Wednesday, March 14, 2018

LFL Flashback!

I made a brief trip home over the weekend to visit my family, including a brand new nephew.  On Sunday morning, my sister and I walked two kiddos over to the elementary school that I attended for kindergarten and first grade (our parochial school didn't start until second grade back then).  I was excited to see this Little Free Library outside one of the school's entrances.  (Sidenote:  I've never paused to wonder if the Fairfield City Schools' mascot is still the Indian.  I guess it is.)  I really like how explicit the verbiage is on the side of this LFL:  Take a book or magazine, read it here, take it home, keep it or return it.  I find it much more inviting than the take a book, leave a book phrase I've seen on other LFLs.  Plus, there are homes where kids don't own many (or any) of their own books, and I like the idea that a child could find a book here and have the pleasure of keeping it at home forever if he or she loved it. 
This LFL is, not surprisingly, full of children's books, including plenty of books for beginning-to-be independent readers.  I would have loved to open it up and choose a book back when I was a first grader falling in love with reading.  I was a bus rider though so I'm not sure how much browsing time I would have had, though maybe this LFL can be visited during recess...

I was totally tickled to spy a copy of Sideways Stories from Wayside School because I have clear memories of my beloved first grade teacher Mrs. Huss reading this book aloud.  Here's hoping there are still copies inside the school!

Finally, as I do each time I spot a LFL, I paused to determine which book I would choose were I in need of a read.  I think I'd go with Corrie ten Boom's The Hiding Place, a true story of the Holocaust that moved me as a ninth grader.  Second choice with be The Secret Garden as a readalong with my daughter.

I hope the students of FSES are enjoying their LFL!  It makes me happy to think of it there.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Audible Monthly Credit(s) Report -- February 2018

I am killing it with my Audible book selections in 2018.  January was excellent, and I chose two winners in February as well.  If only I had some ideas for March...

If you haven't heard about Tara Westover's Educated, you will.  If you enjoyed Hillbilly Elegy or The Glass Castle, you will enjoy Educated.  Westover was kept out of public school by her parents but was not really homeschooled either.  Her story of growing up with a (likely bipolar) doomsday prepper, strictly religious father, a midwife mother with other healing gifts, and many siblings is almost unbelievable.  Imagine never seeing a doctor.  Imagine getting yelled at for rolling up your sleeves (immodest) on a hot Idaho day.  Imagine not having a birth certificate.  Abuse, shifting rules, shifting moods, shifting alliances ... her childhood is not easy.  Her family is not conventional (understatement).  And yet, they are her family, and she loves them, which makes her journey to educate herself all the more challenging and amazing.  The first time Westover ever sits in a classroom, she's a student at Brigham Young University.  Westover's writing is honest, thoughtful, and reflective.  She's not trying to sensationalize her childhood so much as she is trying to make sense of it.  Excellent.  I want to discuss it with someone.

The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances has been on my radar for a while.  It was published last year in the UK and I somehow saw a description of it.  I've been waiting patiently for it to make its way to the USA.  This is the perfect thriller for boy moms!  A mom becomes increasingly wary of her precious son's girlfriend.  It would be a fun pick for a book club that enjoys a lighter read, though the things that happen in this book and the discussion it invites are not necessarily light.

Any ideas for my March credits?

I promise the next post will not be audiobook-related.  I was just playing catch up.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Audible Oddity -- Steam Index?!

I was searching Audible last month for titles worthy of my monthly credits and paused to consider the Julia Glass title above, which is now on my Wish List.  I've read several Julia Glass novels and thought this one sounded promising.  I was taken a bit aback though to see the "steam-o-meter" below the book's details.  I'm certainly not opposed to some steam in a novel as long as it seems organic to the story.  I am not interested in a bunch of sex scenes loosely tied together with generic characters and a weak narrative frame.  If I were looking for a "steamy read" and I would say I am seldom, if ever, specifically seeking that quality in a book (though, again, I'm not opposed if steam is part of the story), Julia Glass would not be the first author that came to mind (or even the fiftieth).  I'm curious about the introduction of the "steam-o-meter" (my term, not Audible's) in general.  The playful language suggests that the meter is supposed to be a selling tool not a warning label.  I just find it odd.

So, this morning, I decided to look up some titles that I enjoyed and that I know to be steamy (though, I did not know that going in since I did not have the steam-o-meter to consult) to check and see whether a) these books were given a steam-o-meter rating and b) what that rating was.
I read Sally Thorne's The Hating Game last summer as a library ebook.  It's a very fun, love-hate office romance story with good characters.  I would agree with the "hot damn" rating.

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan is a book I recommend all the time.  It's just a perfect escape.  Great premise, lovable characters, easy to read.  Again, I agree with the "sizzling" rating.
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal is a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick and available now on Hoopla (a digital service offered by many libraries).  Despite the title (which I initially found off-putting), I downloaded the title for a weekend road trip.  This book is definitely steamy, but it's in the service of a larger narrative about culture, gender, and religion.  I thought it was great.  If I had to give it a steam-o-meter rating, I'd put it somewhere between "sizzling" and "hot damn."  I find it intriguing, however, that this book did not have a steam-o-meter rating.  Perhaps the title tells you what you need to know already? 

