Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Audible Monthly Credit(s) Report -- November 2017

This month's credits were not that easy to spend, but I was also out of free and attractive ready-to-borrow options from my library so I went ahead and spent them.  These days, I try to save my Audible credits for new releases of the sort that I'd have to wait on a long hold list for elsewhere.  There were no new releases calling out to me so I went with different criteria.  My choices ...

Sarah's Cottage by D.E. Stevenson -- I've been working my way through D.E. Stevenson's catalogue for about six years now.  These books are mostly set in Scotland and England and are stories of family, friendship, and love, often set against a wartime (WWII) background.  Some of them are witty and almost edgy, some of them border on bland, but I usually find them comfortable and enjoyable and especially appreciate narration with Scottish accents.  There's almost always a ridiculously self-obsessed character (or couple) that it pleases me to dislike.  Sarah's Cottage is one of those that seemed like it was going to be boring, but a couple hours in, Sarah's sister Lottie is really at her worst, and I'm intrigued to see where it goes over the next six hours and twenty-seven minutes (but less, because I am listening at 1.5x speed).  Sarah's Cottage is a sequel and would be difficult to find in print.  If you are going to read D.E. Stevenson, start with Miss Buncle's Book (a nice Source Books edition is available) or Listening Valley

Girl on the Leeside by Kathleen Anne Kenney has been in my wish list for several months.  I've hesitated to spend a credit on it because only three listeners have reviewed it.  However, it's not a book that I can access via the library in any form (not in print, audio, or electronic versions) so seems like a good choice for a credit.  It's set in Ireland so I am hoping it will tide me over until Marian Keyes's The Break is available in audio in the United States or until Maeve Bincy comes back from the dead to write one more lovely novel.



Monday, November 13, 2017

Recent Reads: Graphic Novels

I probably read 10-12 graphic novels a year and always marvel at their impact.  The illustrations and text complement each other so well.  The limited text makes the words so much more powerful (I almost said "impactful" but I am still denying that "impactful" is a real word).  If you're ever in a reading slump or just in the mood to start and finish a book in a short period (possibly in one sitting), look for a graphic novel.  I waited several weeks on the library hold list for Roz Chast's Going Into Town: A Love Letter to New York.  Worth the wait.  Her love for and knowledge of NYC comes across in every detail.  This book (graphic but not a novel) would be the perfect gift for a new grad or anyone who dreams of making a life in New York.

My son and I both read and enjoyed Sunny Side Up a couple of years ago so I snapped up its sequel, Swing It, Sunny, at last week's Scholastic Book Fair.  I loved how the Holm Siblings captured the Seventies on every page.  Sunny's troubled but beloved older brother is at a military boarding school, and the book poignantly illustrated Sunny's feelings of loneliness, confusion, and fear of/for him.  I like the family dynamics in the story and the two female friendships that help to bolster Sunny during this tough period.  I'm eager to discuss with my son once he gets a chance to read it.


Saturday, November 11, 2017

I'll remember pieces of my weekend...

I was going to make a joke about my raging Saturday night but decided against it because I am not at all embarrassed that this puzzle has captured so much of my attention.  The boys and I started it last night.  They're in and out (mostly out), but I keep coming back for more.  I'm going to attempt a transfer into the family room tomorrow as there's a chance we may need to eat a meal at the kitchen table before the thousandth piece clicks into place.  Plus, the lighting in the family room is less depressing than the lighting in the kitchen. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

End of an Era: DVD Days

 My boys and I were at Target this evening and this holiday DVD display gave me pause.

I think the only DVD I purchased in semi-recent memory was Bridget Jones's Baby.  When I finally treated myself to an at-home second viewing (saw it in the theater and loved it), I ended up streaming it via Netflix.  Pretty typical.

Quick rehearsal of the reasons I rarely buy DVDs these days ... abundance of available programming to access via Cable and streaming services, not much time to watch tv/movies, too tired/distracted to commit to entire movie, DVD player not hooked up to upstairs TV and tech guy always out of town when I think of watching a movie, and many DVDs available at local library.

