Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Stories Behind the Sign

It's time for another edition of Fountain Drink Dissertating, but with a twist.

We spent the weekend in St. Louis and pit-stopped at a McDonald's on the way home.  I won't share the town's name, but I will tell you I've lived in Illinois since 2001 and have never heard of it before.  Not a ton going on at the exit.  I don't know what this town has to offer in any potential town square/downtown area, but McDonald's was pretty much the only game in town near the highway.

I am not at all a McDonald's hater.  Love their fountain drinks, and get a large Diet Coke from there almost every single day.  I enjoy their fries, their cheeseburgers, and breakfast burritos too.  These days, we usually only eat food from McDonald's when traveling and *maybe* one other time a month.  But again, I'm not a hater.  McDonald's has been good to me and was the location of many happy family post-mass Sunday meals during my childhood.*

On to the fountain drink dissertating...
This fountain is excellent.  First of all, it offers Coca-Cola products, which is the first requirement of an excellent fountain.  Second, it offers both Dr. Pepper AND Diet Dr. Pepper, which is thrilling to many.  Hi-C is there as a nod to the McD's "orange drink" of old.  Barq's is a solid option.  There has to be a white fizzy like Sprite.  No need for any flavored waters or strange teas (sweet and unsweet offered to the left).  I like that WATER has its own tap instead of a smaller stream from the Hi-C. 

The real story here though is not the fountain and its solid offerings, but the crazily thorough sign outlining the Drink/Refill Rules.  These rules seem reasonable (and implicit) to me, but the fact that they are so prominently displayed is intriguing.  What kind of violations were happening?  The pop in the water cup violation is an old trick.  Unfortunate, but nothing new there.  Were commuters stopping every morning to refill the same old cup?  Large families sharing a large bottomless soda among themselves?  Were people bringing in large cups or pitchers from home and bellying up to the fountain?  Enjoying their coffee in the store and then taking a Coca Cola for the road?

I'm not critiquing McDonald's for outlining this policy, more scratching my head that such a sign might be necessary!

This sign gave me something to think about for the next ten minutes of endless highway on our road trip home.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on this sign.

*The Nilles Road McDonald's in Fairfield, OH still sets the curve for service and friendliness!  When I visit my parents this summer, I will check to see if this location has instituted any such signage.  I don't even think drinks were self-serve there last time I was actually inside, but I will report back.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Monthly Credit(s) Report

Today is my inaugural Monthly Credit(s) Report wherein I disclose how I spent this month's credits.

June is National Audiobook Month so my timing on this new blog feature is perfect, NTB.  I'll post later this month about why, how, and when I listen to audiobooks, but, for now, I will just say that I love audiobooks and cannot imagine my life without them.

When spending my monthly credits, I used to try to maximize hours of listening.  This past year, I've shifted to selecting books that I think I'll enjoy the most, even if they're not as long.  Thanks to Audible's daily deals and creative sales, I almost never run out of listening material.

Here's how I spent my two monthly credits for June ... 
Easiest selection ever:  Elin Hilderbrand's Here's To Us.  I've mentioned before that I am an Elin Hilderbrand superfan.  Her books are great for listening and a true summertime treat for me.  I do own hardcovers of most of her books, and I know from experience that should I wish to, I can eventually get a hardcover of Here's To Us from my library book sale room for a dollar donation.

I'm almost finished listening to Celeste Ng's Everything I Never Told You (enjoying it more than I thought I would) and will start listening to Here's To Us tomorrow.

If I was less impatient, I might have spent my second credit on Emily Giffin's First Comes Love, but I didn't want to wait until 6/28.  Instead, I selected Nina Stibbe's Paradise Lodge.  I loved her letter collection Love, Nina (add to TBR list stat if you haven't read it) and enjoyed her quirky first novel Man at the HelmParadise Lodge is a sequel to Man at the Helm.  I'm sure I'll enjoy it, and I always love listening to books written and narrated by Brits.

Do you have monthly credits?  I'd love to hear your credit(s) report.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Literary Guild -- Sure, why not?

Back around the turn of the century, I was a member of the Quality Paperback Club.  It was like the Columbia Record Club, only less intense.  I could accept/reject the monthly selections and then add/replace with my own choices.  As a young responsible working woman, I was good about managing my account, especially once you could do it online, and don't recall being stuck with any selections without my consent.

In fact, in perhaps the greatest box of books ever conceived, I ended up with Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary, a forever favorite of mine, and Nick Hornby's About a Boy.  I had read High Fidelity only months previous, thanks to the recommendation of my cool, hip, San Fran dwelling college roommate and was eagerly awaiting About a Boy, which I ultimately adored.  I have since read pretty much every word published by Fielding and Hornby.

