Monday, September 18, 2017

LFL Sighting -- Wilmette

On Labor Day, we enjoyed lunch and some beach time in Wilmette with family.  As we walked toward the beach, I spied a Little Free Library across the street.  We routed past the LFL on our return and I grabbed some pics.
I love the tiered roof and the Alice in Wonderland theme of this LFL.  I really appreciate the clarity of the instructions on top:  Take A Book  ~  Keep It  ~  Share It.  Often the LFLs instruct to "Take a Book.  Leave a Book."  I imagine that the take one/leave one phrase is intended to let you know that donations are welcome more than it is an admonishment, but I always think, "But wait, would it be okay if I took a book if I didn't have one to leave?"  So, I prefer the invitation on this Wilmette LFL, which seems to me like, "You can take a book.  Read and enjoy it.  Keep it if you want or share it with someone else."  If I ever realize my goal of installing an LFL, I'd like to send out that vibe.

And, let's say I was in need of reading material while in Wilmette on Labor Day ... what would I choose from this LFL?  I was heavily involved in the editing of a sibling's essay on Judith Guest's Ordinary People but never have read it beyond scanning for textual evidence for that essay.  There's a copy of P&P, but I own several already.  I smiled when I noticed that in addition to P&P, this library also had Curtis Sittenfeld's Eligible on offer.  I should have moved the two next to each other.  I'm thinking I'd go with S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders.  I loved that book hard in seventh grade and maybe I could "keep it" and "share it" with my sixth grader.  

Despite the kind invitation, I didn't take a book, at least not one from this LFL.  My uncle did send me home with a copy of Peter Davis's Hometown -- a book about the year the journalist spent in Hamilton, Ohio, which happens to be the hometown of my mom and uncle.  I grew up in the town right next to Hamilton but my high school and many childhood activities took place in Hamilton so it has plenty of claims on me.  Hometown is an older book and one I think I might appreciate at this stage in my life and at this distance (five hours away in Chicagoland).  With Hillbilly Elegy and Middleton, Ohio (not too far or too dissimilar from Hamilton) getting so much (well-deserved) attention this past year,  I'm eager to read Hometown.

I just had to include this photo of the beach.  Three of the five kids on the outing braved the frigid waters of Lake Michigan.  I'm at the point where my children are good swimmers and I don't need to hover at the beach but not at the point where I take that freedom for granted.  It wasn't a gorgeous day, drizzled for a bit and almost no sun, but I enjoyed sitting in a chair on the (shrinking) beach and chatting with my uncle and cousin.  Nice farewell to summer.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Audible Monthly Credit(s) Report -- May & June 2017

Two months and four Audible.com credits.  I've listened to them all by now.  Very brief reviews to come.
Graeme Simpsion's The Best of Adam Sharpe Graeme Simpsion wrote The Rosie Project, which I quite enjoyed, and its sequel, The Rosie Effect, which felt like a novel-length episode of Three's Company-esque mix-ups but with more interesting, likable characters.  As for The Best of Adam Sharpe?  I didn't hate it and in fact enjoyed a lot of the musical references and laughed a few times.  However, I felt like I was reading the fantasies of a middle-aged man, especially when the story moves to France.  Unless that's your demographic, don't rush.

Gail Honeyman's Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine:  This novel is VERY FINE.  More layers than I anticipated.  Humorous but also hefty, it's an excavation and transformation story.  I want a sequel and highly recommend the audio version unless you hate Scottish accents.  Which, who could?  The Sunday of my college reunion weekend, one of my friends was facing a long drive home.  I told her to download this audiobook for company.  She texted me a few days later:  "Just finished Eleanor Oliphant.  Crying while I clean my bathroom.  I already miss that Scottish weirdo!"  Don't skip this one!

Kevin Kwan's Rich People Problems I've listened to all three books in the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy.  They are fun even though the wealth/spending of many characters is staggering/disgusting.  Talk about a glimpse into a whole other world.  There are a lot of characters to keep track of and my cousin mentioned in her Goodreads review that it would have been nice to have a family tree to use a a refresher before jumping into the third book.  I agree.  Good news for new Kevin Kwan readers?  You can start now and keep going.  You won't have to wait between each book as I did.

Elin Hilderbrand's The Identicals Listening to Elin Hilderbrand's newest books is a summer tradition for me.  This year's did not disappoint -- probably my favorite of the past few years' offerings.  The Identicals tells the story of twin sisters and their sister islands.  It was fun to visit Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard in one book and I'm a sucker for a sister story.  Some good mother-daughter stuff in this novel too.

Come July 12th, I'll have two new credits to spend.  I'll keep you informed. 


