Barnes & Noble Book Haul

Last week I told you how Barnes & Noble is a non-negotiable whenever I go to the US, so of course this week I have to show off my book haul :). I came back with ten new books, eight I bought and two I got. This wasn’t meant to be a book buying trip, but when I’m in my happy place I really just can’t help myself.

I love Lisa See, and had just started rereading Snow Flower and the Secret Fan before I went on my trip, so I was determined to find some new ones by her to come home with. Other than that, and a Spanish copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I didn’t go in with any plans or a list of books I had to have. I did what I usually do and just waited to see which books spoke to me.

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Barnes & Noble Haul

These are the ones I came home with:

  1. China Dolls – Lisa See
  2. Harry Potter y la Piedra Filosofal – JK Rowling
  3. If Beale Street Could Talk – James Baldwin
  4. The Other Alcott – Elsie Hooper
  5. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane – Lisa See
  6. The Woman in the Photo – Mary Hogan
  7. Pachinko – Min Jin Lee
  8. The Librarian of Auschwitz – Antonio Iturbe
  9. Becoming – Michelle Obama
  10. An American MarriageTayari Jones (not seen here)

Becoming and An American Marriage I got from a family friend and the others were from Barnes & Noble. So far I’ve read If Beale Street Could Talk, The Other Alcott, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, The Woman in the Photo, Pachinko and An American Marriage.

Since my goal is to actually do proper reviews for these books and put them on Goodreads at some point, I’ll just give my two cents here without going into too much detail. The Other Alcott and The Woman in the Photo were nice and interesting but definitely didn’t rock my socks off. If Beale Street Could Talk was really good, but kind of in an esoteric way…I don’t know if it’s for everyone. 

An American Marriage was good, so well written, but also a depressing reminder that life sometimes sucks and things just aren’t fair. Pachinko was what White Teeth by Zadie Smith wasn’t for me, meaning that it follows multiple generations of a family through their struggles and triumphs and life experiences, but while I just couldn’t get into White Teeth (still going to try and finish it one of these days) Pachinko had me and held me until I was done.

And now, my favourite…The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane. So many times when a book ends, whether due to my own curiosity or the author’s intent, I’m left with questions about what would, could or should happen next for the characters, but not this time. Reading this book and seeing how the characters weave in and out of each other’s lives until finally things come full circle was just so fulfilling. This is easily the most satisfying book I’ve read in a long time (and it’s also about tea…I love tea) and it’s just reinforced Lisa See’s standing in my world.

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Fun in Florida

While I haven’t quite decided if I enjoy travelling yet, Florida (or Kingston 21 as we Jamaicans like to call it) is somewhere I’ll probably always end up going simply because that’s where half of my family lives. Daddy’s family is mostly in Jamaica, but on Putus’ side they’re mostly in Florida so I try to visit at least once a year and spend some time with them. Like so many other Jamaicans, I’ve been going to Florida (Ft. Lauderdale specifically) for years, so of course I have my “must do” things, but even then I still manage to have some new adventures each time. 

Funnily enough, one of my new adventures this time around involved going to the beach for the first time. We’d planned on going to watch the sun rise, but left out a little late so by the time we got there it was already a bright, sunshine-y day. It wasn’t going to be a beach day, but as a self-proclaimed beach bum it’s always nice to visit beaches in other countries, walk barefoot on the sand and dip my toes in the sea. After the beach we had breakfast at Croissan’Time, a cute little French bakery that’s been around since 1986. I had a croissant and a palmier and they were delicious! Another fun first was a nearby bar (I forget the name) where my friend and I tried some interesting beers and played ultimate pub trivia all night long.

Ft. Lauderdale Beach

As for my must, must-do…Barnes & Noble is absolutely non-negotiable, I don’t think I’ve ever been to the US and not gone to that store…it’s literally my favourite place on earth and easily where I spend most of my money on any given trip. When it comes to shopping for books I’ve been known to get out of hand, so in order to curb that, I have a book buying budget principle. I am not allowed to exceed 100% of the money I intend to spend on books. So, if I decide I’m spending no more than $100 on books, it means that if I find books that I can’t live/leave without, then I can buy them as long as I don’t go above $200. This time around (partially thanks to my weight allowance) I didn’t exceed my limit and I managed to get some good finds.

