Library Love & Life

You guys, omgosh! I have a library card! It’s all shiny and new and pretty and has a neat and colorful logo with BOOKS on it! It’s probably the first one I’ve had ownership of in over ten years. Can you BELIEVE this?! I can’t either. Omgosh. I’m so excited… this is better than that winter holiday where you get all the presents, cause this one I get presents ALL YEAR LONG! And there is even a keychain one in case I forget my actual card and need it to get things (like BOOKS)!


When I was little – in elementary and middle school – I would spend as many days a week as I could at the library until mom was off work to come pick me up. I usually had almost two hours between the time my day was done and when hers was… that’s a lot of book perusing to be had. Sometimes, especially when I was in the youngest years and was reading the shortest books, I could get one or two of them done by the time she came to get me. And then of course I would pick out an armful of unread ones to bring home with me, since I just couldn’t leave *all* of them behind.

In junior high and high school I would spend my “study hall” class in the library, if whatever teacher I had would allow it. It was a small space but absolutely jam-packed with books, higher than I could reach even on a step stool. (But of course I’ve always been pretty short.) Those walls contained a little something of everything my then-heart could wish for: unabridged versions of the dictionary, with Old English still firmly in place; encyclopedias under more than one company name; books of poetry; and my favorite – the magazine room. The magazine room was tucked into the furthest corner away from the entry door it could possibly get. No one ever went in there, as far as I could tell, other than myself and the librarian. It was about the size of a custodian’s closet, which is probably what it was before someone figured they needed a dark hideaway to keep periodicals away from children that would never spare them a glance. They had shelves of Time, and science publications, and probably some on business or other grown-up matters as well. Not exactly the kinds of things the generation of BOP & Tiger Magazine wanted to peruse. The real gems of this covert storage room, however, were the National Geographics. Shelves upon shelves of them, from years back. A veritable treasure trove bound in sunny, exotic yellow.

I had begun an obsession with National Geographic around the same time I started junior high, thanks to the slightly vintage stacks of them kept in a spare room at mawmaw’s house, where I went every day after school until mom got done at work. Sometimes I talked my way into being dropped off at the library, or being allowed to walk there since it was less than three city blocks away (see above). I was also in a super-safe town, and people that would have seen me walking knew who I was and who was taking care of me, the number to call in case of an emergency, etc. Small towns are nice like that.

Anyway. I would spend hours poring over these National Geographic magazines, dreaming about visiting all the far-away places with sights so utterly different from anything I had been exposed to. This is probably also where my from-then-on lifelong wanderlust kicked in. (It really hasn’t left me alone since and I keep collecting places I want to see/travel to/visit/experience.)

I’ve kinda gotten off the subject haven’t I?

Library card! Yes! Well basically what I wanted to convey with this rather wordy and existence-spanning little post is that I frequented libraries all my life. And then one day I didn’t. I’m not entirely sure what happened, but it was probably shortly after high school when I moved to New Orleans and started college there. I never did get a new library card for where I was living then, and I never got one for any of the places I moved around to after. It was way beyond time to remedy that, clearly.

Also, did you know you could check out e-books for free from a library now? WHAT?! (I just found out yesterday. I’m sooooo not news-stuff-inclined.) I’ve been kind of adamant against e-books for the longest time but I’m gonna have to rethink that now. There are too many books I want to experience and live in, and too little money to spread around for them. Thank you, library card, for fixing part of that situation for me. ❤


Wondrous Words Wednesday {1}

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Kathy over at BermudaOnion’s Weblog. The idea is to share new words you’ve learned through reading, or spotlight words you really love.

This week’s list of wondrous words is coming from Morocco: A Culinary Journey with Recipes from the Spice-Scented Markets of Marrakech to the Date-Filled Oasis of Zagora by Jeff Koehler. Even though I’ve been taking my time reading through the thoroughly enchanting history section at the beginning of the book, I’ve still accumulated tons of new words. I guess being exposed to a new culture will do that (not that I’m complaining). 🙂 Some of these words I was at least familiar enough with to get an idea of what they mean in a sentence, but most are new to me, since I haven’t been exposed to Moroccan culture or food until recently. Also, some words have multiple meanings, but I’ve included only the ones relevant to the book I read them from. I’ll be breaking up my word list into a few different weekly posts, because there are just sososo many!

