Banned Books Week 2014!

You know I am already getting pumped for Banned Books Week September 21st-27th. It’s the only thing that reigns in my Halloween enthusiasm till a more appropriate time. I think I’ve shared the 2013 Most Frequently Challenged Book List with you before, but here it is again:

Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence
The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
Reasons: Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group
A Bad Boy Can Be Good for A Girl, by Tanya Lee Stone
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit
Looking for Alaska, by John Green
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
Bless Me Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
Reasons: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
Bone (series), by Jeff Smith
Reasons: Political viewpoint, racism, violence

Each year the ALA also puts out a more informative list with examples and more details about the cases as part of the press kit. This year’s list concerns challenges from May 2013 to March 2014, and I went through and listed them all out in spreadsheet form to see how many I had already read (you know I love a good spreadsheet). This year, I’d already read 10 of the 28 titles listed, and here they are:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
I listened to the audiobook (read by the author) which I still think is the best way to enjoy this book. My writeup of it is here.
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
We read selections from this book in 7th grade, but, like most of the girls in my class, I ended up checking the real book out from the library (particularly after hearing about how there were BOOBS in it–the very section usually brought up in its challenges)
Bless Me, Ultima by Rodolfo Anaya
I read this in a young adult lit class during a section on banned books. I guess because if you practice a religion other than straight-up, mainline Christianity, someone’s going to have a problem with it.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
I read this last year as part of my 200 books! It even made the Pretty List! Rainbow Rowell’s depiction of an abusive stepfather and poverty are scarily real. So by all means let’s restrict access for kids it might actually help.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
I read this in Scotland when I had copious free time, little money, and access to only an academic library.
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
I HAD A TEST ON THIS BOOK ON THE 3RD DAY OF SCHOOL, 11TH GRADE. Because St. Pete IB was hardcore about their summer reading list, once upon a time. House of the Spirits is my go to book for “naughtiest thing I read for school” due to all the sex and rape and reanimated mummy porn and whatnot. I usually follow this with “… and if I’m not scarred for life, I think whoever is reading The Awakening right now will be fine.” I was SO THRILLED to learn that other schools are getting their magical realist game on. This was the first magical realist text I ever read. Never looked back
Intensely Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
I read the whole Alice series two years ago because they end up on these lists so often. I can’t say I found any of them very shocking, but a bunch of them did end up on my Ugly List that year.
The Librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winter
This is a picture book about an Iraqi librarian trying to save the books in the library from fire/bombing during the Iraq War. The illustrations are beautiful! And, of course, it’s a true story.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
I read this for this project like four years ago before it was a movie or anything! Remember how we had a heart to heart about it? And Brian’s comments were flagged by my homophobic spam filter? Truly a simpler time.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
I think I read this for a graphic novel project? This was actually my favorite case I read about in the press kit this year. Here is the quote of the story:

Removed, via a district directive, from all Chicago, Ill. public schools (2013) due to “graphic illustrations and language” and concerns about “developmental preparedness” and “student readiness.” Seventh- and eleventh-grade students study the graphic novel about the author’s experience growing up in Iran during the Iranian revolution as part of Chicago Public Schools’ Literacy Content Framework. As the news spread of the directive, students mobilized a media campaign in opposition to “banning a book that’s all about the freedom of speech.” Students took to their Facebook and Twitter accounts, checked out all library copies of the book, wrote blogs, sent e-mails, wrote investigative articles for the student newspaper, contacted the author, staged protests, and appeared on local radio and television programs. Eventually the school issued a letter telling high school principals to disregard the earlier order to pull the book.

I love this one the most because when you research cases of books being challenged, you hear a lot from angry parents, some from defensive librarians and teachers, and, most of the time, absolutely nothing from actual students. I love that these students recognized this hypocrisy, and cared enough to do something about it! But I also love hearing their opinion about the book challenge in general, since the literature’s effect on them is the whole point of all of this.

Anyway, of the challenges I read about this year, I decided to concentrate first on those challenged around here, in North Carolina. Which is timely because there was just an article in the paper about The Bluest Eye being pulled right here in my county! Stay tuned.

Library Book Drop: A Magical Portal

Yesterday I was emptying the library’s outdoor book drop when I found a mysterious folded paper:

What could be inside?

What could be inside?

