Reflections on my Ghost Life

Confession: I think a lot about Ghost Lives (via Adventurous Kate), my Sliding Doors lives: what my life would be like had X happened instead of Y. If I had gone to this college instead of that college; if the military hadn’t transferred my father to Virginia and instead we had stayed in New York; if I had never had my first internship in international education that eventually led me to my chosen career path.

I particularly think about my ghost life in relation to DC. I lived in DC for six years during college and grad school as I hatched from a little baby freshman college student to a semi-adult (at the very least, I learned how to pay bills, and I kind of learned how health insurance works). While my mother could certainly tell you about my ups and downs during this time (many a teary phone call, as I do not handle transition well) I tend to look back on this time with rose-colored glasses. I had so many lovely friends around me, DC is a genuinely fun city (at least Kristen-level fun- I have no need for 24 hour transit since my bedtime is 10pm), and it was just a bus ride away from home.

When I left DC in 2012, I was pretty ready to leave. Many of my college friends were starting to drift away, and I wanted a new challenge. And so, I spent a year bouncing around Europe and Asia and living at home like a bum, and then moved to Boston three years ago, where I have shivered ever since.

Part of me wonders though: who would I be if I were in DC as a late twenty-something individual? Would I have remained in my old, familiar ruts, or would I be taking advantage of the many events and networking opportunities? Where would I be working, and where would I be living?

There’s obviously no way for me to know, although I felt some twinges of nostalgia over the past year as work sent me to DC on a semi-regular basis. As I met up with friends and explored the city with fresh eyes, I felt a little sad to be going back to my little rut in Boston. (To be honest, I have way more friends in DC than in Boston, which is just depressing.)

My ghost floats around DC, and who knows? Maybe my body will join her sometime soon.

Oh yeah, there’s a book review here. It’s a book set in DC, so there’s your connection.

WHAT I READ:

The Hopefuls (Jennifer Close), Book #103 of 2016

SNAPSHOT REVIEW:

On a scale of 1 to 5 DC Tropes, 1 being THAT HUMIDITY and 5 being BUT EVERYONE IS SO BORING, I give this 3 corrupt politicians.

#FirstFifty Synopsis:

Beth and her husband, Matt, kick off the book in 2009 having recently transplanted themselves in DC; Matt worked on the Obama campaign, and is eager to continue the Hope and Change in the presidency. Beth is less than thrilled, because apparently DC is a hellhole compared to the Elysium that is New York City – DC is hot, humid, only populated by government workers (which is surely a surprise for the 60% of the DC population who does not work for the government, including formerly yours truly), and she just has nothing to talk about with them. She mostly spends the first fifty pages bitching about living in DC, going to dinner at her in-laws’ house (her MIL does sound pretty terrible – any woman who refers to her first child as her failed “first pancake” has definite shades of Lucille Bluth), and basically not making any effort to make friends or find a job of her own. The first fifty pages end with Matt and Beth meeting another couple who actually seem interesting and full of life: Ashleigh and Jimmy.

WHO KNOWS what will happen from there? (Well, I know, because I read this already)

HOW IT MADE ME FEEL:

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NEED MORE?

In general, I give this a “meh.” I didn’t hate it? I liked reading the stuff about DC? But certainly there was a lot to be desired. More here! And I’ll try to read a better one next time, SORRY GUYS

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#FirstFifty Review: MISCHLING

PopSugar Reading Challenge CategoryA book published in 2016

Book Number #101 for 2016

WHAT I READ:

Mischling (Affinity Konar)

SNAPSHOT REVIEW:

Strong four stars out of five; I can’t say it better than the blurb advertised on Goodreads: “One of the most harrowing, powerful, and imaginative books of the year” (Anthony Doerr)

#FirstFifty Synopsis:

Wherein I summarize the first fifty pages… In this case, the first 45 pages, since there was a convenient chapter break there.

