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january 2019 book club

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book club book reviews

New year, new books, new me! Or something like that. I read A LOT in January, which I attribute to getting a library card for my new city, which has the most amazing library. I also started listening to more audiobooks again – often while playing a video game, because my boyfriend got me hopelessly hooked on Mass Effect – and I also picked up several graphic novels, which are usually quick reads.

I still love my Kindle – especially the feature that lets you check out library books – and Amazon’s Kindle First Reads have been really great lately too. (They offer six free books to choose from every month, so you can read them before release.)

Let’s dive in!

The Great Believers: Wow. Wow wow wow. This is the most incredible book I’ve read in a long time. It’s set in 1980’s Chicago – during the AIDS pandemic – and present(ish) day Paris. I wondered how the two storylines would intersect, and if it would make sense, but it does – and wonderfully so. To avoid spoilers, it’s hard for me to describe the book any more specifically than that, but I felt deeply for the characters, invested in their wellbeing and happiness. We went to visit friends while I was reading this, and they live in the neighborhood much of the novel takes place in, and I was just excitedly looking around at the places mentioned in the book. (I realize not everyone can have that experience, but it’s fun when a book can make you excited about your city.) Don’t hesitate, just pick this book up and read it – you won’t regret it.

Taking Turns: Following my binge of The Great Believers, I was reminded of this graphic novel that’s long languished on my TBR list. Written by a nurse who worked on Chicago’s only dedicated AIDS ward (a place many characters in the book spent time), it’s a really affecting account of the disease’s impact on families, the staff, and the city. It’s a great follow up to The Great Believers.

Like reading on your computer or mobile device? Check out Scribd – thousands of eBooks, audiobooks, magazines and more on your device!

My Year of Rest and Relaxation: This book had a lot of hype around it, and rightfully so. It’s not often that I hate a narrator but still enjoy the book, but that’s the point – rather than facing her problems, she finds a psychiatrist and uses her to basically sleep through a full year. Set in 2000, it’s an interesting time period, when it was maybe a little easier to slip through social nets and avoid and ignore people. Though I hated the character, the writing and story was amazing. This is a good one to curl up with on a subzero weekend.

Kitchen Confidential: Despite my love of the Food Network, I’ve never watched an Anthony Bourdain show. I still haven’t, but I loved listening to this audiobook. It’s fascinating, and I liked how he didn’t pull any punches about addiction in the restaurant industry, or the crazy hours and crazy hours, resulting often in crazy lives. It’s a really great food memoir, and it’s a heavy recommend from me.

Speak: The original novelization of this book was a favorite of mine in high school. I loved the mystery – what happened? Why did she refer to this guy as “Beast”? – and was very excited when I learned a graphic novel had been published last year. Unsurprisingly, I read this book in one sitting the night I brought it home from the library. The illustrations capture the story well, and the revelation scenes are really well done. Graphic novels aren’t all comics and jokes, and Speak is an excellent example of that.

The Four Tendencies: When we picked the “book about personality types” prompt for the reading challenge, I knew immediately I was going to read this book. Gretchen’s podcast is great, so I listened to the audiobook while working, and it had a lot of interesting insights. While it’s always fun to hear about your own personality type, there were a lot of suggestions on how to interact with other personality types, including kids. I made Evan take the quiz to see what his result would be, and it was exactly what I had expected. He asked what my type is, and I said “what do you think?” I can’t imagine a more perfect response from a Questioner.

Sick: I ABSOLUTELY LOVED THIS BOOK. America’s health system is broken, for sure, and this is the story of a writer who struggles with getting care and a diagnosis often without health insurance, a consistent primary provider, and the stigma of being brown, a woman, and having a history of addiction. After many years (and many caretakers, a marker of her illness), she gets a diagnosis and learns the early signs of a relapse. As someone who has been through rounds and rounds and rounds of medical testing, often without resolution, this book felt very familiar and truthful.

Wondering how I read so much? My libraries use Libby – see if your library has a partnership, and check out the mobile app!

Fun Home: This graphic novel about a woman’s relationship with her father and the lies she uncovers as she grows up and comes out is really beautifully done. The artwork is lovely and I liked the way the story started to finally weave together in the end. I didn’t love it as much as some other people do, but I didn’t dislike it by any means, and it was a nice read.