I started to unfold it:

A promising beginning

A promising beginning

And a little more:

Oh my god yes

Oh my god yes

Husky and Timber Wolf of Mine, come to me as a tiny pup. I summon my newborn companion creature SO MOTE IT BE.

I am ALL ABOUT this.

Some more deets on this "companion creature"

Some more deets on this “companion creature”

NAME: Atlas
Height: About 2 1/2 feet
What he eats: Sunlight; his fur absorbs the sun’s energy, turning it into food
Temperament: Playful
Personality: He is very friendly, yet brave; he is also very curious
Eye color: Light blue
Breed of wolf: Timber wolf and husky hybrid
Powers: his saliva can heal things very fast; he can fly w his wings; He can become a spirit so that no one can see him but me.

Timber husky hybrid that eats sunlight??? YES But the best part:

Someone worked way hard on this!

Someone worked way hard on this!

But why did I find this in the library book drop? Was it thrown in there by accident? Or did this hopeful wolf-hybrid-owner think that the best way to seal a ~mystical spell~ was to toss it in the library book drop? For all I know, it is, and she is even now cavorting with a flying wolf. You heard it here first: library book drops are magical portals to awesome.

Related: That time a witch wrote me a letter

August Books

This month I only got through 5 books, which means I still have 27 more to go. 72% done!

Sorrow's Knot by Erin Bow

Sorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow

Title: Sorrow’s Knot
Author: Erin Bow
GoodReads’ Rating: 3.97/5
My Rating: 5/5

This book was awesome. From the description, I wasn’t sure what to expect, and that’s because this book is so hard to describe. It reminded me a little of Garth Nix’s Sabriel, in that a young girl with great power has to hold back the dead, but the society portrayed in Sorrow’s Knot is much more tribal, and exists much more on the edge of extinction than even Nix’s Old Kingdom. The Free Women of the Forest have always kept back the dead by tying intricate knots to bind them. Rigid rules keep the women of the tribe safe, but also, in a way, keep them imprisoned. This book didn’t follow the narrative I thought it would, which made me love it. People die, not in some dramatic plot-point way, just… stupidly and suddenly, like in real life. It also has some really subtle yet great messages about the power of story and the meaning of “powerless”. I really hope it becomes a series because I am hella interested in learning more about this world.

Taste by Kate Colquhoun

Taste by Kate Colquhoun

Title: Taste: The Story of Britain through its Cooking
Author: Kate Colquhoun
GoodReads’ Rating: 3.78/5
My Rating: 4/5

Holla culinary history!! I am always down with learning more about the flamingos and crazy gelatin crap people used to eat.

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Title: My Life Next Door
Author: Huntley Fitzpatrick
GoodReads’ Rating: 4.07/5
My Rating: 3/5

This was a pretty typical YA romance, drawing heavily on Romeo and Juliet (minus all the stupidity). The girl’s mom is a neat-freak senator, the boy comes from a ramshackle, loud, giant, messy family. TRUE LOVE. You know the drill.

Le Bleu est une Couleur Chaude

Le Bleu est une Couleur Chaude

Title: Le Bleu est une couleur chaude (Blue is the Warmest Color)
Author: Julie Maroh
GoodReads’ Rating: 4.01/5
My Rating: 3/5

The story in this book was kind of whatever, but the art was beautiful, and the way color was used was very powerful. Since I had to buy it, I opted for the English translation, although really the dialog was so sparse, I feel like I could have done it in French.

Decided Not to Read

Title: Cabinet of Earths
Author: Anne Nesbet

Previously: July Books
Next: September Books

Reasons You Should Visit Me Update: Tea at the Umstead!

When I wrote my post about reasons you should visit me, I included afternoon tea at the Umstead without ever having experienced it myself. I was that sure of how awesome it would be. But, just to maintain my high level of Internet credibility, I decided to investigate to be certain. Spoiler alert: everything was amazing.

What did you expect?

What did you expect?

The Umstead is North Carolina’s only 5 star hotel, and it is just down the street from my apartment!!! Gotta take advantage of that classy scene. But first, you have to look your best:

Not that I don't always

Not that I don’t always

Although, in reality, there were people there in flip flops. PEASANTS.