Yes, I know some of my QPB books have since been placed in donation boxes, but I can look on my shelves right now and see some books from those days:  Joyce Carol Oates' We Were the Mulvaneys, Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace, anthologies of Dr. Suess and Winnie the Pooh for the children who were not even a glimmer in my eye at the turn of the century, and Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible (one of those books I still haven't read, but totally mean to).  I can remember the papers graded, lessons planned, and small stuff sweated in those days to earn the paycheck that paid for extravagances like a QPB membership.

A couple of months ago, I got to wondering what had happened to the old QPB.  The web address directed me a new site,  Similar concept to QPB.  You can buy two credits each month that are good for books.  If you make a choice from featured selections, you can then bundle some additional selections at reduced prices.  Free shipping if you purchase two books.  If you choose at least one featured selection, chances are you can end up with 2-3 hardcovers for about $11-12 a piece.  Cheaper than Amazon and your bookstores, more expensive than the library.

I'm still testing it all out, so this is not really a sales pitch or endorsement (though, I've been pleased so far), just sharing in case anyone has a few dollars to spare and gets a thrill out of receiving brand new books on their doorstep.

Here's the box I received about six weeks ago ...
Anna Quindlen's One True Thing was once my favorite book.  Though I have not connected with her later works with the same intensity, I always think her writing is strong.  One thing in Miller's Valley pissed me off, one thing left me scratching my head, and then the reflections on community/home that came at the end of the book really resonated with me.  I won't tell you to rush to read it, but I certainly wouldn't stop you.
I mostly read The Widow by Fiona Barton at the pool.  I was intrigued by the character of the widow, liked the way the story was being told, but felt like the book kind of petered out instead of peaking.  I never really felt surprised.  It's a solid read, but not quite the intense page-turner I anticipated. 

Do I regret my first Literary Guild box?  Not really.  Both books are new releases I would have made an effort to read (via credit, library hold, eventual ebook deal, etc.).
I'm a little dismayed, however, to be among the "target demographic" of Literary Guild, at least insofar as that demographic is defined by the box's inserts:  Life Alert, lifelike baby dolls, AARP life insurance, hair removal, and a cat food sample.  Um, nailed it.

I made some June selections for Literary Guild last week.  I'll post a pic of the box when it arrives. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Movie Madness

I love movies, but I don't watch many.  I'm too restless to spend two hours on the couch unless I have a big pile of laundry or some other mindless chore to do.  Plus, when and if I decide to watch a movie, I can never seem to find a single one that suits my mood, even though the list of movies I haven't seen is endless.  

Hard to believe then, that I watched 3.3 movies in less than a week!  I'm on a roll, friends. 

Here's the recap ...

The Intern
I watched this movie in two parts, last Tuesday and Wednesday.  Starring Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro, this film was easy to watch and had some heart.  I've heard tell of some Hathaway-haters out there, but I'm not among them.  I think she has a beautiful and expressive face, and I like the way she is awkward and graceful at the same time.  The Intern is not going to change your life, but it makes you think about marriage, gender roles, and "having it all."  I thought the premise of this movie, senior citizens as interns, was really cool.

Love and Friendship
My friend Natalie and I are on the same narrative wavelength (superfans of Pride and Prejudice and Gilmore Girls, not that these preferences make us unique) and try to see a movie together every few months.  We knew we had to see Love and Friendship, inspired by Jane Austen's Lady Susan, before it left theaters.  A foursome of senior citizens left the movie about twenty minutes in, grumbling about refunds.  There are many characters and a lot of dialogue so maybe they found it confusing, but I was really delighted with it.  Great casting, performances, and costumes.  Plus, I thought it was a hoot.    

I haven't read Lady Susan and feel like the film must have taken some license, but I'm not a purist when it comes to this kind of thing.  Natalie found a free Kindle edition of Lady Susan so we can read it and see how the movie and text match up.

Only downside was that the theater offered Pepsi products, but, silver lining, their poor beverage offerings kept me from overdoing it on the popcorn.  

Me Before You
Some friends and I were planning to see this long-awaited movie but no firm plan was in place.  I sent a few texts less than two hours before show time.  One friend and her mother-in-law came from Chuck E. Cheese.  Three of us arrived soggy from rainy soccer games.  One friend was still in her pajama pants.  We all loved it.  The casting was perfection.  The British setting was gorgeous.  My only criticism was that Louisa's backstory was not as fully developed as in the book, but I can see how that storyline would be challenging to translate on screen without being super duper dark.  I definitely cried but did not experience the cleansing but ugly, ugly, ugly cry that occurred when I finished the book.  I'd see it again.