Lush: Unsurprisingly, my obsession with addiction memoir continues. I haven’t read any of Kerry Cohen’s previous work, but she makes several references to topics covered in her first two memoirs, and they sound great. I related to a lot of this book – I’m getting to the sort of awkward age where a lot of things center around drinking, and I’m tending more toward red wine. Not that I needed any cautionary tale, but this is a great look at problem drinking outside the stereotypical 20’s college student.

What did you kick off the year reading?

February 1, 2019

Michigan Trip Recap {& i’m really sick!}

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My trip home to Michigan was awesome. I was extremely anxious and panicked leading up to it because I was renting a car, I knew that I had packed my days so full that I would end up cutting it close on flights and visits, and definitely knew that I wouldn’t be sleeping. I stressed about money since my student loans would all be coming out during my trip and I knew I was going to want to shop and treat my mom, but I tried to be very zen.


Thursday I flew in to Detroit and rented a car for the first time. I expected it to be a fight and prepared for a meltdown because I don’t have a credit card and it didn’t really say until after I booked and paid for the rental that they recommend credit card vs. debit… whatever. It was fine. I booked through Priceline’s Name Your Own Price, saved 54% on the rental, and that was that. Good experience. Would rent again. I drove three hours over to my grandparents house, visited with them for awhile, and then spent the night in the hotel because they didn’t want me to sleep on the floor. I stopped and saw my dad at work and hashed out a quick game plan for the surprise the next morning. (And I watched Scandal in the hotel – O M G guys. Just OMG.)

Friday morning was the big surprise. My parents go to breakfast every day at the same restaurant, so we were going to come surprise them. The alarm went off at 6am, my aunt and I got ready to pick up my grandparents, and we were off. My mom had no idea and it was awesome. After breakfast, my aunt, mom, grandma and I went shopping (my mom’s favorite pastime.) That night I met up with my old friends for dinner, drinks and Cards Against Humanity.

On Saturday my mom and I spent more time with her family and then did a little more shopping. We also went to see Muppets Most Wanted which I loved! I really didn’t expect it to be very good, but it was great, and my favorite Muppets song of all-time made a reprise.

Sunday I stopped for a quick brunch bite with my family again and then headed for lunch with my best friend, my nephew, and her sister. I was so excited when they arrived at the restaurant because her brother came along too! It was a great surprise and a great visit, but way too short. I love and miss them every day. Sushi, ice cream, and baby snuggles.

Monday before I went to the airport I stopped off at my alma mater to see a friend and my old advisers. They took me to lunch, I met a few new students, and then jumped back in the car to head to the airport.

I of course caught a dealthly illness on the return flights, but that’s alright. It has kept me pretty quiet this week because it’s all I can do to prop myself up at my desk and bang away at work. I never take sick days, and if my boss wasn’t out today – I’d definitely be posted up in bed. Completely worth it for such a great weekend, though.

What is your favorite at-home remedy to get well faster? What’s the best surprise you’ve ever pulled off?

Stay in touch! twitter@anortherngirls

March 27, 2014

How I Brought in the New Year {flu friday}

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2014 has not started out the way I had hoped.


I woke up around 3am on New Year’s Eve with a sore throat. No matter, I thought, it’s just scratchy. I also had body aches, but I had gone to BodyPUMP two days in a row and really increased the weight, so I tried attributing it to that, ignoring the fact that a friend had confirmed flu and I had seen her all weekend. By the time I woke up at 7, I couldn’t ignore it anymore, and just kept thinking about how NP described the flu to me. I knew I had it and called her. I ended up getting on Tamiflu quickly and beating the worst of it (I even found a Tamiflu coupon! who knew) but I still spent two days doing nothing but laying down and drinking water and Vernor’s (and eating everything in sight – when I’m sick, I get much hungrier than normal. I’ve always been this way, it’s strange). At least I had a full day of Michigan sports on New Year’s. My roommates saw a new side of me during the Winter Classic. I threw things. It was not cute.

I was excited to start a run streak, to go to classes on my days off that I don’t ever get a chance to go to because of work, and do a major grocery shop to get my food right before Tink and Dietbet. Alas, it was not to be. But it’s okay! I will feel better soon and be back in the gym and while I may not have a 31 day active streak for January, 2014 can’t possibly get any worse than it started… right? 😉

January 3, 2014

deck those halls, trim those trees {Christmas recap}

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Even though I got to take nearly a week off to go to Ohio for the holidays, I hardly know where it went. Christmas has not been a very big deal to me for the last couple of years, and it’s a hard time of year for me. Getting to go to my cousin’s for some family time, even when the rest of my family isn’t around, helps a lot.