You can choose from seven or eight different kinds of tea, or just get a cocktail if you’re completely gauche:

Like this character

Like this character

The first course starts off with tiny adorable sandwiches:

They taste better because they're cut into shapes. FACT

They taste better because they’re cut into shapes. FACT

You got your cucumber, your chicken salad, your asparagus egg salad, your cream cheese panna cotta, and your smoked salmon. ALL DELICIOUS. Even Steven liked all of them, and he normally hates things that end in “salad” or fish.

Second course was scone time

Second course was scone time

Cranberry scones and pistachio raspberry tea cakes with a whole raspberry baked in the middle? The only way to make that better is with homemade apricot jam!! Also, devonshire cream and lemon curd, because of course.

But then there’s course number 3:

When I saw it coming towards us, I went "Ohmygodohmygodohmygod" and everyone looked at me

When I saw it coming towards us, I went “Ohmygodohmygodohmygod” and everyone looked at me

This tower is poignant in a way, because, while delicious, it comes with the sad knowledge that nothing else will ever be as delicious and you are just going to have to keep living your life while knowing that. Top tier you got your berry macarons. Perfect macarons, of course. And you bet we can appreciate that now. Then there was this chocolate mousse/caramel whipped cream concoction, and finally a kind of lemon raspberry cake with vanilla mousse that words cannot even describe.

Of course, everything tasted better because it was tiny and adorable

Of course, everything tasted better because it was tiny and adorable

Also, because we were listening to live harp music:

This was after he left. We were right next to him so I didn't want to spook him by taking his picture while he was playing

This was after he left. We were right next to him so I didn’t want to spook him by taking his picture while he was playing

You haven’t experienced true fanciness until you’ve had afternoon tea while listening to a guy play Billy Joel on the harp. Just putting that out there right now.

In conclusion, Steven got sloshed, I nearly swooned from joy, and you should probably visit ASAP so we can do it again together.

Closet Archeology

While foraging in the depths of one of our closets, I came across an entire box full of pictures from a past age. Specifically, 2001-2003.

Spirit week at school!! I was clearly the most spirited.

Spirit week at school!! I was clearly the most spirited.

Our mascot was the green devils. I wasn’t just randomly experimenting with facial hair.

My book being published!!

My book being published!!

It was a big day.

There's me holding sixteen pages of my book on one sheet

There’s me holding sixteen pages of my book on one sheet

Homecoming!! lol look how hollywood has fooled me into thinking it will be fun

Homecoming!! lol look how hollywood has fooled me into thinking it will be fun

SOON YOU WILL LEARN, Past Patricia. Soon.

Tea!

Tea!

A lot of these pictures showcase that I was really way too serious for my own good

A lot of these pictures showcase that I was really way too serious for my own good

... most of the time

… most of the time

The harsh North Dakota winter shouldn't stop you from asserting your dominance over stupid brothers

The harsh North Dakota winter shouldn’t stop you from asserting your dominance over stupid brothers

Also, hey, they weren't ALL of me

Also, hey, they weren’t ALL of me

Just most of them

Just most of them

This was the only one of me writing, which is kind of silly, since it was definitely what I was doing 70% of the time

This was the only one of me writing, which is kind of silly, since it was definitely what I was doing 70% of the time

In conclusion, I've always been kind of awesome and stupid and amazing

In conclusion, I’ve always been kind of awesome and stupid and amazing

Finding Percy Wren

At this point I’ve written four books about Percy Wren, who’s gotten “Isn’t that a boy’s name?” so many times that she doesn’t even hear you anymore. Just to be clear: I am not Percy Wren. She’s braver, better at driving (and driving recklessly), far less anxiety-ridden, and deals with her problems in unhealthy ways that I never would. But we do have a lot of things in common. We’re both allergic to cats, because the world needs to know more about that battle. We both have sassy cars named Trixie because Trixie’s awesomeness transcends dimensions largely out of my control. And we’re both from small town coastal Florida.

If you ask me about that, I would probably tell you it was entirely motivated by laziness. I know exactly what it’s like to grow up in small town coastal Florida, and I’m already doing research on so many other things, that I’d rather give myself one easy setting. And that’s definitely true, and certainly saved me a lot of time. But, as my parents retire and plan to move away, I’ve realized it’s something else too. This quote from my favorite book, The True Meaning of Smekday, does a good job of explaining:

Arizona would always be one of our places now. It would be on the list of things we own in our heads. Don’t we all have this list? It’s like, everything that secretly belongs to us–a favorite color, or springtime, or a house we don’t live in anymore.

