Monthly Archives: December 2012

in which I leave on vacation

­­­­I had not truly experienced grad school until these past five days, which I have spent holed up in a friend’s apartment writing until my fingers bled and guzzling diet coke until my stomach ulcered. Paper after paper about book after book1. All so that tomorrow, I can gallivant off to Switzerland without looking back.

Why yes, that Switzerland.

A generous family friend is kindly taking me on a much needed post-first term of grad school excursion to Europe, where we shall work our way up the Rhine River, through France, Germany, and the Netherlands for two weeks, partaking in Christmas festivities and eating lots of delicious unhealthy food.

I just turned in my last paper, meaning there is only twenty-four hours standing between me and European bliss.

So you may not be hearing much from me in the next two weeks. First because my eyes are bleeding after staring at a computer screen for too long. Second because I can no longer think straight after the soul sucking papers I had to write2. Third because I will be in Europe, basking in the awesome.

To my friends who are students – enjoy your finals. To my friends who are not students – enjoy not having finals. I’ll see you all in a few weeks.

  1. Also a brief period where I had to write and illustrate my own picture book.
  2. I’m writing a Marxist critique of Stargirl. Yeah.
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in which I recommend holiday reading

As you may or may to remember, I enjoy reading. In fact, the only thing I enjoy more than reading is telling other people what to read. So if you’re searching for the perfect books for this holiday season – to read yourself or to give to someone you love – may I present…

Mackenzi Lee’s handy-dandy, easy-peasy holiday break book recommendation quiz!

Note: I know there may be better books out there for some of these categories, but I limited my recommendations to books that came out this year, and tried to stick to as many debut authors as I could, because I love supporting debut authors. So these recommendations come solely from the class of 2012.

At a holiday party, where will you most likely be spotted?

A)    In the corner by the fireplace, with the academics, discussing history and literature

B)    Under the mistletoe

C)    Holding up the wall by the punchbowl

D)    Looking for fairies in the holly wreaths

What is your favorite thing to do during the holidays?

A)    Hunker down inside a castle with your family, probably speaking French

B)    Chase holiday romances

C)    Stay inside and read your favorite book for the fifteenth time

D)    Hunt magical creatures and try to find portals to other dimensions

Your ideal holiday get away would be to…

A)    Anywhere in the UK

B)    Paris

C)    Amsterdam

D)    Morocco

What’s your favorite holiday film? 

A)    A Christmas Carol

B)    It’s a Wonderful Life

C)    The Nightmare before Christmas

D)    Gremlins

Who will you be spending the holidays with?

A)    Your best girl friends

B)    Your boyfriend/girlfriend

C)    Yourself. Maybe a book.

D)    Other worldly companions

Mostly A’s – The historical heroine

Mackenzi Lee recommends…

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – a brilliantly-plotted drama about two best friends – a spy and a fighter pilot – shot down over occupied France during World War II. This might be my new favorite book ever. It. Is. Brilliant.

The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coates – a lavish medieval tale of two girls caught in the Welsh uprisings. This one can be a little slow-going – it’s pretty dense historical fiction, but if you’re an atmospheric person or interested in history at all, this book is to die for.

Mostly B’s – The romantic

Mackenzi Lee recommends…

Anna and the French Kiss or Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins – quirky companion novels set in Paris and San Francisco about first love. Pretty fluffy and pretty sweet.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – Two teenagers with terminal cancer fall in love. Contains adult content. Also, will probably make you cry and rethink your entire life.

Mostly C’s – The misunderstood badass

Mackenzi Lee Recommends…

Croak by Gina Damico – troubled teen Lex is shipped off for a summer with her uncle, who turns out to be a Grim Reaper ready to train Lex to join the family business. This might be the funniest book I read all year.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth – a teenage girl grows up in rural Montana and comes to terms with sexuality and religion. Contains adult content. But it’s really beautiful…the book, not the adult content.

Mostly D’s – The otherworldly

Mackenzi Lee recommends …

Daughter of Smoke and Bone and its sequel Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor – Karou is an art student in Prague and errand girl to a monster trying to solve the mystery of who she is and why an angel is hunting her. The most beautiful writing you will ever read in a book. Really.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo – A fantasy set in a faux tsarist Russia where peasant Alina Starkov is trained as a member of the magical elite who will banish shadows from the land. This book is divine atmospheric fantasy.

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in which I kick off the Christmas season

Happy December everyone! A day late, yes, but who’s counting?

In exactly ten days, I will be boarding a flight to Switzerland to celebrate the holidays along the Rhine River, which I am kind of really more than a little excited about. But for now, the Christmas season in Boston is in full swing, and I, being of sound mind and Christmas-loving disposition, am taking part in any way I can.

On Thursday night, Marx and I went to the tree lighting ceremony on the Boston Common1 where they turned on the giant tree and the lights around the Common and had a pyrotechnics show and such. It was great fun, until they turned on the lights. At which point, Marx and I, both children raised on the glory of Temple Square Christmas lights, cringed as one. Because the Boston Common lights are kind of pathetic. I’m fairly certain that whoever was responsible for them forgot he had to string up the lights until that very morning, at which point he just ran around flinging them haphazardly into the trees. Either that or he forgot his ladder. Because seriously, they look terrible! Like someone toilet papered the Boston Common, but with Christmas lights. Marx pointed out they also look like the kind of lights where one bulb goes out and the entire strand is shot. But we had a good laugh over them in spite of our disappointment, and the tree looked grand. And then we walked over to the Public Garden, which was much more professionally lit, even if we did see a dead rat the size of a cat festering on one of the paths.


the tree itself looked great. It was the other trees around it that were sketchy – also unphotographable because of the light

To keep the holiday spirit going, last night I went to the Nutcracker with four of my friends from school. I have never been to the ballet before3, but I have always been an ardent fan of ballet dancing, and harbored a not-so-secret resentment against my mother for pulling me out of ballet lessons before I had had the chance to reach Prima Ballerina level4. So I was absolutely thrilled to go to my first ballet in recent memory. My friends and I got really dressed up, went out to a nice dinner before, and then headed over to the Boston Opera House, which is the most beautiful theater I have ever been in. It was all lit up for the performance, with trees and ornaments, and everybody got paper Nutcracker crowns as they walked in.


this guy was my favorite. Also, I did not take this picture. I think the New York Times did….

And the ballet was so beautiful. I was kind of worried I wouldn’t like it, because I don’t really enjoy opera, and I put opera and ballet in the same category. But I loved it. And I loved getting dressed up and going to a fancy event where everyone was dressed fancy and not just me5.

And then I returned home at midnight to find that my roommate had hung stockings from our strangely-built-into-the-wall china cabinet with care.

Happy holidays, all. Christmas is here6.


  1. A large park where lots of homeless people and ghosts chill, for those of you who are not familiar with Boston. It is basically the Pioneer Park2 of Boston.
  2. A large park where lots of homeless people and artists chill, for those of you who are not familiar with Salt Lake City. It’s basically the Boston Common of Salt Lake.
  3. That I can remember. Sometimes having a bad memory is great because you get to experience things for the first time all over again.
  4. She put me in soccer – SOCCER!
  5. I really like to dress up, so I tend to be perpetually overdressed.
  6. The other sure sign of this fact is that I have put my traditional two Christmas CDs on my iPod – “A Very She & Him Christmas” and “John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together.”
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