On with the sharing of the learning:

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“It seems to me that this is in part due to the culture’s highly developed sense of visual artistic expression, with the long tradition of arabesques, in repeating and interlacing patterns used for decoration — on walls, in carpets, covering ceramic zellij tile mosaics — and the flowing forms in Arabic calligraphy.” – on the visual attention paid to presentation of dishes

ar·a·besque [ar-uhbesk]
1. a sinuous, spiraling, undulating, or serpentine line or linear motif.
2. any ornament or ornamental object, as a rug or mosaic, in which flowers, foliage, fruits, vases, animals, and figures are represented in a fancifully combined pattern.
3. decorated with or characterized by arabesques: arabesque design.


– – – – – – – – – –

terra cotta tilework covered with enamel in the form of chips set into plaster; one of the main characteristics of the Moroccan architecture, consisting of geometrical mosaics made of ceramic used mainly as an ornament for walls, ceilings, fountains, floors, pools, tables, etc.


– – – – – – – – – –

“Remaining strong, even vital, is the tradition of the weekly souq that gathers together fruits and vegetables, spices, livestock, and whatever else might be bought, sold, or traded. In the countryside, and especially at crossroads towns — Ouazzane in the north, Agdz in the Drâa Valley, Tiznit and Guelmim in the south — sprawling, weekly markets gather on the outskirts and draw thousands from the region to the selection of products brought in from the countryside: heaps of yellow melons dabbed with identifying markers of paint, papery purple red onions, clementines, boxes of sticky dates, mounds of small, pointed almonds and dried turmeric roots.”

an open-air marketplace or commercial quarter in Middle Eastern or North African cities

Djemaa El-Fna in Marrakech: As the sun travels across the sky, orange-juice vendors make way for healers and henna tattoo artists, who scoot over for snake charmers, astrologers and acrobats. Around dusk, the storytellers begin their epic tales, and cooks cart in the makings of 100 restaurants specializing in barbecued everything, tasty cooked salads and steaming snails.

Djemaa El-Fna in Marrakech: As the sun travels across the sky, orange-juice vendors make way for healers and henna tattoo artists, who scoot over for snake charmers, astrologers and acrobats. Around dusk, the storytellers begin their epic tales, and cooks cart in the makings of 100 restaurants specializing in barbecued everything, tasty cooked salads and steaming snails.

– – – – – – – – – –

Sources: Morocco,, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet, Pinterest


Reading Retrospection: Garden Spells

I don’t like to call the way I write about a book “a review” per se. Rather I like to think of it as a collection of thoughts, of likes and dislikes, and maybe an interpretation or two. “Review,” to me, seems to imply a deeper understanding, a more intricate delivery on why a book is good or isn’t. Reading Retrospection is just me gushing (or ranting) about a book, and telling you why in my very non-book-bloggery plain speak. 🙂

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Published by Bantam Books on August 28th, 2007
Genres/Categories: Adult, Contemporary, Fantasy, Food Magic, Magical Realism, Southern Fiction
Setting: Bascom, North Carolina, USA
Pages: 290, paperback

{Alibris} | {Amazon} | {Barnes & Noble} | {Goodreads} | {Indie Bound} | {Author’s Website}

In a garden surrounded by a tall fence, tucked away behind a small house in the smallest of towns, is an apple tree rumored to bear a very special sort of fruit. In this luminous debut novel, Sarah Addison Allen tells the story of that enchanted tree and the extraordinary people who tend it.

The Waverleys have always been a curious family, endowed with peculiar gifts that make them outsiders in their hometown of Bascom, North Carolina. Even their garden has a reputation. For the Waverley history is in the soil. And so are their futures.

A successful caterer, Claire Waverley prepares dishes made with her mystical plants–from the nasturtiums that aid in keeping secrets to the snapdragons intended to discourage the attentions of her amorous neighbor. Meanwhile, her elderly cousin Evanelle distributes unexpected presents whose uses become uncannily clear. They are the last of the Waverleys–except for Claire’s rebellious sister, Sydney, who fled Bascom the moment she could, abandoning Claire as their own mother had years before.