I think about this a lot, how even the most inconsequential-seeming parking lot or street is, to someone, one of their places. A setting they are so familiar with that their mind goes back there without even trying. Something they own, in their heart, through built-up memories and time and maybe affection, but maybe not. Everyone knows that certain places have meaning for them: the spot where your boyfriend proposed, the house you grew up in, your favorite restaurant. But I think there are other places that are important to us too, even though they lack these momentous events that make us realize it. Maybe it’s just the route you walked to school everyday, a tree in your neighborhood that’s been there as long as you can remember, a creepy half-built neighborhood that isn’t even there anymore, but left an indelible impression on your memory.

These are the places we own in our minds, the places it’s easy to reach for in fiction because they mean something to us even if we don’t realize it. Some writers set their works in wild and beautiful locales where the breathtaking scenery is almost a character in its own right. But I would say that it’s no less true, no less moving to set your scene in suburbia, a public library, a mall bathroom. They’re someone’s places, after all. Not all of us grew up amidst wild and untamed scenery. Some of us rode our bikes to school and hung out at the mall. It’s just as valid and just as real.

So, knowing that it might be one of my last chances to really go “home”, last time I visited my parents in Florida I tried to find all the places I secretly own. Places that came out in my writing whether through laziness or personal significance. Places that Percy Wren and I share. This is probably as close as we can come to actually finding Percy Wren.

Percy’s Neighborhood

This setting is definitely the most vivid. When I read the first description of it to my mom, she said she knew exactly where I meant. When we took these pictures, she drove there without any direction. Here’s how it’s described in the first book, The Untraceable Percy Wren:

In some other neighborhood, you’d probably have to worry about that—leaving your bike out all night in some vacant lot. But not mine. There’s never anyone around in mine. It’s big; it was supposed to be a fancy new development. They bought some old family orange grove and bulldozed it, reclaimed some other land from the swamp. The stucco wall around the outside and the streetlights were about the only things they had time to put up before they ran out of money. Our house is one of the few actually completed. The rest of the space is empty lots, some with concrete foundation already laid down, others with empty wood frames and plastic sheeting like sad ghosts. Every morning I ride out through a pointless expanse of little curvy streets, twisting away past nothing, and every night I ride home under the glow of hundreds of lonely streetlights, illuminating the emptiness. I don’t know why they did all the streets and lights before anything else, but it’s creepy, looking out my bedroom window, especially when a fog comes in off the sea. It’s like a long trail of ghost lights, twisting off into the darkness.

In the real world, in Seminole, there was a family orange grove bulldozed to make way for a fancy new development. And for the longest time, it was a big swath of emptiness inhabited only by twisty roads and streetlights. I don’t know how often I drove by those streetlights in the dark, illuminating nothing, but it didn’t have to be many to make a lasting impression. Now, though, the development is almost complete:

Although there are still some empty lots

Although there are still some empty lots

The houses there are huge and packed really close together, basically a testament to the housing bubble. Like people that rich want to live in Seminole? I was able to find a few empty lots to take appropriate pictures:

One of the streetlights, a lot less creepy now that there are actual houses

One of the streetlights, a lot less creepy now that there are actual houses

The stucco wall separates the housing development from the bike trail

The stucco wall separates the housing development from the bike trail

In the book, it's a bayou behind the wall behind Percy's house

In the book, it’s a bayou behind the wall behind Percy’s house

Even though the neighborhood is fancy and finished, there are still places to find alligators

Even though the neighborhood is fancy and finished, there are still places to find alligators

The Bike Trail

In The Untraceable Percy Wren, Percy is riding her bike just everywhere, since she’s still 14-15 and lacks a car. She rides it to school:

It was a huge let down the next day, to ride my bike to school and sit through a math test. Who can think about logarithms when the world is so huge and interesting?

She rides it for work:

I was just unloading the very last delivery: a Siberian tiger rug. I’d spent most of the ride with it peering out of my bike basket at me accusingly. I wasn’t sure if it was real or not and had decided not to ask.

And pretty much any other time she needs to jaunt around town/the world:

I was riding my bike to the library—the actual library. I had to study for exams.

