On The Bookshelf | 2017

29 July 2017

How is July almost over? Time has literally slipped away from me. I was reorganizing my bookshelf (as one does when they live in a tiny apartment) when I realized I have not shared what I have been reading lately! In years past my reading goals have been substantially high. 50 books in 2015 and 40 books in 2016. Goals I either met or came pretty darn close to. This year I lowed my goal for a variety of reasons, but really what it comes down to is this: Quality over Quantity. My life has been busier than ever and when I do have the chance to sit down and read something I want it to wow me. So let's get started.

Beautiful Ruins | Jess Walter
I did not enjoy this book... at all. I know it's probably an unpopular opinion. I felt no connection to the characters or the setting, despite the fact that it mostly takes place in a beautiful Italian costal village. If you were to read this, it would be great for the beach. But honestly I can't recommend this book to anyone.

South and West | Joan Didion
I was a little put off that I disliked my first book of 2017 so much. It took me about a month after finishing Beautiful Ruins to pick up anything worth reading. I have always be an admirer of Emma Roberts and when she, along with Karah Preiss, started an online book club, I eagerly followed along.  South and West was their first pick, and I developed an obsession with Joan Didion by the third page. South and West is a collection of Joan's notes as she travelled through the southern United States. Having grown up in the South, I immediately felt connected to her observations and notes on the people and places she encountered.

The White Album | Joan Didion
My first Joan Didion book left me wanting more. I dove right in to the White Album and finished it within the day. Joan has a way of taking every day moments and events and bringing them to life. Her observations of people are accurate and sometimes frightening. The White Album was an excellent collection of thoughts on the American life in the 1960s and 1970s from someone who was there.

Big Little Lies | Liane Moriarty
After reading two Joan Didion works, I was ready for something lighter but still entertaining. Everyone had been talking about Big Little Lies and I'm a sucker for reading something before the movie or show comes out. This book did not disappoint. Set in Australian suburbia, the lies and deceit of this book are so mundane that anyone can relate. Moriarty has a way of taking ordinary people and creating an amazing story.

The Rules Do Not Apply | Ariel Levy
Again, another Emma Robert's recommendation that did not disappoint. I had no idea what to expect when I picked up this piece. Ariel Levy presents the tragedies that have plagued her life and twist them into a message of hope.

Into the Water | Paula Hawkins
I admit, I was not planning on reading this next Paula Hawkins novel. I had just finished The Rules Do Not Apply and needed something else to ready while at the airport. I picked up Into the Water and finished it within 24 hours. Set in a small village in England, the deaths surrounding one particular swimming hole are more than they seem. Paula Hawkins has a way of keeping me entertained through and through.

Marlena | Julie Buntin
Julie Buntin creates a story of two teenage girls, and how an innocent friendship ends with one of them dead. A wonderful read about the struggles girls face growing up. My only problem with this book is the character Marlena, who fits the manic pixie dream girl stereotype far too much.

Touch | Courtney Maum
With technology advancing at an alarming rate, the plot for Touch is almost a little too relatable. Sloane, a trend forecaster, fights for her voice in a world consumed by technology. She predicts a world where human contact will be wanted more than technology. An interesting and light read.

And Then There Were None | Agatha Christie
For my birthday one of my best friends sent me a couple of books that she had assigned her students throughout the school year. A quick read, And Then There Were None is one of the greatest mystery novels I have ever read. This book left me questioning "who did it" until the very last page.

Mission San Jose | San Antonio, Texas

07 July 2017

Texas did not receive its first UNESCO World Heritage Site until 2015. The sheer amount of history and culture that embodies this state is remarkable, yet largely overlooked. With the exception of the Alamo, the historical sites of Texas are rarely visited by anyone other than Texans themselves. Even then I find myself guilty. Born and raised here in the Lone Star State I had never visited any of the San Antonio missions other than the Alamo. During a recent trip to San Antonio I had decided it was time to visit a part of Texas' first World Heritage Site. 

The San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is made up five Spanish missions scattered across  the city of San Antonio. They are Mission Valero (the Alamo), Mission Concepcion, Mission San Juan Capistrano, Mission San Francisco de la Espada, and Mission San Jose. The purpose of these missions were colonization. The Spanish had claimed the land that would later be called Texas in the name of Christianity. Although the main goal of the missions was to convert the local people to Catholicism, the missions were also a safe haven. With the threat of Europeans looming on all sides, the Texas frontier had become a dangerous place. The San Antonio missions became communities that would later shape the idea of Texas itself. 

On this hot summer day I only had time for one mission, so I chose Mission San Jose. Founded in 1720, the original church still stands today. I was lucky enough to visit while a mass was in progress. Yes, it is still a functioning Catholic Church to this day. It reminded me just how different historical churches in America are to their European counterparts. 

The whole mission grounds were incredible. Especially if the only mission you have visited is the tiny Alamo. Spreading over acres, it was easy to imagine the thriving community that once called Mission San Jose home. 

I'm hoping I'll get the chance to visit the rest of the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park soon enough. Texas is so large that many people are born and raised within the state without even visiting the majority of it. There is so much history in my own backyard that I am just beginning to explore.