My happy place 🙂

On the Saturday, my aunt and I took a drive up to West Palm Beach where my grandparents live and we had lunch with them and spent some good quality bonding time laughing about how different things are between when she was young and now. I’d bought Grandma a book called “Your Grandmother’s Story” and it’s basically a journal with prompts that would guide her into filling it out so that I can learn more about her. She kind of refused to use it but my aunt loved the idea and said she’ll work on getting Grandma to fill it out lol.

Grandma (and I) wanted plums

Since this was the first non-dance vacation I’ve had in a couple years, it was really nice to just be able to chill out with friends and family without any pressure, but even so, I was really happy to get back to my normal routine of work and everything else in between.

Do people normally get tired of vacation and look forward to going back to work or is that a me thing?

Peace Up, A-Town Down

Ever been somewhere and it just felt like home? That was exactly how I felt when I visited Atlanta a few weeks ago. I went for the wedding of one of my best friends and just getting to visit with them and spend time with their family really made me miss what we had growing up. Our fathers have been best friends since high school, so by the time we were all born they raised us all like family.

I’d gone to visit once before in 2007, but it’s so different to visit a place you knew as a child when you’ve become an adult. Then, my brother and I spent about two weeks and it was the first time we were traveling without a parent. I remember feeling so anxious about it, especially since I was supposed to be the grown one!

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Moxy Atlanta Midtown

This time around I arrived Sunday and left the Thursday, leaving me with very little time to do a lot. Nevertheless, in addition to the scheduled activities (ie the wedding and the Memorial Day BBQ), we managed to squeeze in some extras that made the trip even more memorable.

The wedding was Sunday evening and the venue, a converted warehouse, oozed rustic charm – I wish I’d got more photos of everything but was so caught up trying to catch up with everyone that I didn’t even think about it. The groom is from Atlanta and the bride from Jamaica originally so the wedding was a perfect fusion of the two cultures. From Chicken & Waffles and Shrimp & Grits to Oxtail and Jerk Chicken, from “Jumping the Broom” to the “Moko Jumbie” (stilts walker) dancing to soca, reggae and dancehall, there was something for absolutely everyone in the room.

Monday was Memorial Day and the sister of the bride hosted a BBQ for family and friends which brought back memories of when we all lived in Jamaica and every holiday/Father’s Day/Mother’s Day/random Sunday involved a BBQ or some sort of link up. It was so much fun seeing everyone and being able to mix and mingle in a more informal setting. Chatting about old family friends and finding out how everyone’s been was just so refreshing, and meeting and getting to hang out with their Atlanta friends was so much fun!

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How did you know I was Jamaican? (Shirt by The 1ndividual Aesthetic)

Tuesday was pretty low key, we had a lazy morning, dropped a friend at the airport and then went to visit a cousin I haven’t seen in years and meet her husband and kids. After that we had dinner with the mother and father of the bride, who are basically my second parents and we watched the live stream video of the wedding. It’s a curious thing how much we adapt to change but also how little some things do change. We’ve spent almost the past 20 years apart, save for the occasional visits, conversations and birthday/Christmas wishes, but in spite of all that, every time we get together, it’s like nothing has changed.

On Wednesday, we hung out by the pool, got some sun  and drank rum punch until it was time to get ready for the Atlanta United soccer game. I think it’s pretty common knowledge that I’m not a sports person, but it was so much fun! The Mercedes-Benz Stadium was huge, but everything was so well organised and orderly that it didn’t even feel crowded. By comparison, I avoid events at Jamaica’s National Stadium like the plague because getting in and out is a headache and a half. After the game we walked around looking for a bar and it was so nice to walk around a city at night and not be completely paranoid about the crime. Now I’m sure Atlanta has their fair share, but at no point did I feel worried or unsafe.