Stasha and Pearl, twelve-year-old twins, are crammed into a cattle car with their mother and grandfather. Though it is not made explicit, the reader understands that the family are Jewish prisoners being herded to a concentration camp in Nazi Germany. Upon arrival, the mother notices guards taking a set of twins to a different location and, assuming that twins are treated as special in this place, begs the guard to take her girls, too. From there, the twins are separated from their mother and grandfather and introduced to the main setting for the book (or at least the first 2/3): the Zoo, run by the Angel of Death and potentially one of the most evil men I’ve ever learned about, Josef Mengele. They are abruptly introduced to the Zoo’s cruelty as the girl sharing the bed with them dies and her clothes are immediately stolen by the other girls in the barrack. We receive our introductions to several other important characters in the book (both good and bad) including Dr. Miri, Twins’ Father, and Nurse  Elma. The first fifty pages close with the twins being taken to the laboratory for their first examinations and experiments.

HOW IT MADE ME FEEL:

Using gifs here (which is what I’m normally going to try to do, because everyone loves pictographs) felt a little insensitive given the subject matter. So, I shall leave it with a series of words: this book made me feel sad, thoughtful, depressed, hopeful, and proud.

People with better words than I have reviewed this on Goodreads. In short, this is another excellent literary addition to fictional depictions of life during the Holocaust, and I encourage you to read this if you want to expand your mind.

Battle of the YAs

Buckle up, ladies and gents, because I finally lived up to my blog promise: I’ve gotten CUTTHROAT with a book! Going head-to-head in my YA collection this week is…

Girl Against the Universe, by Paula Strokes (Book Number: DNF) vs Sisters in Sanity, by Gayle Forman (Book Number #102 of 2016)

Let’s kick it off with the one that I ruthlessly dropped.

FIRST FIFTY: Girl Against the Universe

Maguire (yes, that’s her first name. RELAX, IT’S IRISH) considers herself *cursed.* In her defense, a lot of crappy things have happened when she’s been around, including her father, brother, and uncle dying in a car crash that she survived, and a roller coaster crashing when she was on it (?!?!?! UGH worst nightmare). So she’s decided to lean in to solitude and tries her damndest never to interact with other humans, lest her *curse* leaks onto them. Or something.

Her therapist, who apparently is a Next to Normal style rockstar and sounds like an all-around chill dude, encourages her to take baby steps so she can achieve her dream of visiting her family in Ireland and get on that damn plane without crashing it with her *curse.* So, she decides to join a sport at school and chooses tennis.

I kid you not, it seems like every other sentence from there was about tennis. And practicing tennis, and serves and backhands and whatever, and tennis clothes, and sometimes how a hunky guy she met at therapy who *just happens* to be a superstar 18-year old tennis player who lives in her town is also the manager of tennis at her school and, like, helps her with her serve and then they eat burritos with french fries in them. Or something. It was around then that I decided to drop this book because I frankly don’t care about tennis that much, unless Paul Bettany is playing. Also, I’m sure I can predict the ending of the book, so why don’t I do that right now: Maguire realizes her name is dumb and finally picks up a cute nickname; she probably gets mad at Hunk at some point, or her lets her down, but he redeems himself and they end up together; she wins the big tennis match; and she gets on the plane to Ireland and is cured.

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FIRST FIFTY: SISTERS IN SANITY

Ah, the one I, in retrospect, should have dropped. This was a shaky two-to-three star read, and at the end of it I gave it an unenthusiastic “eh.” There was just a lot I didn’t like and very little I did like. But you can read about that on my Goodreads – let’s summarize the #FirstFifty, shall we?

Brit is a *rEbEllIoUs* teenager (maybe? It seems to me, and to her, she’s considered rebellious because she dyes her hair and is in a band, and sometimes stays out late. Shrug, I guess). She and her dad set out on a road trip to the Grand Canyon, stop in Vegas for like two pages where he’s mostly just moody, and then GASP. Turns out he’s depositing her in a super-strict boarding school in Utah meant to turn rebellious teens on the straight path! (This is actually really effed up of her dad, in my opinion. Like, maybe tell your daughter instead of tricking her into going to the Grand Canyon?).