When Sydney suddenly returns home with a young daughter of her own, Claire’s quiet life is turned upside down. Together again in the house they grew up in, Sydney takes stock of all she left behind and Claire struggles to heal the wounds of the past. Soon the sisters realize they must deal with their common legacy–if they are ever to feel at home in Bascom… or with each other.

I loved this book. LOVED it. I want to tell everyone I meet that I know has ever picked up a book to read it, but I can’t explain quite why I think it’s so amazing, or even justify what makes me think anyone else will like it. It’s not the best book I’ve ever read. It’s not the most exciting, I don’t love the characters more than any others I’ve ever met or read about. However, the pages are absolutely gorged with all types and manner of Claire’s delicacies, pairings of flavors that had my creative mind whirring the entire time I was reading. Seldom could I go more than five pages without one of her dishes being mentioned or described, and it was fantastic. It doesn’t bog the story down, but adds a delicious layer to it (at least for me).

I felt a kinship with one of the (arguably THE) main characters Claire. Her introversion, her unusual cooking, her growing up in a small town with a southern mentality and oddball family members. Her fear of forming an intimate relationship, struggling not to want one when it’s so unavoidable that there are literal sparks thrown. If/when you read Garden Spells you’ll see what I’m talking about (and probably giggle like I did).

I ended up liking every character I was meant to like, and strongly disliked ones I was meant to dislike. My feelings of people even fluxuated based on their actions, depending on character flaws or strengths that were steadily revealed. Sarah Addison Allen’s character building I think is what really hooked me. It’s slow and subtle, creeping like kudzu across your heart and before you know it you’re in love with some feature about every single one of these stars.

There is magic. This family and the people they interact with seem so real, so normal, it makes their gifts seem equally as normal a thing. Magic goes on in their world. It is accepted by everyone they’ve grown up around, whether it’s talked about openly or not. It’s saturated the town and their lives, and I love it. I’ve dreamed for so long I would be given just a glimpse of magic in my everyday life, proof of existence, or at least an idea planted. This book is like that dream come to life. I was so easily able to completely immerse myself in the story, empathizing so fully that I had literal physical reactions to what I was reading (laughing, talking to the book, making faces – but I’m not crazy, honest!). And the gifts themselves? I don’t want to speak too much of them for fear of spoiling something, but of course I am most in love with Claire’s, her magical herbs and flowers and garden she feeds to people to enhance their lives (or hinder their less likable tendencies).

There is even a four-page index at the end of the book with all of Claire’s magical edibles, and their properties! I pretty much swooned in real life when I saw it (and maybe squeed, just a tad).

I hope I haven’t hyped this book up too much for anyone wanting to read it. It is truly a great experience to have, but I can’t say that it will hit anyone reading this post as hard as it hit me. There were just a lot of little things in it that resonated with me, with my actual life, and with my dreams of life. Allen just pushed a bunch of the right buttons for me. I think even if your experience with her words aren’t as profound, they will still sing you a song of a quiet southern town filled with magic and love and hope, where a dream of interpreted perfection can come real for those that move pieces around until they fit. Even with the fantasy elements I feel I took a good lesson away from reading Garden Spells, to love what I have in life and accept quirks, oddities, situations. And that no matter what kind of past experiences a person has been through there will always be people there for him or her, that won’t be going anywhere.

Rating:  4.5/5 starsstarrating4


Around the World in 80 Books: July 2013

I chose to pick up just one of the two books chosen for this month’s Around the World in 80 Books challenge over at Goodreads. In case you haven’t yet heard about the challenge: every month the group members vote on two books to read, one set in a country outside the U.S. and one set in a U.S. state. They have tons of challenges besides the monthly one to keep you interested in traveling via reading, and the monthly books are a great help for marking off locations for the Roadtrip Around the USA challenge or Circumnavigator challenge (which I’m doing). They also have more in-depth reading tour challenges for Italy, India, Canada, France, etc. The group is completely saturated with sources on finding books from around the world in general, which are also broken down by countries and region. It’s really an invaluable source of reading material outside your own area of living, even if you don’t want to participate in any of the challenges.