Another reason for the taper in DVD-buying is the one the Target kiosk kicked me in the gut with:  our kids are growing up.  In the old days, a trip to Target would often include a search for a $5.00 DVD gem or a coveted new release -- maybe something special for a holiday or a road trip or a naptime treat for the no-longer-napping big brother.  I have a vivid memory of hitting the road for our Thanksgiving travels and feeling ecstatically happy when teeing up a DVD of Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, a special I thought I remembered from my own childhood.  

Our kids are growing into smart, sweet, funny, interesting people so that's all great.  They can masterfully access shows and movies on our television/devices and rarely need my "tech savvy" or recommendations.  I know we'll still stream some of our favorite Christmas specials this holiday season.  We'll continue to have movie nights.  They still, knock on wood, love to spend time with us.  But it's not likely that I'll be popping in a new DVD of Arthur's Perfect Christmas and cuddling on the couch with three little ones freshly bathed, lotioned, and clad in footie pajamas.  That leaves a lump in my throat.   

Thursday, November 9, 2017

A Short History of the Girl Next Door

I am having a week that feels nothing like high school.  Sick kid and now a sick husband.  Flooded basement.  Parent-Teacher Conferences.  Cancelling doctor's appointment for my sore shoulder and achy hip to be home for shower door installation.  Figuring out carpools and logistics for hockey evaluations, basketball practice, and etc.  Realizing we have reached the bottom of an industrial-sized container of ibuprofen.  Just the regular stuff of my suburban mom adult life.

It was especially nice then, during this sort of adult week, to finish up the YA novel I had started and spend time reading about a memorable high school friendship.  As soon as I saw a blurb about Jared Reck's A Short History of the Girl Next Door, I got myself on the library hold list for it.

Here's what I loved:
* Strong writing.
* Characters and dialogue that felt realistic.  Sure, that meant that there were some curse words in the book, but I think the language reflects how many kids actually talk.
* A strong sense of a family.  I hate it when YA novels reinforce stereotypes that parents are absent, clueless, out of touch, etc.
* An honest look at grief and the oft-overlooked and sticky issue of who "has the right" to grieve.
* A male teenage character who loves basketball and Honors English.
* The awesome English teacher in the novel.  It's not often that I wish I were still teaching ninth grade English, but reading about Mr. Ellis's assignments, classroom "muse," writing curriculum, and interactions with students inspired me and made me feeling some longing for the classroom.
* Wit and humor.  A tragedy occurs in this book, but there were still many smartly funny moments.

In short, read A Short History of the Girl Next Door.

And then, if you're in the mood for more YA novels, some other good ones I've read this year include:  Julie Buxbaum's What to Say Next, Emery Lord's The Start of Me and You, and Karen McManus's One of Us Is Lying.  If you care to find me on Goodreads (I'm booksandcarbs), I've written some (very) short reviews of the books above.  




Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Audible Monthly Credit(s) Report -- October 2017

I had a false start with my October audiobook credits.

I began with Jennifer E. Smith's Windfall, a YA novel wherein girl buys lottery ticket for boy who is her friend who she also is in love with, tickets pays out big, and girl and boy have lots to figure out.  It was set in Chicago, but the book didn't really feel Chicago to me.  It was a sweet story but not completely satisfying in its answers to the tough/cool questions it didn't quite pose. 

Kimberley Tait's Sweet Plastic Love might be fantastic, but five minutes in, I pressed stop and took advantage of Audible's generous return policy.  I may try to read the print or ebook edition at some point, but the narrator was not a good match for me so no listening to Sweet Plastic Love.  In the case of narrator mismatch, I find it best to abandon ship early. 

With the credit credited to my account for the above, I purchased Susan Rieger's The Heirs, an audiobook that exceeded my expectations.  Rieger structures this book so creatively.  Moving between past and present and among various family members and outliers, Rieger lets the story unfold slowly and expertly.  Very interesting characters and questions.  Pretty much loved it.