Turns out this boarding school is essentially a prison with less regulated guidelines, as the girls do really horrifying-sounding group therapy where they just insult each other, carry heavy ciderblocks around a yard for no reason, and aren’t even issued shoes until the staff is convinced they aren’t an escape risk. Brit is convinced everything is the worst until she meets three girls who become her (title of book alert) Sisters in Sanity.

 

So, folks, how did the Battle go? In this round, I have to say…. They are BOTH losers! (as I am, for spending some time on reading them, and then crafting this). Read a better YA book, why don’t ya?

For Gayle Forman goodness, may I suggest If I Stay/Where She Went, and Just One Day/Just One Year

For better YA treatise on mental health, may I suggest Some Kind of Happiness (duh)

The BuffBoyfriend, Part 1

In other, non-reader, parts of my life, I tend to act like any other warm-blooded freedom-loving American and consume television to a large degree. In fact, as I write this, I’m watching The Great British Bake-Off! (Not very warm-blooded American of me to admit, I must say).

And one of the best shows ever on television and one of my all-time favorite shows? Why, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, of course!

If you need a capstone project from me as to why Buffy is such a magnificent show, I’m free literally all the time. Just suffice to say for now that it’s an amazing piece of television and everyone should watch it.

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After waiting anxiously for my lovely gentleman to finally trust me enough to recommend our next show, I convinced him to watch the series (only took two years of dating!). Alas, so far NOT so good. As any Buffy fan will admit, the first season is… rough. It’s SO 90s, and a lot of it is really silly. But he promised to stick it out to the end of Season 3, and honestly if he doesn’t like it after that point there’s just no reason for us to stay together.

As we are watching the series together, my clever plan is to secretly track his impressions, comments, and plop it here for everyone to see! Jury’s out if I will tell him about this beforehand or not.

And so… the BuffBoyfriend Season 1 Impressions Roundup!

HIM: *general sleepy expression*

HIM: *casually scrolling through Amazon when I’m not looking*

HIM: *snort-chuckle* I’m sorry, the story is really good, but this dramatic music is not.

HIM: Wait, how come she’s not a vampire if the Master bit her? ME: Because to become a vampire, they have to suck almost all of your blood and you have to drink almost all of their blood. HIM: …What? How would you even do that? ME: This is just so easy to understand. COME ON.

A few minutes later

HIM: So why didn’t the Master just make sure she was actually dead before he left? ME: Because he had to do the super villain thing and be overly confident that he killed the hero instead of taking two seconds to check. Plus, then we wouldn’t have six more seasons.

 

 

AAAND that about wraps it up for BuffBoyfriend, S1. He has been incredibly patient and open-minded so far, and I have all my fingers and toes crossed that I can bring him over to the side of Buff come S2.

 

Cheating on #TheNext100

Call this “the first 98” or whatever, but I have to admit up front that this is not, in fact, a kickoff to the next 100 books I’m going to read this year. In fact, this is Book #98 I read this year, and I KNOW, I KNOW, I promised that I would start getting cutthroat once I hit that magical number of 100. What can I say? I was:

a) Impatient to get going on this

b) Afraid that my 100th book and my kickoff would be some lame-o book

So I’m cheating a bit. What are you going to do, arrest me?

WHAT I READ:

Some Kind of Happiness (Claire Legrand)

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HOT TAKE, ON A TOTALLY SCIENTIFIC SCALE:

On a scale of Trump to Trudeau, this book is a sizzlin’, Tim Hortons-drinking, hockey-loving, hunk of a Prime Minister.

WHY I READ IT:

Book club, baby! The last couple of books we read were duds, so I was pleased to have loved this one so dearly.

