plays Thomas Jefferson, and (what I saw of) his portrayal of him in the show.
  22. Trolls*–1. WTF were the screenwriters on when they wrote this movie, seriously? 2. I will never hear the song “The Sound of Silence” the same again. 3. One of my favorite things about animated movies is identifying the voices, but for why was Gwen Stefani given such high billing when she has all of like one line?
  23. The Great Outdoors*–1. I miss you, John Candy. 2. I wish they still made Jeep Wagoneers. 3. Remember when you could say the word “shit” in a movie, and it could still be rated PG?
  24. August: Osage County–1. Jesus Christmas this movie is depressing. I seem to remember the trailers making it out to be humorous. It’s not. 2. Meryl Streep is the greatest actress of all time, isn’t she? She really is. 3. Who knew Benedict Cumberbatch was in this movie?!

 

*recommended

 

 

photo friday: i scream, you scream, we all scream because i forgot the food coloring!

20 Jan
20170115_203029

Don’t worry, you guys. Aunt DeeDee brought a red velvet bundt, so we did get our food coloring fix. Dog nose not included. 

One of my New Year’s Goals for this year—besides creating world peace, finding sustainable alternative fuel solutions, and saving the spotted horned-tooth owl—is to make one new ice cream flavor per month.* January’s flavor was red velvet with a cream cheese swirl, which I served up last week when Baby McSwedolish’s Aunts Mimi and DeeDee came over for dinner.

Dinner was a smashing success, of course (when is it not? Let’s just call a spade a spade), as was my contribution to dessert, le red velvet ice cream. (Aunt DeeDee rightly saw fit to inundate us with a half dozen mini bundt cakes, which were amazing, and which I may or may not have polished off for breakfast over the course of the following three mornings.) (No judging.) (I said stop judging! It’s really no different than eating a donut!)

Because I am amazing with ice cream time management, I made the base for the ice cream the night before, and as I was pulling together the ingredients came to the stunning realization that I didn’t actually have the red to make said velvet ice cream…red.

I could have batted my eyes and asked Swede to run to Mariano’s to pick up a bottle of red food coloring. I could have made blue or yellow or green velvet ice cream, because those were food colorings that I do have on hand. But blue velvet ice cream sounds like something I should make when there is some sort of Elvis-associated holiday looming, yellow velvet ice cream doesn’t sound appetizing at all, and green velvet, well, huh. That actually could be interesting. Will have to give it a go another time.

Anyway, my point is that red velvet ice cream with a cream cheese swirl tastes just the same and just as good without the red food coloring. It tastes like lightly chocolate-d ice cream with a cream cheese swirl, which is exactly what it is. If ever you were wondering about where red velvet got it’s flavor, it’s not from the coloring. Why the coloring was ever added in, I don’t know, I’m not a food historian.

I’m just a food eat-orian.

*I welcome suggestions on what to make in the coming months.

 

mcpolish book list: year 10

18 Jan

Despite the fact that I did very little blogging last year, I did, in fact, do some reading. Because reading is a constant for me. Without books, I would be a terribly lost soul.

Plus there was the whole had-a-baby, taped-to-the-couch-while-nursing-particularly-in-the-first-month-and-there’s-not-much-else-to-do-but-read thing.

So I had a particularly good run there toward the end of RY2016 (Reading Year 2016. Much like a fiscal year, but without having to deal with money. Which makes it WAY better.) thanks to the baby. Though as a whole, it wasn’t my best reading year, in terms of sheer number of books. In fact, if that was the barometer to go by, it may in fact have been my worst. And that’s more than a little wonderful, because it means there are that many books out there that I still can read!

If you’re looking for something to read, take a look at the list below. If you read something over the past year that you absolutely loved, please do tell, because I never mind an ever-expanding To Read list.