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Go Atlanta United!

By Thursday morning, it was time to say goodbye and I left for Ft. Lauderdale for the third and final stage of my vacation. As short as the trip was, I think we managed to do so many things without it feeling overwhelming or jam-packed and it provided the perfect opportunity to relax and have fun with friends who are family!

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Half-Day in Mobay

As Jamaica’s second city, Montego Bay is a hot spot for a lot of people. Beachy, touristy, history… it kind of has a little bit of everything. As a Kingstonian, I’ve never spent more than a long weekend or so in Mobay, but even I have my must-see/must-do things, especially if I’m short on time.

Recently, I attended my cousin’s wedding in Mobay, held at the Rose Hall Great House. A Georgian-style mansion with a witchy history, the great house is one of the more popular (and maintained) relics of Jamaica’s colonial past. I’d visited it once before in 2011, when my dance company was staging a show based on the legend of “The White Witch of Rose Hall”, Annie Palmer. While I definitely didn’t have time to do the tour this time around, it’s well worth checking out if you’ve never been.

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Annie (Palmer), are you okay?

My parents and I arrived in Mobay around 1pm and the wedding was at 4pm. In addition to getting ready, we also wanted to visit a cousin who’d recently been unwell, which didn’t leave us with very much time. So what did we do with only two hours to kill? Went to The Pelican Grill for lunch of course!

The Pelican Grill is a Montego Bay institution that’s been around almost as long as Jamaica has been independent. Started in 1964, the restaurant is right along the sea side and serves delicious Jamaican staples like Stew Peas, Escoveitched Fish, Curried Goat, Jerk Chicken as well as classic burgers and milkshakes, including my favourite, the vanilla Jumbo Malt. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that it’s the best Jumbo Malt in Jamaica, and I absolutely cannot go to or through Mobay without stopping for one.

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Yes, that’s Daddy in the background enjoying his Chocolate Jumbo Malt

While we were being served, the waitress laughed and said you can always tell the long time, out of town Pelican customers…they always order a burger and milkshake. I, for one, am definitely guilty of that and since my parents ordered the same I guess we know where I got that from.

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What I’ve Been Up To…

I’m back! It’s been about a month and a half but with 80(ish) followers it’s hardly likely anyone noticed my absence from the blogosphere. Anyway, aside from having a bit of writer’s block and not really knowing what I want to write about, I’ve had a busy few weeks where I was on vacation and there was also a part of me that just wasn’t feeling it.

Since I don’t really have a focus for the blog, every now and then I feel as though I want to write about too many things, and then I worry that none of them are interesting to anyone but me. Whenever that happens I usually need to take some time, step away from it all and remind myself why I blog and then decide if that reason is still applicable. And as long as my reason still stands, I suspect I’ll always come back to blogging.

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Morning Beach in Ft. Lauderdale

So, what have I been up to while I was gone? Well, I had two weddings, back to back, that I revolved my vacation around. My cousin got married in Montego Bay, Jamaica at Rose Hall Great House and one of my best friends since birth got married in Atlanta. Which meant going to Montego Bay on Saturday for the first, and then flying to Atlanta on Sunday for the second. After Atlanta I went and visited family for a few days in Ft. Lauderdale/West Palm Beach, which was the perfect reset and just what I needed before coming back to Jamaica.

I’ve also started reading again! I had quite a slump after Diane Setterfield and it took some time for me to find a book to get into, but thanks to Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce I am back in action. And of course, no trip to the US is complete without a visit to Barnes & Noble. I didn’t overdo it, but I definitely had to buy a few books to come back with.

Between an extended break from dancing, ballet finishing for the term and my trip I haven’t been dancing as much, which means I haven’t been exercising as much. If you know me, when I’m not exercising regularly I’m far more miserable (even if I pretend otherwise), but now that we’re in June and Plie for the Arts is coming up in August I have started dancing again. I also decided to try Crossfit and started walking at the dam again.

So there’s been a lot going on and a lot more to come, and with that said, I’m pretty excited about what’s ahead (that rhymed :)).

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