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Touch

Often when I am tired, I remain on the couch and mindlessly scroll through Facebook.  Or, I get in bed and scroll through my three (count 'em) instagram feeds.  Maybe I'll check Goodreads one more time.  I used to try to catch up on my Twitter feed as well, but I got logged out and haven't felt like playing the login/password guessing game to log back in. 

What I should be doing at that point in an evening is going to bed.  I know it.  I know I'm tired, but I think I'm looking at my screens for one last something to finish or fill out my day.  Something to make me laugh?  Something to get annoyed about?  Something to make me feel less than?  Something to make me feel superior?  I don't even know.  What I do know is something I need to write on a post-it and leave on my screen/s:  What you're looking for is not here. 

It's not there.  So why peek at my phone when I'm out to lunch with my kids?  Why waste twenty minutes of reading or resting time checking Facebook?  Why not figure out how I really want to fill my days?

There's obviously much more to say about the way technology removes us from tangibility and connection, but I don't have the juice to say much more this evening.  Crafting a blog post is more satisfying than checking Facebook though. 

All of this is just to give you some context for my love for Courtney Maum's new novel Touch.  A trend forecaster is hired by a tech company and realizes that the trends she sees and her own desires prioritize touch over tech.  I loved how hopeful Touch was and really love Maum's writing.

Here's a gem of an insight.  Sloane Jacobsen, the novel's trend forecaster and protagonist, is checking in with her team of "snouts" all around the world to see what trends they are sniffing.  Here's her conversation with Rufus in New Delhi:

       "Okay, so it's a Pointless button.  It started as an app, and the app failed, but a guy here resurrected it.  You just poke and poke and poke at your phone, and eventually, after an unpredictable number of attempts, something completely random will emerge.  An image.  A sound.  A photo of a camel."
       "Discovery," Sloane said.  "Hope."
       "Well, yeah, exactly," said Rufus, who sounded like he was drinking something.  It was the middle of the night in New Delhi, the doughy part of the evening where your actual thoughts were weirder than your dreams.  Rufus was a programmer who slept during the day.
       "I mean, it replicates what we're all hoping, which is that something great and beautiful is going to come out of our phones" (231-32).

Something great and beautiful is ultimately going to come out of something other than our phones and screens.  Post-it:  What you're looking for is not here.

Read Touch with your book club.  Then, on your own, treat yourself to Maum's earlier (and also excellent) novel, I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You.





 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Snackshots -- June 2017

I first enjoyed these Coconut Bites at my parents' house.  Yum, I thought, but I wasn't obsessively thinking, "I must have my own bag in my own snack bin in my own house."

Then I spied them at Sam's Club last week and went ahead and secured my own bag for my own snack bin in my own house.

And just in case you think the my own thing is kind of repetitive, you should know that a) there is a bin in the pantry that exclusively houses my snacks & b) no one in my house ate a single Coconut Bite except for me. 

I ate every single bite, crumble, scrap, and loose seed on my own.  Here's what the Coconut Bites have going for them:  deliciousness, texture, the perfect amount of sweetness, the illusion of healthiness, and lots of coconut (I adore it, but I understand some cannot abide it).  Alas, the bites are also 150 calories for a half cup serving.  Eeks!  I didn't eat these as mindfully as I could have and definitely exceeded portion size.  They never made me feel gross or bloated, but I don't think I'll invite them back into my snack bin, tasty though they were.  If I were the sort of person who could just sprinkle a bit atop some 0% Greek yogurt, we might have a story here.  I'm not that sort though so I'll have to look back fondly on that one week that one June when I really enjoyed those Coconut Bites.

And that's my Snackshot for June 2017.





Tuesday, June 27, 2017

End of An Era: No More Lil Green iPods

The era of the Lil Green iPod has ended.

In 2003 (or maybe 2004), I received my first (sort of Lil) Green iPod.  This iPod was my companion as I explored our new Chicago neighborhood, Lakeview/Southport Corridor, and a technological gem that allowed me to finally listen to audiobooks without a walkman or discman (and the ziploc baggie that held extra batteries and/or the next cassette or CD in the book).  I was in grad school at the time and so thankful for audiobooks for giving me an easy way to squeeze in books from outside the academic realm.  Some favorite listens from this iPod:  The Time Traveler's Wife, The Blind Assasin and I Am Charlotte Simmons.

I can't recall the demise of the first green iPod, but I know I received a second.  Significantly smaller than the first, Lil Green iPod #2 was my companion as I pushed my babies and toddlers around Lakeview.  I did a lot of walking as I tried to get my oldest to fall asleep already before I lose my mind and I couldn't have kept going without my audiobooks.  Some favorites from this iPod:  Lonesome Dove, Free Food for Millionaires, and Olive Kitteridge.