Year Ten of Books

Books completed between November 10, 2015 and November 9, 2016

 

  1. The Royal We–Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan* (I’m not a Royal Watcher, and I could give a crap about Prince William and his wife in real life. That said–and I say that because this book reads like a fictionalized version of their love affair–this was such a fun read, if an unsatisfying ending. It wasn’t a BAD ending–though literally the last page was a little too shmoopy and over-written IMHO–more like an “oh…really? Ugh. Blargh. Letdown.” Because it’s a fairytale, and even though the point of the book it to show how much of a fairytale this life ISN’T, there’s still a part of me that hoped for the fairytale ending. Anyway, all that aside, I love Cocks and Morgan’s writing style–it’s fun, it’s witty, it’s totally engaging, and this was one of those books that I’d read on the way to work and almost miss my stop because I didn’t want to put it down.)
  2. Beach Town–Mary Kay Andrews* (A fun read, which is to be expected from Andrews. This time it’s set in Florida, for a change of pace from her usual Georgia, but it’s still filled with the charm and great descriptions Andrews does so well. A little too much over-explaining in places, but I can forgive that for an easy read. A good beach read–no pun intended–and I think Eb may be my favorite hero of Andrews’ yet.)  
  3. Life After Life–Kate Atkinson* (While I absolutely adore Atkinson’s Jackson Brody series, I am kind of back and forth on this book. I still recommend it, as noted, but it took awhile to get into, and fully understand the premise. [Atkinson truly amazes me in her ability to weave characters and storylines and time and space and…<POW>…Gah. I think my brain just exploded thinking about the complexity of actually writing this novel.] And once I did catch on to the structure Atkinson was following, it made it a bit easier, and I could relax enough to get into the book. And it’s lovely, with Atkinson’s lovely writing. But there was still something that…huh. I don’t know. I guess I didn’t find it *quite* as engaging as I did her Brody novels. All that said, it’s still a good read, and maybe I’m being unfair, comparing LAL to JB novels. They’re apples and oranges, really. And I will add that I did like this enough that I’m excited to read the related A God In Ruins.)  
  4. The Improbability of Love–Hannah Rothschild* (Oh, what a lovely book. I’m not sure how to classify this–women’s fiction, perhaps? But I was thoroughly engaged with the cast of characters, their ups and downs, as well as sinking into a bit up the upper class art world. Rothschild has a flowing writing style and draws out a very good story that involves love, money, intrigue, and Nazis. [Also, what the what? Two books in a row that have an aspect/focus on WWII. Odd. But not in a bad way.] This has been one of the books I’ve enjoyed reading most, and I actually put other books aside to focus on it [a rarity for me], and NOT just because it was a book club read. Do pick it up, will you?)  
  5. The Hen of the Baskervilles–Donna Andrews* (It’s been awhile since I’ve read a Meg Langslow mystery, and I think the break did me good. This was a fun read. And I’ll leave it at that, per my rule about Andrews’ books. 🙂 ) 
  6. The Good, The Bad, and The Emus–Donna Andrews* 
  7. Great Kitchens of the Midwest–J. Ryan Stradal* (Okay, admittedly, I do love books that have a food theme to them. And books that seem to have disparate storylines that somehow tie together. And this book has both. And I loved it. I wasn’t so sure about it in the first chapter–all the talk of Lutefisk, blech–but it picks up and then I couldn’t put it down. I loved the writing style, it flowed so beautifully, and kept moving, and while the storylines were complicated, and the characters had a lot of shit not go their way, I was purely satisfied with how it all turned out in the end.)  
  8. Nobody’s Baby But Mine–Susan Elizabeth Phillips (Not really a fan of this one, because I think the premise it’s built on–a genius woman wants to have a baby and tricks who she thinks is a “dumb” football player into getting her pregnant–is both horrible and swept under the rug WAAAAAAYYY too easily. Almost like it’s making light of the situation, because Love! It’s all overcome by Love! And Heady Sexual Wants! And….yeah. It kind of left a bad taste in my mouth. It’s like, hey, here’s this really underhanded thing a woman did, something that yes, other women have done,  BUT JUST BECAUSE SHE HAD GOOD INTENTIONS DOESN’T MAKE IT OKAY. There are so many other routes Philips could have gone with this one, and I don’t like the route she chose. It didn’t work for me. Meh.)  