Bastard out of Carolina doesn’t sound much like something I would normally read, but looks like it will at the very least be a moving story, if not completely enjoyable. We shall see at the end of the month, or when I finish reading. Who knows, I may even do a review or something crazy like that! 🙂

Bastard out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison
Setting: Greenville County, South Carolina


June 2013 Reading Recap

Here’s what I read in June:


1. Fool Moon by Jim Butcher
2. Lover Mine by J.R. Ward
3. Mad About Macarons! by Jill Colonna
4. Cinder by Marissa Meyer
5. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
6. Glitches by Marissa Meyer {novella}
7. Captive in the Dark by C.J. Roberts
8. Seduced in the Dark by C.J. Roberts
9. The Queen’s Army by Marissa Meyer {novella}
10. The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
11. The Ash-Born Boy by Victoria Schwab {novella}
12. Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor
13. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

Tons of books! Three of them are actually novellas but put together they equal a large chunk of book themselves. Even not counting the novellas, I finished off ten full books – way over what I would have expected of myself. Maybe averaging one a week? Sure. But two and a half a week? Wow. Go me, huh? Guess I better keep that pace up if I’m going to read 65 books this year (I’m a tad behind schedule already).

So in June, I managed to chalk up quite a lot of progress toward my goals!

  • Added 13 books to my total of 65 for the year (making 28 out of 65 done)
  • Added 2 to sub goal “read at least 5 books set in countries outside of the U.S.” (making 3 out of 5 done)
  • Added 1 to sub goal “read at least 5 books set in U.S. states I haven’t visited” (making 3 out of 5 done)
  • Added 3 to sub goal “read at least 5 books set in other worlds or on other planets” (making 3 out of 5 done)
  • Added 1 to sub goal “read at least 15 culinary books” (making 2 out of 15 done)
  • FINISHED my sub goal to “branch out to 3 new or under-read genres, reading at least 2 books in each”

I didn’t make any progress in my TBR pile, which is okay, because most of my unread books are fairly new. Gotta let them sit and age for a bit before they’re counted anyway, right? 🙂

I also didn’t make any progress on the sub goal to “read at least 4 books set in my home state(s) – Mississippi & Louisiana” simply because I haven’t gotten my hands on any recently. Bad bookworm, go to the local author section in the bookstore already!


2013 Reading Goals

Well, the year 2013 is pretty much halfway over. Hardly the time to be setting goals, but I’ve never been one for following rules too closely. 🙂

This year I’ve been reading more than usual, and getting more involved in genres I normally stray away from. With my recent introduction to the Young Adult genre I’ve been opened up to a whole new world of fiction: easy to read, still fulfilling, and man… some of the imaginations on these authors! They have so many fabulous books in settings I’m already drawn to… fantasy, magical realism, science fiction, dystopia. Between my voracious literary appetite and being a frequent reader on some truly inspiring book blogs, I’ve been itching to start my own.

I figured I would kick off by bending/breaking rules, giving myself goals for a year halfway into said year. I *am* going to track progress on these goals with books I’ve already read since the beginning of 2013. After all, I put in the time and effort to read them so they should still count. It’s not really cheating, right?

I totally want to jack these goals up even higher, but since this is the first year I’m doing this, I’ll try to keep it reasonable. Outlandish overachiever behavior will still be present when 2014 rolls around. Maybe I can grapple with some of it then. 🙂

* read at least 65 books
* read at least 5 books set in countries outside of the U.S.
* read at least 5 books set in U.S. states I haven’t visited
* read at least 4 books set in my home state(s) – Mississippi & Louisiana
* read at least 5 books set in other worlds or on other planets
* read at least 15 culinary books (have to keep those living-making skills honed)
* branch out to 3 new or under-read genres, reading at least 2 books in each
* read at least 10 books in my owned-but-not-read pile

The specific goals alone add up to 50 books. Some books could count for multiple goals, but I’m totally going to go over my goal of 65 if I read much outside of there (which I already have).

There’s a widget in the top right of the page to help me keep track of my overall progress, and I also have a page to keep track of individual goal progress. I think I’m the most excited about books set in places I haven’t been. I have such a case of wanderlust, and being able to travel through someone’s writing is so exhilirating… so much so that I named my blog after it.

Do you have a reading goal for the year? If so, are you going with the Goodreads default number of books, or have you given yourself more specific challenges?