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.