I got to NP’s around 12:30 on Friday night… and Niece 1 promptly woke up puking at 1am. I was supposed to babysit the next day while NP and her husband worked, but my uncle ended up having to come over for awhile so I could run out and get medicine and supplies. It takes a village, I’m telling you.


Viva Tequila!

By Sunday, everyone was feeling better. I sat again until 2, did some shopping of my own, and went to our favorite restaurant for dinner. NP and I really learned our lesson last year when we had left all the presents to be wrapped on Christmas Eve, so we took some time that night to get a head start. This turned out to be the greatest decision we made all weekend. We also compiled a list of things that still needed to be bought, so I ran all over greater Cincinnati on Monday picking up presents and playing Santa. Happily, the crowds weren’t overwhelming at all. One of the places I stopped on Monday was the Sweaty Bands warehouse sale. It was really cool to see the warehouse, and I spent WAY too much money.. but how could I pass up $2 and $3 bands? (Answer: I couldn’t) I also stopped to see my other cousin for awhile and by the time pizza arrived for dinner, my tummy was feeling unsettled. I figured it was what I had been eating until NP text me that she was throwing up at work. Yep, we both caught the bug. Instead of our last minute preparations, we put on our pj’s and robes and passed out in front of the TV.


Gold Star Chili, God’s gift to my tastebuds

Christmas Eve we went to her aunt’s house in Northern Kentucky, but we still had some errands to run. We ended up being an hour and a half late to dinner… what are you going to say to two sick girls? Thankfully we were feeling good enough to eat (and drink) by 3. We tried to wrangle the kids into bed as soon as we got home, but it didn’t happen. At one point the doorbell rang, and we panicked, thinking the neighbors had begun to bring over the boxes that were stored in their garage – but it was carolers! I’ve never had carolers come before. Amanda and I both cried. It was beautiful. Youngest was up until after 10 with NP and I while we snuggled in bed and watched Christmas on the Bayou.

Playing Santa is always so much fun. (We even got our own presents when her husband got sick around 11pm. Karma!) The kids got up at 6am and I drove back to Virginia yesterday on four hours of sleep. I am still feeling the effects of no sleep the night we were sick, so I’m definitely ready to go home and crash today.

I hope you all had a fantastic holiday (or day off, if you don’t celebrate) free of that ugly stomach bug! Did you get any great gifts?

December 26, 2013

Sick Girl Problems

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I am Sick with a capital S. All I want to do is lay in bed, which is precisely what I did when I got home from work last night. (And I might even have eaten some really bad for me food. I’m justifying it by saying that I live alone and none of my friends or family are here to take care of me, so convenience and comfort are winning.) A few weeks ago, I thought I was coming down with something, so I backed way off training. But this time I’m feeling so crummy that I don’t even WANT to be running where last time I pulled back to keep myself from getting even more sick. It makes me nervous so close to the half to not be running, but I would rather be healthy than shooting for an unrealistic goal.

I would love to be laying at home in my bed all day today, but the season at work is gearing up to start on Saturday with the biggest performer I can think of out there right now – too much work to do for a sick day! Here’s my grown-up-sick-day-comfort-kit that I’m dreaming of to get me through the day:

  • Celestial Seasonings Apple Cinnamon tea: luckily, I do get to drink this baby at work. My (also sick) boss and I have been killing my box of this. It feels great on my throat, it’s opening my
  • Canada-Dry-Ginger-Ale-6-Pack-Bottlenasal passages, and the taste is to die for.
  • Cookie dough: sad but true. I’m not even nomming on the healthy stuff (is there a healthy cookie dough?) but instead some refrigerated dough I impulse bought at the grocery store a few weeks ago. (Great for my diet, right?)
  • My Snuggie: get on your Snuggie, folks. I’m crazy for this sleeved blanket and have been for several years. My mom got me this primo microplush one for Christmas 2011.
  • Ginger ale: True to my northern nature, specifically Canada Dry or Vernors, and even more specifically, the little glass bottled kind. It just tastes better in bottles. (I actually sent an intern out to buy me some for lunch yesterday.)
  • Scandal: I love Joshua Malina and I am one of those girly girls who will eat up anything Shonda Rhimes puts out. Over the last three days, I’ve almost completely rewatched the series.

What are your best tips on how I can get on the mend quickly?

September 10, 2013