  9. Beautiful Ruins–Jess Walter* (This book started out strong, and then started going in a direction that I was not expecting–you know those times when you think the book is going to be about one thing, but it ends up being about another thing entirely? Yeah, that’s this book. So about a third of the way through I was kind of like, oh….well, okay. And it took me a minute to get back on board with the book, though once I did I enjoyed it muchly. It’s very…thinky. Quite a bit of philosophizing, but not necessarily in a bad way. Walter creates characters that you care about enough to forgive him for being a little heavy-handed with the life’s philosophies, and for jumping between multiple styles of writing. It all links together quite nicely, and could have easily been a disjointed mess, but it’s not. I don’t get the whole bit about it being a social satire that critiques Hollywood culture as many have described it, but whatever. Still enjoyable.)  
  10. The Best Man–Kristan Higgins* (The first in the Blue Heron series, and oh dear. It seems I’ve fallen in love with another series. Get excited, people, I’ll be reading this straight through. I heard Higgins speak at a conference a couple of years ago, and she was just terrific. Now, having read one of her books, I think she is even more terrific, as is her writing. It’s fun, it’s lovely, and she makes the setting in this book just as much of a character as the people. Speaking of which, I love the characters she’s drawn in this book, and that’s a lot of what makes me want to read the others in this series, just to see them and hang out with them again. ← I swear I live in reality and not in the pages of a book.)  
  11. The Perfect Match–Kristan Higgins* (The second book in the Blue Heron series, and just as delightful as the first. I like the twist of the story line so it really separates Honor’s story from Faith’s, but still with all the charm that makes you want to live in Manningsport.) 
  12. Waiting on You–Kristan Higgins* (Again, do we need to talk about my love of finding a good series and then reading the shit out of it? No. No, we do not. Higgins jumps out of the Holland family and into the O’Rourke family–which in some regards may just as well be the Holland family, and I mean that in a good way–and damn if Higgins didn’t change up the story line. What I like about the conflicts in her stories is that they’re all different, but all very relatable, which is not always easy to do. I zipped through this one just like I did the first two, and I regret nothing.) 
  13. In Your Dreams–Kristan Higgins (Huh. Well, it was bound to happen. This was not my favorite of the Blue Heron novels so far. [And I think I only have one more to go.] The romance seemed thin and not terribly believable so much as it was convenient, between Jack and Emmaline, and there was just a LOT going on with the characters mentally. Disparate things that never seemed to gel–Jack’s actual heroics, Jack’s savior complex, Emmaline’s weight, Emmaline’s  feeling like her parents love her adopted sister more, Jack’s inability to stand up to his ex-wife. Nothing ever seemed to really click into the believable realm for me. Nonetheless, I still zipped through this one, because Higgins’ writing is funny and engaging and I just love reading anything she writes.) 
  14. The Assistants–Camille Perri (I remember jotting down this recommendation from The Skimm, and being very excited about it. And the plot of the novel is good, and intriguing, but it all comes off as a little….thin. The romance between Tina and the lawyer in her company seems forced, like her editor asked her to include a romance just to spice things up, but it ended up falling flat, and none of the characters seem all that well developed. A few chapters in I started wondering how Perri would sustain this plot for an entire novel, and she does it–by adding new complications and new characters. Which, yes, that’s what should be done, but nothing ever gets terribly developed so it all comes off like a blah fairytale with a happily-ever-after-ending for the modern age. Is it because I’m not a Millennial? Is it because I’ve never [THANK GOD] suffered from crippling student loan debt? Maybe. Maybe not. A fast read nonetheless, just don’t expect too much out of it.)   
  15. The Princess Diaries, Volume XI: Royal Wedding–Meg Cabot* (I’m not sure if this is the last book in this series or not, but if it is I have to say it’s a nice wrap up. I like seeing Mia grown up, and all the shenanigans and issues–though some were more well played out than others–and I feel like many loose ends were tied up. I would be thrilled if this is NOT the last book in the series, and we got to see her ruling over Genovia and raising twins [sorry, spoiler there] as a princess.)  
