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I reviewed a sweet little summer read over at BlogHer — Karen White’s The Beach Trees. Below is a snippet, but you can head over to the full post for the real scoop on the book!

Culture shock doesn’t always require a passport, proven in Karen White’s latest book, The Beach Trees. There’s no other way to describe Julie Holt’s initial reaction to everything she experiences on her first trip to the Gulf Coast, visiting the hurricane-ravaged landscape and heartbroken family her best friend, Monica left behind but described in detail, both with words and paintings, until her untimely death.

Julie, a lifelong New Englander living in New York, attempts to put tragedy — her sister’s childhood disappearance 17 years ago and her best friend’s recent death — in her rearview mirror as she drives south to River Song, the beach house Monica left her in Biloxi, armed only with the keys to the home, which was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina, and Monica’s 5-year-old boy, Beau. For the first time in her life, she has no plan, but, she soon learns that Biloxi, New Orleans, and Monica’s estranged family have plans for her.

(Seriously, go over and read the full review. Go on, now!)

I just bought tickets to see Harry Potter and the End of the Greatest Wizarding Saga of All Time EVER, Never to be Seen Again Part 1. Oh, I’m geeking out in such a big way. When the final book came out, of course, Jared and I preordered it, but only one copy. Fortunately, I got my greedy little hands on it first and read it — all eleventy-billion pages — in one sitting. Yes, I stayed up until 5 a.m. and was worthless for an entire weekend, and perhaps I then spent two hours searching all the Harry Potter fan sites for, god, I don’t know, more spells, more history, more anything because holy shit it’s over it can’t be over WHAT WILL I DO?, but it was totally worth it.

I’m not normally into fantasy stuff at all. I haven’t gotten into Twilight or any of the other vampire fiction, and while I enjoy movies like Star Wars, I’ve never had any inclination to, like, read the books (unlike some husbands I know).

Harry Potter is different. I’ve always loved to read, but I don’t know if I’ve ever had a series take my imagination to the places this series has taken it. I’m so excited for this movie (even though we all know it won’t even come close to the amazingness of the book), but I have a feeling that, when Harry Potter and the Deathly Jeez You Guys We All Know What Happens and How It Ends So Why Are We Lined Up at Midnight? Part 2 comes out, it’s going to be much more bittersweet.

(And no I’m not dressing up. I’m not even bringing a wand, though I just might sneak in a little of my own pumpkin beer. They just charge so much for it at the theater, you know?)

Puppies are tough, man. I’m really hoping that we’re well past the Eating of Expensive Things phase, and I think (fingers crossed, knock on wood, grab a four-leaf clover) we left the Potty in the Living Room phase in the dust. However, we are in a new phase — the Let’s Push Our Toys Under the Couch and Whine Until Mom or Dad Pulls It Out. And while it is much less destructive and gross than the others, it is annoying as hell.

It’s over and over — I pull the damn ball/Bobo/rope toy/etc. out, throw it toward the west wing of the house (meaning I launch it over the back of the couch into the dining room), and she promptly brings it back (which she TOTALLY doesn’t do if we’re outside and playing fetch) and stuffs it back under the couch and starts whining at it again. Yuki will whine at a toy if it’s under there, but doesn’t keep sticking it back where she can’t reach it.

J has come up with the idea of shoving 2x4s in there to block her from getting anything under there, but I’m not biting. So, seriously, any ideas?

In other news, I took a friend with me to hip hop class last night. It was her first day signing up at the gym, and I convinced her that it would be FUN and she would LEARN stuff. I think she hates me now … However, I actually know some of the dances now! I mean, if there’s music and the somebody shows me a couple of times. But still! Improvement!

J is off at meetings for work today and tomorrow, so I’ve been kickin’ it here with the pups and cats (yes, cats, plural — we’re watching Star the psycho kitty. More about her in another post), I finished rereading Pride and Prejudice (for, what, the twelfth time now?), and I started another Bill Bryson book. This one is about him hiking the Appalachian Trail, and so far, it’s HILARIOUS. But I’m only on the third chapter. I’ll keep you up to date. Because I know you’re dying to know.

So, I know it’s been, like, a week since you’ve heard from me, but I have good reason:

I was at the beach, relaxing and looking at my newly pedicured toes. I got a manicure, too (J won a gift certificate for me at the Puppy Hill Gala), but I ended up peeling it all off two days in. That’s still two days of pretty nails, which is WAAAY better than I could normally hope for.

Anyway, in between guzzling sipping pina coladas and Coronas and kicking ass at paddleball, J and I improved our minds through literature. He read a classic — The Three Musketeers — and I read The Mother Tongue: English and how it got that way. Yes, we’re a little dorky, but I was completely enraptured with my nerdy little English book — it’s by Bill Bryson, and if you have any interest at all in things like which countries don’t have native swear words (praise jebus I don’t live in one of those!) and whether Appalachian hillbillies speak at all like Queen Elizabeth did, you’ll be fascinated.

I did a little bit of work while I was gone, but check out my office:

That makes going to work a little easier.

The beach we visited was the same beach where we got married four years ago, and my folks were nice enough to rent a place for a week and split the time with us (thanks, guys!). We were hoping to see a wedding while we were there, but no dice. So, we made due with watching the sunset and going to seriously delicious restaurants. Of course, there might be lots of other delicious restaurants there, but we wouldn’t know because we just keep going back to the ones we like: Conch Republic (twice) and Gigi’s. I’m still stuffed (which, by the way, I learned is a rather obscene thing to say in England, but you can tell someone you’ll knock them up in the morning …).

You know, one of the things that’s so amazing about the beach is that only two full days there can make the whole world feel new. And I know that I’m just lucky that I live close enough to the beach that I can do a short getaway like that, but wherever you are, I hope you have something nearby that’s worth visiting for a day or two so you can join me in my post-vacation bliss.

Well, bliss other than the sunburn part. Because I am DREADING having to wear a real bra right now.