I'm already starting to think about how to spend my November credits, which will roll my way on the 12th. 

Monday, November 6, 2017

Audible Monthly Credit(s) Report -- September 2017

Playing catch up again.

Here's the lowdown on my September credits...

The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas was an excellent listen.  Joan Ashby is a brilliant writer who meets early success only to have her career nearly eclipsed by motherhood.  While a novel with this premise could slip easily into stereotypes and heavy-handedness, Wolas tackles it in a nuanced, interesting way.  Snippets of Joan's writing are interspersed throughout the text.  As a listener, I just sat back and enjoyed them, but I might have been frustrated with these "interruptions" if I were reading the print edition. I though the samples of Joan's writing helped illustrated the ways an author's life might be reflected in his/her (even) fictional work.  I'd love a chance to with others about this book, especially with those who are mothers, writers, and artists.

The Weight of Lies by Emily Carpenter did not live up to its ratings (currently 3.88 star-average on Goodreads) for me.  Lots of interesting elements here:  a mystery, a bestselling novel that may be true, a romance, two bad moms and one confused daughter, wild horses, and an old inn.  I thought it fell short.  I never felt engaged in the mystery.  I never felt like I had enough good clues or information to try to figure anything out for myself or even to care enough to.  I just sat back and listened as I was eventually told what really happened.  Okay.




Sunday, November 5, 2017

Spindrift away ...

I've made significant cuts to my Diet Coke consumption since July.  I am no longer purchasing cans of Diet Coke for my home refrigerator* and have thus eliminated 3-5 cans a day from my daily intake.  I am still allowing myself 1-2 Diet Cokes per day, mostly fountain drinks.  I'm nowhere close to giving it up (the very thought makes me feel unsteady), but I'm drinking less and savoring more.

Before you ask ... yes, I am drinking more water.  I am also seeking out low calorie beverages without artificial sweeteners.  There are a few flavors of LaCroix that I don't mind so that's entered the rotation.

Then, Modern Mrs. Darcy mentioned Spindrift a couple months ago, and I decided to track some down.  I found the four varieties featured above at Trader Joe's.  Blackberry was the best, followed by Orange Mango, followed by Lemon and Raspberry Lime (those two tie).  The fruit flavor is very vibrant, but I would appreciate just a bit more fizz.  All in all though, it's a decent, pleasant beverage even if it doesn't fill the Diet Coke-sized hole in my heart.

Here's the song I'm singing.
Give me a beat, boy, to free my soul, I sorta feel lost without my Diet Coke so I'll SpinDRIFT away.  

Any beverages to recommend?  


*The only exception to this rule is hospitality.  I am not going to invite people into my home without being able to offer Diet Coke.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Rainy Days are for Reading

I always fantasize about a rainy Saturday where everything gets canceled, and I cozy up on the couch and read for a bit.  We've had several soggy Saturdays this Fall and definitely some youth sports cancellations, but none of them have yielded much reading time.

Today was no exception.  I ended up driving my son to basketball, doing store returns in the rain, taking both boys to open skate to prep for hockey evaluations, and going to the library with my daughter.  Not a bad day by any stretch but not the stuff of fantasy.  Here's hoping for some evening reading time in front of the fire my husband just started.

Even if I haven't had much time to read today, I did manage to add to my reading pile.  I've written before about my obsession with our library's book sale room.  It is now a book sale corner but still a great place to find books for a suggested donation of $1 per book.  Today's finds are pictured above.  Something about the title of The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley did not appeal to me when the book first came out, but when I picked it up today and read the summary, I was intrigued.  The Girl Before and Every Last Lie should be good for when I'm in a suspenseful mood.  The Tumtum & Nutmeg one is the kind of book I hope my daughter will want to read one of these days.  I let her drive her own reading bus though.  She's on her second My Weirder School book of the evening with another on deck and that's a-ok.  Warms my heart to see her love books even if we don't always love the same books.