  16. Anything for You–Kristan Higgins* (The latest book in the Blue Heron series–and possibly the last–I feel like this one goes back to everything I loved about the first couple of books in the series. More believable characters, not as many story threads that get lost in the shuffle. It feels more focused than the last one, and was just a joy to read.) 
  17. I’m Glad About You–Theresa Rebeck* (The first thing I will say is that I found the ending, the very last chapter, unsatisfying. It was beautiful, but I desperately wanted an epilogue to see how these characters’ lives turned out, that’s just the type of person I am. I totally get why it ends when it does, and I respect that. But still. I wanted more. I felt like the characters were really on a roll, and I wanted to see where that path took them. The second thing I will say is that much of this reads like a play. To be expected, as the author is a playwright, if I read the bio flap correctly. And that it reads like a bad thing–not at all! It was quite a nice change, and I could completely picture the characters acting this out on stage, the dialogue, etc. An absolutely wonderful read overall, though the Catholicism stuff was a bit heavy-handed in spots. Yet it worked on the whole, so I’m cool with it.)  
  18. Crowned and Dangerous–Rhys Bowen* (The latest book in the Royal Spyness series, and it’s just as charming as ever. And set in Ireland! The romance of Georgie and Darcy continues, and I continue to be smitten with these lovebirds. The only qualm I have is that the “mystery” plot is wrapped up awfully quick at the end–I would have liked to see it drawn out a little bit more, with a bit more intrigue. But overall, I just love these books.)  
  19. Family Baggage–Monica McInerney* (I love Monica McInerney, and this may be my favorite of her books yet. She is tremendous at weaving storylines that are compelling yet realistic, but with just enough that is a step beyond ordinary to keep you engaged. Plus after reading her books I always want to visit Australia. Even though half the time her books are sent in England. Whatever.)  
  20. The Best Day of Someone Else’s Life–Kerry Reichs (Cute, but too much, I don’t know, self-actualization? Self-discovery? Of the main character throughout the book. The first half of the book, where she’s in a million weddings, combined with the second half of the book, where she moves on from her high school love and meets the main romantic partner, could have been combined, and cut like a third of the book out. Plus, yes, I get it, the protagonist has changed her view that marriage is not the end-all-be-all she once thought it was. Please stop beating us over the head with it, and explaining it every fifth page. Jesus. Have some faith in your reader.)  
  21. Shopaholic to the Stars–Sophie Kinsella* (I haven’t read anything from this series in a while, and though it was nothing groundbreaking, and the protagonist is still as ditzy and self-absorbed as ever, it was still a fun read.) 
  22. Shopaholic to the Rescue–Sophie Kinsella* (Part 2 of Shopaholic to the Stars, and I recommend it only so you can find out how some of the story lines wrap up. And again, still a fun read.) 
  23. Just Like Heaven–Julia Quinn* (Oh, it’s feels like it’s been forever since I’ve read a Julia Quinn novel, and I’m reminded how much I enjoy them. I liked this one–and it was an easy starting point being the first book in a new quartet of books, seeing as how I can never remember which of the books in the Bridgerton series I’ve read–and it’s a cute story. I will say that the conflict wasn’t very conflict-y, and did read as if a bit phoned in. But that didn’t bother me terribly much, to tell the truth.) 
  24. Hello From the Gillespies–Monica McInerney* (I think this is my favorite Monica McInerney novel. I also think I say that every time I read something new of hers. But it’s such a good story, and it really made me want to visit the Australian outback. And shear sheep. And just visit Australia in general.) 
  25. Odd One Out–Monica McInerney* (This isn’t a full book, but since it’s a novella I’m counting it anyway. I think I finished it in about two hours. Unlike what I said above, this is not my favorite of McInerney’s stories, though I liked it all the same. But it just didn’t have the oomph that her other books had. The conflicts weren’t really anything major, but that was okay. It was kind of nice to read a book that is just…happy. With only a few minor qualms for the main character, that were resolved fairly quickly. Sometimes you need that in a story.)

*Recommended