All this bike riding comes naturally, because I grew up with a kickass bike trail spanning the entire county:

It goes through parks

It goes through parks

Past the back of random neighborhoods

Past the back of random neighborhoods

With big bridges over major roads

With big bridges over major roads

You really can get anywhere in the county on a bike. Of course, since Percy can see the shortcuts scattered about the world, she’s not just limited to the county:

It was possible, if I squinted my eyes right and concentrated, for me to not see the shortcuts. Otherwise I would end up in Mongolia every time I took the pedestrian overpass above the highway.

Here’s that overpass:

Unfortunately, I'm not Percy Wren, so no Mongolia in sight

Unfortunately, I’m not Percy Wren, so no Mongolia in sight

School

Very few scenes actually take place in Percy’s school, but one thing we know about it is that it’s haunted:

The school’s resident ghost wafted above me in the air current from the vent in the ceiling. She didn’t even bother to reenact her suicide for the 181st time, for which I was grateful. It had been so hard to concentrate the first week of school with her hanging from a spectral noose everywhere I looked. I think maybe she was just excited to meet me—I’m the only one who can see her, as far as I know. But now that I was over jumping and cringing away every time I saw her, she’d settled down to a more sedate, atmospheric kind of haunting.

There’s a little more detail about this ghost given in a short story at the end of the second book (titled by Percy “The Unquiet Dead or Percy Thanklessly Saves the Day Again Because She’s Awesome”):

The oldest ghosts faded away until almost nothing was left but a cold spot, or just a strange feeling. There had been one in my high school that looked just like a student, albeit with old-fashioned 1920s clothes. She used to follow me around and reenact hanging herself at me, since I was the only one who could see her.

Percy’s school can be haunted by a student from the 1920s, because my high school totally was that old. And, according to legend, that haunted:

Also, it has bell towers

Also, it has bell towers

St. Petersburg High School was built to look like a Spanish manor, with interior courtyards and breezy outdoor hallways perfect for pre-air-conditioning Florida:

Percy's school also has courtyards

Percy’s school also has courtyards

Why was I sitting in a school courtyard eating a sandwich when I should be out looking for her?

And, really, how can this school not be haunted:

Creepy early morning pictures courtesy of my mom, who teaches there

Creepy early morning pictures courtesy of my mom, who teaches there

These stairs always smelled like humidity and ghosts

These stairs always smelled like humidity and ghosts

Two levels of outdoor hallways, taken from the courtyard

Two levels of outdoor hallways, taken from the courtyard

And fancy light fixture by the main doors

And fancy light fixture by the main doors

And this bitchin side door, which actually makes an appearance:

And this bitchin side door, which actually makes an appearance:

But the next day was Monday and so I had a full day of school to dwell on it before I needed to figure that out. Or so I thought. I was walking into school when I noticed a tall man in a suit standing in the shadows near a side door.

The Swamp

Florida is a huge swamp. They try to trick you by paving over parts of it, but nature is having none of that nonsense. It comes up in the book multiple times:

I couldn’t hear anything. Not the chirping of the katydids, the buzzing mosquitoes, the squawking swamp birds or the faint hum of cars on the road outside the neighborhood.

I took this at Millennium Park, near where I grew up, but it might be anywhere where Florida is just let alone to be Florida

I took this at Millennium Park, near where I grew up, but it might be anywhere where Florida is just let alone to be Florida

“It was perfect,” I said, despite the sweat trickling down the back of my neck and the promise of a hot, air-conditioningless night listening to the song of the swamp through my open window.

And you better believe I know the misery that is Florida when your AC is broken

And you better believe I know the misery that is Florida when your AC is broken

[At the hospital,] She pulled around to the back, where she knew there was a small terrace that looked out on a swamp. It may have been an uninspired view of scrubby bushes and brackish water that always gave off an unpleasantly organic scent, but it was still a nice change from the antiseptic smell and the fluorescent lights inside.

In Florida, everything overlooks the swamp, sooner or later

In Florida, everything overlooks the swamp, sooner or later

The Beach

Percy Wren and I definitely share an affinity for the beach. I don’t particularly like the beach–I burn instantly and sand feels dirty and gross. But I still have to go sometimes, just to see it. Percy does too:

She walked the way she had the last time she’d been here, towards the sea. She missed it when she didn’t see it for a while. The sound of the waves would fill her dreams, and she would take a detour the next day to some spot and just look out at the wide, blue expanse, like a bit of the sky trapped on earth.