Okay, off to do my own rainy day reading ... finally. 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

I'll Push You

A friend texted me that we needed to go see a documentary she heard about.  I'll Push You is the story of two friends journeying five hundred miles on the Camino de Santiago with the plot twist that one of the friends, Justin, is in a wheelchair.  As I left the house this evening, I admittedly wished I was going to see a chick flick.  It's been a long and kind of stressful week and I thought I wanted something lighter.

I'll Push You ended up being exactly what I needed ... one more reminder of the importance of being willing to ask for and to accept help and a powerful testament to all the graces that come when you give of yourself and, and this is the part I struggle with, when you allow others to give to you. If it's showing near you, go see it.  Definitely look for opportunities to stream it in the future.  There was one joke about sex (which was no big deal), but I think he film is appropriate for upper elementary and middle school kids.  I'd like my kids to experience this story and see this amazing friendship.

One tip:  sit as far back in the theater as you can.  I tend toward motion sickness, and the filming of the wheelchair on very rugged terrain was too much for me from my second row recliner seat.  After closing my eyes quite a bit the first third of the film, I ended up standing in the entry aisle to watch the rest.  You know it's a quality film when you don't mind standing to see it.

I'm lucky to have friends who push me to watch, read, and experience things outside of my comfort zone. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Reading Roundup -- My Getaway Books!

Each October, I get away with my husband on an annual business gathering that includes spouses.  These gatherings are always in great locations and offer me rare and cherished moments of alone time to read and rest.  I read on the plane, in the hotel room, at the pool or beach, at lunch, and whenever else I feel like it.  Tis glorious.

Sometimes I feel guilty for not exploring and experiencing more, but in late October, after the stress
and craziness of back to school and fall youth athletics, I crave the relaxation time.  I'll leave the energetic exploring for the empty nesters.

Here's what I read...

My library hold for Winter Solstice rolled in five days before departure.  I managed to wait until we got to our airport gate before cracking the spine.  This book, the fourth in Hilderbrand's Winter/Christmas in Nantucket/Quinn Family series, was even better than I anticipated.  It's been a pleasure visiting Nantucket in winter and getting to know the Quinn family over these four books.  I teared up several times at the end.  My only regret?  That I couldn't hold out and read it by the Christmas tree.

I'm just going to say it ... a lot of my Book of the Month Club selections have been either underwhelming or disappointing.  I loved the cover of this one and the title (advice I've never been able to live by).  I liked Hunter's writing but, man oh man, I found this story depressing, which is okay--books with Little Debbies on the cover aren't obligated to be hopeful and fun--but not my best choice for vacation reading.  (BTW, the glass in this photo held Dr. Pepper because the very lovely hotel where we stayed offers the underwhelming, disappointing, practically detestable beverage called Diet Pepsi: Drink Only When You're Really, Really, Really Thirsty). 

I've been making my way through Angela Thirkell's Barsetshire books for about five years now.  I've purchased quite a few because of the gorgeous covers on these Virago editions.  I'd been warned that the books set in World War II have a different feel.  That's true and how could they not?  But even when it's wartime in Barsetshire, it's such a pleasure to see Thirkell's wit and powers of observation.


I love it when I learn about intriguing titles, especially "vintage reads," via #bookstagram.  Angela Brazil's The Fortunes of Philippa came to my attention thanks to the awesome bookstagrammer, les_livres_.  Could her photo above be any more inviting?  Sadly, I couldn't secure a copy of the book as beautiful as hers, but how cool is it that could I learn about a tempting book and find a 99 cent ebook edition of it within minutes?  It's a boarding school/growing up story, set in Britain.  Very sweet, very innocent, a little bit boring but still I was tickled to go from #bookstagram to #bookinhand within minutes.

And, if you can believe it, I left my ipod at home and thus did not take any long walks on my getaway.  A solitary walk without the option of an audiobook companion?  Didn't tempt me.

I will be making my yearly attempt to participate in NaBloPoMo and post every day in November.  Come back tomorrow if you can.


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Back to School Washi Works

I needed some small centerpieces for a back-to-school event and am very pleased with how they turned out.