Here's what I know:
1)  Some titles available on have been given a steam-o-meter (my term) rating.
2)  For two books that I read that are steam-o-meter rated, I found the ratings to be accurate.

Here's what I don't know but would like to know:
1)  Who's idea was the steam-o-meter? 
2)  Who decides which books are given a steam-o-meter rating?
3)  Who's assigning the steam-o-meter rating?  (Admittedly, I did not dig around on website to see if these come from Audible editors, crowd-sourcing, etc.)
4)  Has Audible received any positive or negative feedback from authors whose books have received steam-o-meter ratings?
5)  Have any steam-o-meter books seen a spike or decline in sales?

As for me, I'm entertained/intrigued by the steam-o-meter feature but think I'd prefer to continue seeking out stories that sound good to me.  If they happen to have a steam factor, so be it, but I think I'd rather be surprised by that element of the story. 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Audible Monthly Credit(s) Report -- January 2018

I couldn't have started the year better in terms of audiobooks!  I spent both of January's credits on books narrated by their authors.  Both books were inspiring, interesting, and entertaining.

I set a walking challenge for myself this year, and these two titles got me out of the house and kept me company on some cold and snowy days. 

Clare Balding's Walking Home:  My Family and Other Rambles.  Balding is a British television sports commentator and the host of Ramblings, a radio show about walking that has been running for many seasons now.  I loved her honest, humorous, insightful description of her walks, of walking, and of her friends, her family members, and the many interesting souls she has encountered through walking.  I am envious of all the amazing walking and hiking spots in the United Kingdom!  Great inspiration for my 2018 walking challenge.

The Actor's Life: A Survival Guide by Jenna Fischer was also excellent!  The Office helped to get me through the early years of parenthood.  I'd get my little people to bed on Thursday nights and look forward to watching a new episode with my husband.  I had actually started re-watching the series in December so I was definitely in the mood to read Fischer's book.  (Side note:  I just watched the Jim and Pam wedding episode last week and cried real tears because I love them and because I remember how much the show meant to me during those exhausting, sometimes lonely years with three very little kids).  Anyway, Fischer is offering advice to people seeking a career in acting.  That's not me and never has or will be.  And yet, I found Fischer's book delightful and inspiring.  You will take risks.  You will fail.  Don't just wait for work -- find ways to create your own opportunities and projects.  Live a creative life.  I think someone interested in acting can finds lots of practical advice and encouragement here.  Anyone with a dream can find some inspiration here.  Fischer has a new show coming out, and I'm looking forward to checking it out.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Audible Monthly Credit(s) Report -- December 2017

I easily found free library audiobooks throughout December and didn't end up spending my monthly credits until Christmas Day.

Finding Jojo Moyes' The Peacock Emporium felt like a Christmas miracle!  A Jojo Moyes' book I had never read or even heard about?!  Wow!  I was excited.  The past portion of the storyline was much more intriguing than the present portion.  Some nice moments and characters I really liked, but the main character was tough to root for or even to like.  Overall, this one was just okay. 

I'm sad to report that Andrew Sean Greer's Less was a bit underwhelming as well.  There were some very funny moments and the ending was super sweet, but Arthur's journey felt slow, and I was never  that excited to press play and learn more.  As above, this one was just okay.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Snackshots PSA: Beware 'o These Beans!

You think I would have learned my lesson after our family's experience with the Kirkland container of Jelly Belly beans

But alas, learning (or not learning) lessons about food seems to be part of my life path.

Back in December, I purchased the Sam's Club container of Member's Mark Gourmet Jelly Beans, not for at home enjoyment but as part of my supply contribution to a Second Grade Moms' Gingerbread Decorating Party that I was co-hosting.  As the beans sat poised on the dining room table in the days leading up to the party, each child repeatedly asked if they could be opened and was rebuffed.  When we ended up with way more candy than the second grade moms of Pleasantville needed for their gingerbread creations, I brought the unopened vat home.

And then began a cycle of sampling, followed by disappointment and self-loathing, similar to that experienced with the Kirkland Jelly Belly vat.  The main difference is that this time the cycle was experienced with jelly beans that were, on the whole, even less delicious than the Kirkland ones.  I found the flavor guide on the Member's Mark Gourmet Beans to be unhelpful and took to avoiding certain beans that I renamed sunscreen, margarine, CVS green candle, and Pledge.  Every member of my family (and we are not discriminating snackers) remarked on the disgustingness of the jelly beans.

And yet we persisted. 

We were nearing the bottom when my middle guy caught me reaching in for another round of fruitless searching and sampling for a single tasty bean.  He wisely suggested that we throw them out, and I'm proud to report that I complied.

Of course, I saved the empty container for two months before tossing it into the recycling last week, but that's a story about another part of my life path:  the ongoing struggle with stuff.