Just as great as the movie was the fact that five people could enjoy it together spur-of-the-moment on a rainy Saturday afternoon.  So you wanna see a movie?  Pick a time, text some friends, and see what happens.  Forget exchanging a hundred emails about preferences and availability.

I mentioned that I watched 3.3 movies.  The .3 was Magic Mike.  I suffered a weird vertigo/seasickness episode during this movie when I pressed pause and got up to move laundry from the washer to dryer.  The first third of the movie was fine, but I doubt I'll ever watch the rest as I now associate it with a nauseous feeling that actually had nothing (?) to do with the movie.  I'll never know if Mike gets the loan for his furniture business.  I watched enough to know that if I were ever at a male strip show, I would not be able to stop laughing and/or hiding my face.

Illness aside, I'm assuming I could have found something better than Magic Mike to watch from my couch.  Any suggestions?  

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Nobody's Fool, Everybody's Fool

Thanks to the Half-Price books price tag I never removed, I can see that I likely first read Richard Russo's Nobody's Fool sometime in late 2000 or early 2001.  During that time period, I was teaching high school English in suburban Cincinnati.  I had recently completed my M.A. in English and was contemplating a big change (that I would later end up making) and dating my now-husband long distance.

Here are some thoughts on Nobody's Fool (I am copy/pasting from my own Goodreads), which I awarded five stars: 

The first thing you need to know about Nobody's Fool is that I've read it three times over the past two decades. With bulging bookshelves, a fully-stocked Kindle, and an ever-growing TBR list, I am only going to reread books that I really love. Is Nobody's Fool a book you could love as well?  Depends, I guess. Russo is the master at depicting life in a small, sad, depressing town peopled with citizens who are imperfect, frustrating, and often unattractive (in various ways). And yet, his books are not depressing. They are funny and true stories of friendship, family, and community -- a pageant of flawed but recognizable and often lovable humanity.   His novels are funny even when they are sad. Now that I'm finished (again), I can crack the spine on the long-awaited sequel, Everybody's Fool. If you are an audiobook listener, I highly recommend Ron McLarty's narration of Nobody's Fool: exquisite.
Here's my copy of Everybody's Fool, purchased sixteen years after my copy of Nobody's Fool.  Boyfriend is now my husband.  Three kids now, all old enough to be readers themselves.  Big career change made and then (more or less) abandoned.  You might also be interested to know that in the years between Nobody's and Everybody's Fool, my sister met and married a guy from the neck of the woods where these novels are set.  She lives outside Saratoga Springs, NY, which has to be the model for the fictional Schuyler Springs of Russo's novels.  I've been there, NTB.  All of previous is not necessarily relevant to my thoughts on the book, just me wanting to mark the passage of time.  

My thoughts on the long-awaited Everybody's Fool, which I awarded four stars on Goodreads:

I wish Everybody's Fool contained more Sully, but there was enough that I felt like I knew how far (and not far) he'd come since Nobody's Fool and was satisfied with the updates received on Sully and  his friends and frenemies. Everybody's Fool focused more on Doug Raymer.  Though a minor and unmemorable (to me) character in the first book, I really liked Raymer's character and storyline in this book. Everybody's Fool is darker than the first book, but still funny and ultimately more hopeful than bleak. Regrets? I'd have liked to see more glimpses of Sully's son Peter and grandson Will. Annoyances? A couple of plot points don't line up between the two books: the timing of the end of Ruth/Sully's relationship and the timing of Big Jim's death (this is not a spoiler as the event is past history in both books and not integral to the plot -- but still, I like things to be consistent and it seems like something an editor would catch. Maybe Russo is so talented that he doesn't get edited?). I remain a Richard Russo superfan and look forward to whatever he offers next. 
As a Richard Russo superfan, I urge you to try one of his books if you've never.  Where to start?  Nobody's Fool is as good a place as any or perhaps the Pulitizer Prize-winning Empire Falls.  If you've spent any time in a humanities graduate program, you should try Straight Man (another book that I have read three times), a campus comedy centered around an English professor.  Once you fall in love with Russo's writing and have a few of his novels under your belt, read his memoir, Elsewhere.   
Here's the fancy new copy of Nobody's Fool that I spied at Costco.

Richard Russo is one of my all-time favorites.  Who are some of yours?