The vase is from Dollar Tree.  The tape is the Scotch decorative masking tape (not actually washi, but same idea).  The royal blue and white one (our school colors) was already in my stash, but I purchased the school-themed tapes at Office Depot/Max.  As I always do, I purchased the market bunches of flowers at Jewel.  They didn't have the best offerings that day, but I still think the centerpieces turned out great.

Best news?  It took only minutes to wrap the tape around the vases and to cut and arrange the flowers.  For ten centerpieces, I spent $10 on vases, $25 or so on flowers, and maybe $10 on tape (with plenty leftover).

I used to wash out and save sauce jars for floral projects, but I may hold back on the hoarding in favor of these $1 vases.  I have a large collection of washi tape and can think of all kinds of cool combos for wrapping a vase.

It's very satisfying to be able to see a project to cute completion without a lot of turmoil or expense.


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Late Summer Snackshots

So there's a lot going on here and the color scheme and pattern of the packaging sort of suggest pet food, but this popcorn is delicious, addictive even.  It's not a low calorie treat.  You'll need a water or DC on hand because it's rich.  I polished off two bags and am now on a self-imposed break.  Available at Sam's Club.
 
PSA:  No!  Took one bite, took one photo, and then threw the bag away.  Shame on me for thinking mango, coconut, and caramel could create something harmonious.  Last time I saw it at Sam's, it was marked down to $1.98 for a giant bag. 

Click the Snackshots label below this post if you're interested in previous snackshots.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Audible Monthly Credit(s) Report -- July and August 2017

I ignored this writing space most of the summer so I have a lot of catching up to do.

Quick recape for my tens of readers:  I treasure the monthly ritual of choosing two audiobooks worthy of my Audible.com credits.
I was very pleased with July's credit redemptions.  Both books had been on my radar, and I enjoyed both even more than I thought I would.  Michael Frank's The Mighty Franks invited me into a family very different from my own.  Families are complicated.  Love is complicated.  I admired Frank's ability to capture the complication and the love.  To paraphrase and revise:  they'll mess you up, your aunt and uncle.

Katherine Heiny's Standard Deviation was a gem.  Marriage is complicated.  Love is complicated.  Parenting is complicated.  They're all worth it though.  Heiny gets all the little details right -- a lot of yes, yes, yes-ing as I read.  I also liked how she managed to be smartly funny without being snarky.

The Misfortune of Marion Palm by Emily Culliton was a book I had been looking forward to all summer.  Despite a promising premise, this book was just not what I wanted it to be.  The writing is good, the characters interesting, but it wasn't for me.  The missing ingredient may have been hope.

Tom Perrotta's smart and witty books have offered me many hours of Audible.com listening pleasure and Mrs. Fletcher was no exception.  I was a tad overwhelmed by the sex, porn, and MILF aspects of the book early on (as was my best friend who was also listening and texted "I am listening to Mrs. Fletcher.  Wow") but then I figured out what he was trying to do and thought he did it well.  I'd love to discuss Mrs. Fletcher and/or to eavesdrop on book club conversations about it!  

Want to know how I spent my September Audible credits?  Want to know why I am longer biting on the Audible Deal of the Days?  Want to know how audiobook listening is going without my lil green ipod?  Visit again as future posts will provide answers.






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.




Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Grocery Flower Glory

I'm still buying grocery store flowers and arranging them at home.  Life's little pleasures and etc.  I've been particularly pleased with my latest arrangements.  I don't know the names of any of these flowers, but I like how they look with my Fiesta tablecloth and my Nora Fleming pineapple mini.

I liked this floral combo so much that I posed my latest BOTM Club read next to it and posted it on Instagram -- I'm @booksandcarbs.  The BOTM insta people (@bookofthemonthclub) commented "Gorgeous shot!" with two emojis so clearly I've had a real breakthrough moment in my bookish social media career.  As for the book?  I'm enjoying Taylor Jenkins Reid's The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo very much so far, but I haven't had as many opportunities to read as I'd like.  Most of my reading has been listening and stealing moments on my iphone ebook.  Still getting adjusted to the new summer schedule of shuttling three kids to their activities.  Note my Nora Fleming margarita mini.  I promise that none of my driving around town involves drinking anything but Diet Coke. 