Lil Green iPod #3 was a gift for Christmas 2012.  I know that because it is engraved on the back.  This iPod lived its life in Chicago's Western Suburbs and was my companion for five years of household chores.  LGI #3 helped me enjoy many an Audible Deal of the Day.  I've mentioned before that discounted audiobooks have often pushed me to step out of my comfort zone and give something new or different (to me) a try.  I was rewarded with great listens many times over on LGI #3.  Some favorite listens from this iPod:  Commonwealth, Cuckoo's Calling, Miss Buncle's Book (which opened the door to many D.E. Stevenson audiobooks), Ready Player One, and The Royal We.  I could go on and on with favorites from this LGI.  More available audiobooks and more access to reviews from Goodreads, social media, etc. made it easier to find winning listens for LGI #3.

I am thankful for all of my Lil Green iPods and all the stories they allowed me to experience while walking, washing dishes, doing laundry, and driving.  I wish I had photos of all three iPods but alas, there are just these two pics of LGI #3 (both books featured, by the way, were Audible Deal of the Days and both were excellent). 

LGI #3 still works with audiobooks owned since 2003, but the newest audiobooks downloaded from Audible.com would not play as of a month ago.  I spent some frustrating time trying to troubleshoot with the folks at Audible and online tutorials, but ultimately, I threw in the towel and kissed it goodbye.

We're now in the era of the Lil Blue iTouch.  More later.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Picture Book Picks -- William Hoy, Oh Boy!


Last summer, my kiddos and I enjoyed several brief but informative summer evening read-alouds with nonfiction picture books.  Last evening, we reignited that tradition with two winning choices.

We hit it out of the park (pun intended) with Nancy Churnin's The William Hoy Story.  Hoy was an outstanding major league baseball player who also happened to be deaf.  His story is one of hard work, determination, and courage.  Very inspirational.  I teared up toward the end because I was so moved and, honestly, it's good for kids to see that kind of tangible evidence of the power of words and stories. 
The fact that Hoy played several seasons for the Cincinnati Reds (and grew up in Ohio, JUST LIKE I DID!!!) sealed the deal for me on the excellence of this story.  Didn't hurt that the kids and I were just at a Reds game two weeks ago when visiting family.  You can see in the photo above that Jez Tuya's illustrations are stellar.  So, in short, if you have children in your house, you should read them this book.  If you have young ball players in your house, you have to read them this book.  My kids are not all that little (11, 9, and 7) but loved it.

And if this one inspires you to read another excellent nonfiction picture book about baseball:  check out Brothers at Bat.

Our other nonfiction picture book was also great, but more nerve-wracking than inspiring.  Crossing Niagara:  The Death-Defying Tightrope Adventures of the Great Blondin by Matt Tavares is one of those true stories that seems unbelievable (but isn't).  If you've ever visited Niagara Falls or are planning to visit, check it out.  If your own child is a daredevil, maybe skip it. 

We have two more nonfiction gems checked out from the library so stay tuned!



Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Odyssey Soundtrack -- June 2017

I've told you before about how I choose one CD, and we listen to it in our minivan for months and months until we can't take it anymore

We all love Hamilton, of course, but my middle guy has requested a break, and after almost a full of year of driving the Hamilvan, I'm ready to grant him one.

We visited Target a few days ago (side note: self-imposed Target ban was for 2015 only) and I found some musical inspiration.
Look at the tracks below.  There's no Vanilla Ice or MC Hammer, but otherwise, this does seem an ultimate 90s Pop Hits Collection.

My daughter likes "Genie in a Bottle," a song she knows from an inferior version sung by a Disney star.  My middle guy keeps asking for "Rumpshaker" and my oldest, who has started sitting shotgun and thus has most DJ power, keeps going to "Motownphilly."  I kind of like "Poison" myself.  Now you know.

But wait, there's more.  This collection of Power Ballads is bringing me back to dances in my high school cafeteria, teenage summer drives with the windows down, and the smell of Drakkar Noir.

It's one gem after another but my hands down favorite is "Heaven" by Warrant.  I just love that song.  Always have.

You'll note that I am categorizing these two CDs as the June 2017 soundtrack.  As much as I am enjoying these blasts from the past, I think one month is going to do it for me.  I can see myself pulling those out again during longer road trips or playing at home during a party (if I were ever to host a party again).   

I will plan a follow-up post once my husband drives the Odyssey somewhere and realizes what I've done.