This is the one near my parents' new apartment

This is the one near my parents’ new apartment

My favorite beaches are the kind in national parks like Ft. De Soto or the Pensacola National Seashore that don’t feel so touristy and tacky:

I was pretty experienced with beaches, of course, having one a short bike ride from my house, but it was strange to be on one so empty. Sometimes I imagined I’d traveled back in time, to a beach before we’d covered it with pastel hotels and t-shirt shops. It was peaceful, and the sea and sky seemed to fill the whole world.

Rita’s Italian Ice

Rita’s Italian Ice was THE place for drama in middle school:

You can smell the angst

You can smell the angst

It had a prime location, across the street from a middle and high school and on the way to the beach. Every time I come across a Rita’s that’s not a little shack with no indoors, I don’t know what to do. It’s obviously the place where the teen drama goes down in Percy Wren’s town too:

Gossiping with my French partner, Shae, about who had come back from vacation dating and who had been at the center of dramatic public breakups at the Italian ice stand on the beach.

He was smiling at me in a friendly way. If it had been my normal life, and he was just some guy at Rita’s Italian Ice, I probably would’ve swooned.

It’s real.

The Park

Percy no longer lives in Florida after The Untraceable Percy Wren, but the third book in the series, Revengeance does feature a pretty big scene at a park there:

He was waiting for them under a shelter with rows of picnic tables underneath. The rain was coming down in torrents, blown almost sideways by the wind. But after you hunched your back towards it, it would quickly change direction so it always seemed to be pelting you in the face. The world all around them was an indistinct, hazy gray. The children’s playground nearby was almost completely invisible in the downpour, except for some vague, somehow ominous shapes, like beasts in the mist.

This is that exact shelter, right by a playground and the water

This is that exact shelter, right by a playground and the water

Of course, I visited on a much more pleasant day where everything wasn’t flooding catastrophically.

Percy tried to shoo an egret off the driver’s side mirror, and it snapped at her, long neck darting out like a snake. She opened the door and slipped in as quickly as possible…
“There are far too many alligators here,” Silas remarked as she piloted the floating car around submerged trees in the rushing floodwaters. “And that picnic shelter was destroyed by some kind of wave. I don’t know how you survived here to grow up.”
“Swimming lessons,” she replied easily.

It's true, everyone who lives here was on a swim team at least once

It’s true, everyone who lives here was on a swim team at least once

The Library

Percy and I have pretty different opinions about the library:

I tried my old standby of “I have to go to the library… for homework.” But then my dad offered to drive me! So I actually had to go to the actual library. It was terrible.

Where as I, of course, spent a lot of years working at this one:

Don't listen to Percy; it wasn't so terrible

Don’t listen to Percy; it wasn’t so terrible

The Mall Bathroom

I told you I tried to go to every place specifically mentioned in my books:

At the mall near my house, if I opened the second stall in the ladies’ restroom, I would be met with a wall of water and some fish lazing around a coral reef. I reached out to poke it the first time I saw it, but, of course, it was cold and wet. I wondered if the fish ever got confused and ended up flopping around on the tile floor for a fed-up janitor to find. Probably not. Fish couldn’t see the shortcuts, same as anyone who went into the bathroom. No one avoided that stall but me. It was possible, if I squinted my eyes right and concentrated, for me to not see the shortcuts. Otherwise I would end up in Mongolia every time I took the pedestrian overpass above the highway. But no bathroom trip should carry the risk of a watery grave, so I generally just waited till another stall was free.

Mall bathroom photoshoot!

Mall bathroom photoshoot!

Don’t be jealous of how much fun I am to hang out with.

Reasons You Should Visit Me

I know Cary might not seem like a great vacation destination, but that’s just because you don’t know it like I know it. Let me take you on a virtual journey of the for-real journey we could take if you came here.

1. Steven is a master cook

I don't think I can stress that enough

I don’t think I can stress that enough

Steven treats good food with an almost religious respect, and so you can be sure your trip will be expertly/adventurously catered. Or maybe we’ll go out. Whatever. The point is, you will never have to eat at Chili’s. Which was also part of Steven’s wedding vows to me, I’m pretty sure.

2. Company=Time for Pie

I'm not too modest to tell you that I rock at pie

I’m not too modest to tell you that I rock at pie

Pie is awesome, but it’s impossible for Steven and I to eat a whole pie by ourselves before it gets all mushy and sad. And there’s nothing sadder than having to throw away uneaten pie. So I only bake it for special occasions. Like you! You are a special occasion.