If you have more reading time than I, I'd recommend Taylor Jenkins Reid as a great author of summer reads -- her books are highly readable without lacking substance.  I'd start with Maybe in Another Life or One True Loves.
Back to the flowers though.  I attended a luncheon on Friday and because my birthday was closer to the honoree's than anyone else's at my table, I won the frame with table number.  I'm enjoying how perfect the framed 8 looks next to my grocery store flowers. 

Almost a week in, these flowers are still looking fabulous.  However, they smell fairly horrible now.  Something is rotten around the stems.  I can smell it as soon as I enter the kitchen (though I have been accused of being overly sensitive about scents).  And yet, I can't bring myself to toss them when they still look so good.  Would it help if I used those powder packets that come with flowers?  I usually skip that step.  Maybe someone who knows the names of these flowers could answer that question.




Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Audible Monthly Credit(s) Report -- April 2017

I was waiting for these two new releases on 4/25 and then snapped them up with my Audible monthly credits.

Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteredge ranks among my top ten audiobook experiences.  I liked the slim but powerful My Name is Lucy Barton (which I read in print) and am looking forward to its companion, Anything Is Possible.  On a whim, I recently pressed play on Strout's The Burgess Boys.  The reviews on it were just so-so and while it's not an uplifting book (at all), I enjoy hearing the Maine accent in narration and like getting a sense of Maine, a place with which I have no familiarity (with the exceptions of my son's Acadia National Park project, L.L. Bean, and the fact that Nancy Atwell--a writing guru for middle school teachers--and one of my brother's college basketball teammates are both from Boothbay Harbor, Maine). 

Fredrik Backman's Beartown.  Quick Backman recap:  Adored A Man Called Ove.  Not super into My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry.  Really liked Britt-Marie Was Here.  Very, very excited to listen to Beartown.  I love community stories, underdog stories, and, most of the time, sports stories.  Plus, it's about a hockey team.  We live in a hockey crazy town, and for years my attitude was, "Good for you, not for us."  Then, my son begged and begged, and we let him play hockey.  And then the next year his big brother wanted to play too.  They just play for teams at our local YMCA (which has a super cool, old school outdoor rink) so it's not too time-consuming or crazy intense, but it is SO FUN to watch them and I'm so glad they're experiencing the camaraderie and challenge of hockey.

There have been quite a few tempting Deals of the Day on Audible of late as well so I am sitting pretty with listening fodder.  I started listening with my ipod set at 2x about six months ago, and the increased speed has allowed me to listen to even more audiobooks!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Snackshots -- April 2017 & Important PSA

For my April snackshot, I'm sharing the Buffalo Chicken Dip I purchased at Sam's Club.  I know what you're thinking, "Oh, I have a great recipe for Buffalo Chicken Dip."  The thing is that if I made your recipe, I'd have to really acknowledge all the fatty ingredients that contribute to the dip's deliciousness.  And then, because it was "fresh," I'd have to really make a commitment to eating dip every day before it spoils.  There's a generous expiration date on this tub of dip (preservatives mixed with the fatty ingredients, I presume) so I don't have to binge.  Two or three times a week, I can zap a couple spoonfuls on dip in the microwave and enjoy with a few gluten-free crackers or tortilla chips. 

And, now, the first-ever Snackshots Public Service Announcement.  Do not bring this giant container of Jelly Belly jelly beans into your home.  Of the 49 flavors, I would estimate that I genuinely enjoy the taste of, maybe, 17 of them.  However, I made myself eat whatever assortment I scooped, including Buttered Popcorn (barf) and Coffee (not for me).  I couldn't stop eating the beans even though I only enjoyed one out of every three beans I tried.  They made me feel gross and yet I kept going back for more.  My children did not impose similar restrictions on themselves with two results.  My daughter would simple spit out jelly beans she did not enjoy, and it was fun finding them on the tablecloth and kitchen rug.  My oldest was picking and choosing without shame and thus, there was nary a red jelly bean (red is your best bet for a decent flavor) to be found once we were about halfway through.  The good news is that we're at the end.  This period of self-loathing, sickness, and disappointment is over. 