#FirstFifty Synopsis:

Even before the book officially starts, it opens with the best dedication:

If you are afraid, sad, tired, or lonely; if you feel lost or strange; if you crave stories and adventure, and the magic possibility of a forest path – this book is for you.

I mean. You guys. I just love that. Immediate warm fuzzies.

The book opens with an excerpt from the narrator Finley’s fantasy novel about Everwood, a magical forest home to “astonishing creatures and peculiar, solitary people.” Finley writes about Everwood throughout the book and these fantasy excerpts are sprinkled throughout; normally I hate that (I truly hated that in Fangirl, one of my favorite books), but in this instance it really helps to add some color to Finley’s lines.

You quickly find out that Finley is going to be spending the summer with her paternal grandparents (and her aunts and cousins, who live nearby), all of whom she has never met as her father is mysteriously estranged from them. She is immediately overwhelmed when she sees their home (Hart House) and struggles to understand what the unspoken rules of the house and the family are. She tries to fit in, but finds herself on her first night waking up “sweating and pinned to [her] bed in terror,” unable to make the terrible and anxious thoughts in her head stop. In an attempt to calm herself, she starts to explore her grandparents’ yard; that is when she discovers their backyard is Everwood.*

(Note: Not actually Everwood, but still a cool forest).

HOW IT MADE ME FEEL:

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NEED MORE?

In case you didn’t get everything you needed to know from my highly well-written and literary post, may I direct you to more flailing at my Goodreads.

In short, this book is a mature Middle Grade exploration of mental health (particularly depression and anxiety), family dynamics, and the power of imagination. It meant quite a lot to me as a formerly anxious kiddo and a currently anxiety-prone adult, and the writing was, quite simply, magical.

P.S. I just finished Book #100 (Noughts and Crosses) and it turned out to be a good one! Quite thought provoking. So, keep an eye out for Book #101 and the legit kickoff of #thenext100 coming up soon!

 

The Next 100

Oh, HELLO. How nice to see you. You look great!

Keen observers of my life (my mom) will notice I went a giant two and a half years between posting. Let me take you back to 2013 – a time when Donald Trump was still just a reality TV star and sometimes-businessman, when Mad Men was still on the air, when the most culturally relevant thing about Hamilton was his reference in that Lazy Sunday viral video. That was also the last time lil’ ole Kristen posted on this blog. I had big dreams and stars in my eyes about documenting my explorations about Boston, my adopted hometown, but then Life Happened and I forgot.

Fast forward two and a half years – I have a different job (thank God), a new apartment (woohoo!), a gentleman caller, and – most importantly – JetBlue Mosaic status. That’s right, peons – allow me to board first and enjoy abundant overhead space!

Your queen also had a little bit of sadness in her heart, though. Even with all the wonderful things in my life, I felt like I needed a little something on the side to keep my brain moving, my wits sharp, and ensure I didn’t just redo the same routine day-by-day.

But how to scratch that creative itch? Despite my many, many attempts at Paint Bar, I must sadly admit I am not an artist. I can play the violin, but my work travel schedule makes it hard to commit to a group. The one thing I really do is read.

And so, the Cutthroat Reader is born (but it’s going to live under K10 Explores, because I’m far too lazy to create a new blog). I’m about to hit quite a lofty achievement – 100 books read in 2016! For #thenext100, I wanted to be more creative in how I pick, review, and recommend books. And so, a mingling of gimmicks. First, I’m going to pick books with more diversity – of subject, author, and location. I have a whole way of picking but I’ll tell you later, if I feel like it.

Secondly, I’m going to be CUTTHROAT. A book has a mere 50 pages to impress me (or 10% if it’s less than 300 pages). If I’m not into it, DONE. But I’ll still review it anyway, and probably (hopefully) be hilarious about it.

So, there you go. Read this or don’t, I don’t particularly care either way. But I shall read, and I shall write, and I shall find my side passion. Fin.