3. The Umstead

If you're feeling fancy

If you’re feeling fancy

The Umstead is North Carolina’s only five star hotel, and it’s right here in Cary! See? We have things here! I’m telling you. It has an awesomely extravagant spa and fancy restaurant too. We went one time.

3a. Fancy Tea

This takes place at the Umstead, but I felt like it needed its own entry because FANCY AFTERNOON TEA WITH A LIVE HARPIST. Here is the fancy menu. Unfortunately, I’ve never been because Steven says he “doesn’t like tea” like they won’t let him have a Coke or something. ONE DAY.

4. Crosswords

Ignore his face, he likes it

Ignore his face, he likes it

Every Sunday we go to Panera and (try to) do the two crosswords in The News and Observer (oh yeah I get the paper, because I am totes an adult). The people who work that shift know us and are pretty great, and sometimes I try to dress up because everyone else there is in church clothes and crossword times are serious times. Plus, most Sundays the Triangle Greyhound Owners Club seems to be meeting on the outside patio tables at the same time, so that’s awesome. You too could join this ritual (actual crossword expertise optional–just ask Steven).

5. Scavenger Hunts

SCAVENGER HUNTS!

SCAVENGER HUNTS!

I wrote up a full post about this here. Basically, museum scavenger hunts are the most fun way to visit any museum, and we have a lot of great free ones around here, including the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, NC Museum of History, and NC Museum of Art.

6. Free concerts

Let's say I know a guy

Let’s say I know a guy

Okay, but if, for some reason, that’s not enough for you, Cary also has just a plethora of free concerts and events, plus some not as free. For instance, we’re the summer home of the North Carolina Symphony.

7. Cary History Museum

I literally make everyone who visits me take a picture with this guy

I literally make everyone who visits me take a picture with this guy

This museum is in the attic of the historic Page-Walker Hotel, and it is literally the museum your grandmother would build with her sewing circle in her spare time. It is awesome. Plus, taking a picture with the slightly ominous Doc Templeton mannequin is kind of a tradition.

8. Farmer’s Market

This picture maybe doesn't capture the scope well

This picture maybe doesn’t capture the scope well

Cary actually has a local farmer’s market twice a week, but I usually go to the state farmer’s market, which is only about ten minutes away and open seven days a week. There’s a giant fruits and vegetables pavilion, another that’s just for plants, and a third that has a bunch of local wines, jams, nuts, snacks, and what have you. Plus, there’s a restaurant. And a place where you can buy bouquets of fresh flowers! And different bakeries have kiosks! Including the German bakery! Hello kuchen for breakfast!

9. Hunt Library

This library is amazing

This library is amazing

About 15 minutes away, on NC State’s Centennial Campus, the Hunt Library is new and shiny and full of technology and walls that are actually screens and freaky book robots. They give tours, or you can wander around yourself marveling at everything like my boss and I did one day last winter. She had it on her “Things To Do in America” list, and I don’t think she was disappointed.

10. Servery Challenge

This is the picture I always use for Servery Challenges, always and forever

This is the picture I always use for Servery Challenges, always and forever

Servery Challenges actually began in the actual servery at Wiess, but our most famous since then have usually involved Chocovine. I can’t guarantee you a new Chocovine flavor, but I can guarantee you a fast-paced, loosely-judged cooking competition based on skill, presentation, and bullshit artistry. And Rob trying to game the vote. We can all count on that.

11. Steven needs someone to make fancy drinks for

His dream is to have a dedicated drinks cabinet

His dream is to have a dedicated drinks cabinet

I can’t drink alcohol anymore. Steven is a total lightweight who loves pretending to be a bartender. It’s a tough combination, which you could reap the rewards of. I’m just saying.

12. The Cary

Also, the snack bar has hummus

Also, the snack bar has hummus

The Cary is an awesome restored olde timey theater that just opened up in downtown Cary! It shows old movies and indie movies, as well as musical acts and stage shows. Plus, tickets range between free and $5, less than half the price of going to another theater.

13. Bollywood movies

Samosas are the best movie snack

Samosas are the best movie snack

Cary has a big Indian population, so all the theaters around are usually playing one to two Bollywood titles at any given time. It’s twice the length of a normal movie, but also twice the awesome.