Since we're talking food, I thought I'd also share the progress I've made with the Instant Pot I ordered.

Finally, I've already told you about my love for Nora Fleming serving pieces.  Nora Fleming has a new utensil crock out on the market that I've been using as a vase for my grocery story flowers.  I love it because it makes it easy to enjoy my minis day-to-day instead of just when entertaining.  How cool is that?

What's your snack of choice these days?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Local LFL Sighting!

My neighbor invited me to walk with her after school drop-off this morning.  The result was 8,000 steps logged by 9 am, great conversation, and a Little Free Library sighting.

I've already told you about the LFL I saw in Hilton Head, the first one I spotted in LaGrange, and then the other one I found in LaGrange.  And now, I've found a second in my town of Pleasantville (aka Elmhurst, IL).  I've only driven by the first Elmhurst one I spied, but I'll take a walk there soon.  The second one has an adorable shake-ish roof and is fully stocked!  The door is slightly damaged, but there's a rubberband to help with securing it.
As ever, I played my little game:  If I really needed a book to read, which of this LFL's offerings would I choose?  Drumroll please.  I think I'd choose The Shack by William P. Young.  I haven't seen the movie, but the book sounds intriguing.  Fans of A Man Called Ove would probably be tempted by the hardcover of My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman.  I didn't love that one, but I seem to be in the minority there.  Lots of good choices for kids in this LFL.  Owl Diaries, The Princess in Black, Frindle, and the beautiful Sarah, Plain and Tall.  Still thinking about whether I'd like to have my own LFL. 

As ever, I welcome your LFL sightings and stories.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Book Ritual Updates

I love my bookish rituals each month.

You already know that I look forward to spending my Audible.com audiobook credits each month.

Let me catch you up on the other bookish rituals.

I love choosing a Book of the Month Club title each month For a while there, I was choosing more than one.  However, it's fair to say there is a BOTM Club pile-up on my shelves so those days are over.  I've also found that these are buzzed-about books that are often part of one-day ebook sales and/or easy to reserve at the library.  I'm currently enjoying Startup -- I'm not a millennial, a tech gal, or a New Yorker/Brooklynite, but it's fun to read about the scene and to have sympathy for the book's old lady (36, ahem) who's juggling career, kids, debt, and marriage woes. 

I also peruse the Literary Guild selections each monthThough there are often books on offer that I would enjoy reading, my choices are rarely among the three curated monthly selections.  Those tend to be books that don't appeal to me (AT ALL) and the discounts for additional books don't kick in unless you start with one of those three selections in your box.  Makes it easy to click "skip my monthly credits" at the beginning of each month.  The selections refresh on the 15th of the month so I always check back.  However, a few months ago, a book I was super excited about was a monthly selection.  I boxed up Jennifer Ryan's The Chilbury Ladies' Choir and Jane Harper's The Dry.  Although I am very close to my saturation point with WWII novels (not forever, just for a bit), I did like Ryan's story of community, family, romance, and friendship set in the wartime English countryside.  It's told through letters and journal entries -- all of which are way too long to be believable, but which tell a good story.  Haven't cracked the spine of The Dry yet.

I get my fix for free when I choose my Kindle First selection each month.  I've mentioned this perk before:  if you have Amazon Prime, you can choose one free Kindle First selection each month (a month before the book is published).  To be honest, I don't always read these books in a hurry (or ever), but there's nothing to be lost (except five minutes of my time) by choosing one.  Last month, I chose Laura McNeal's The Practice House (which sounds kind of creepy but also kind of good).  I surprised myself this month by selecting A Small Revolution by Jimin Han.