14. Corn Mazes

I claim this corn maze, in the name of tie dye

I claim this corn maze, in the name of tie dye

I don’t know why, but this area has a ton of corn mazes. Haunted night corn mazes, treasure hunt corn mazes, trivia corn mazes, regular old corn mazes… It’s not a successful autumn if Steven and I don’t have a big argument inside at least one corn maze! We didn’t have them in Florida, so I definitely consider it an area attraction.

15. La Farm

La Farm is an actual French bakery started by an actual French dude filled with actual deliciousness. The reason I don’t have any pictures of their breads, sandwiches, pastries, or macarons is because I always eat them immediately.

16. Trixie

Trixie is cooler than me and she knows it

Trixie is cooler than me and she knows it

Trixie makes personalized playlists for guests. Okay, James Fox once got All Boybands All the Time, but their relationship has always been fraught with discord.

17. You can become Internet famous

People who visit me tend to end up on my blog

People who visit me tend to end up on my blog

It just happens, okay? It’s because I’m pretty boring on my own and I’ve vowed to update at least once a week. And if nothing exciting happens to me, I have to think up some filler post like this!

In conclusion, Cary is the ultimate vacation destination, so you should totally visit me. Fact.

July Books

This month I got through 7 books, which means I’m 67% done! Only 32 more to go!

Tequila Mockingbird by Tim Federle

Tequila Mockingbird by Tim Federle

Title: Tequila Mockingbird
Author: Tim Federle
My Rating: 5/5
GoodReads’ Rating: 4.22/5

This book is full of amazing drink recipes based on literature, most of which are named with amazing puns! Yes!!!

Book of 1000 Days by Shannon Hale

Book of 1000 Days by Shannon Hale

Title: Book of a Thousand Days
Author: Shannon Hale
My Rating: 4/5
GoodReads’ Rating: 3.94/5

I almost quit this book halfway through, but I’m glad I kept going because it went to a place I did not expect. It’s written from the point of view of a maid, shut up in a tower with her mistress who refused to marry the man her father picked out for her. It reminded me a lot of Mulan, I guess because there’s an invading army led by a total creeper, a lot of assuming false identities, and unconventional uses of power.

Notorious Royal Marriages by Leslie Carroll

Notorious Royal Marriages by Leslie Carroll

Title: Notorious Royal Marriages
Author: Leslie Carroll
My Rating: 4/5
GoodReads’ Rating: 3.90/5

This book was pretty chatty, which I like. I learned some things I didn’t know. I wish it had included even one non-European example. Or that it had included more royals from countries besides England. I know all about that already, thanks.

172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad

172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad

Title: 172 Hours on the Moon
Author: Johan Harstad
My Rating: 2/5
GoodReads’ Rating: 3.61/5

This book is completely ridiculous. Completely. The only reason I gave it a 2 was because the concept of creepy evil doppelgangers is incredibly creepy, whether they are on the moon or otherwise. So, yes, there were one or two parts of this book that definitely creeped me out. But overall it is pretty hilarious bad. NASA decides to send three non-US teenagers to their secret moon base for a publicity stunt, except that the things on the moon that caused the base’s abandonment in the first place are–surprise!–still there and bent on killing everyone. One of the most hilarious things about the book is the author’s stereotypical treatment of teen girls that he never bothers to flesh out fully. “But what would I do on the moon? There’s nowhere to shop!”

It by Stephen King

It by Stephen King

Title: It
Author: Stephen King
My Rating: 1/5
GoodReads’ Rating: 4.06/5

Some parts of this book were legitimately creepy. I wasn’t as scared as I thought I would be, probably because jump scares don’t work as well in literature compared to film. The characters were less like cardboard cutouts than a typical King novel, and I liked the non-chronological storytelling. Unfortunately, I can’t get over the completely random sex scene towards the end where seven 11-year-olds decide to bang in a sewer tunnel they’re supposed to be escaping for vague “This way we’ll always be friends” reasons. And the implication that this was the way the one girl character was able to “save” the others. No thanks forever.

The Ones I Decided Not to Read

Title: The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door
Author: Karen Finneyfrock
GoodReads’ Rating: 3.73/5

Title: Winger
Author: Andrew Smith
GoodReads’ Rating: 4.2/5

Previously: June Books
Next: August Books

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