Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sunday Salon: Ode to the Audio

 Good morning everyone!  Before I started writing my post this morning, I was scanning through my reader and saw that Rhapsody Jill was chatting about audiobooks.  June is officially Audiobook Month so I thought I'd brazenly steal her idea and talk a little bit about this mode of reading that has changed my life.  But first...

A few words about my week.  It was fairly low-key.  My son was invited down to Fort Myers Beach with a friend for a week and my BFF went on vacation so my daughter and I have been hanging.  A little time at Andre's, a little time at an adoption event, a little time bingeing on the TV series "Fargo" (finished it and now have convinced my hubby to watch it), a little time at the mall spending a gift card or two.  I went to the Ritz Carlton Spa for the entire day on Friday, using a gift card from my husband to get a massage and lay by the spa pool all day with my book.  OMG!  So freaking awesome.

I also took my daughter to our hairdresser for a cut and a highlight.  When we got there, she turned to me and said "I think I need to REALLY get a cut.  My hair is driving me crazy".  Lo and behold, we figured out that she had a solid 10-12 inches that could go, so off it went and was quickly bundled and shipped to Locks of Love.  Plus I think she looks awesome.

So on the topic of audiobooks.  Not telling you anything that you haven't heard before.  But with the exception of my recent obsession with TV series, I almost never sit down.  I'm driving my kids around, running errands, cleaning the house, messing with the pool, doing yard work, or cooking.  Back in the day, I might read 3 printed books a month.  Enter the library audio and the 160 gig iPod my husband bought me.   Once I learned how to load the discs (not a simple feat, that) I went on a rampage.  Now I could "read" those 600 page books!  I went through five of the Outlander books (before I burned out).  Stephen King came back into my life!  I actually wanted to go on long walks.  I didn't mind cleaning the house.  This worked.

With it came trials and errors.  Earbuds were an issue...I learned that I needed the ones that hook over my ears.  I had to learn how to listen and absorb info.  I had to get over the fact that you couldn't take notes (easily anyway) and that I didn't have the luxury of paging back and reminding myself of the character names, dates and such.  I quickly became opinionated on which narrators I liked and which I didn't, and who did a terrible job at figuring out pronunciations.  I learned that I preferred the blurb at the end of each disc telling me which disc came next (if the discs aren't digitally labelled it was easy for me to forget where I was).  I didn't like too many sound effects.  I like multiple narrators.  I discovered audios don't work well on vacations.

Here are my favorite audios that I've listened to this year, all five stars:

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage - Ann Patchett
We Are Water - Wally Lamb
Five Days at Memorial - Sheri Fink
Native Son - Richard Wright
Every Day - David Levithan
Wild - Cheryl Strayed
The Martian - Andy Weir
Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell
Someone Else's Love Story - Joshilyn Jackson

So what was I listening to this week?  I finished up Ann Patchett's "This is the Story of a Happy Marriage" which was phenomenal.  I could see reading this more than once.  Just insightful, emotional, even frame-worthy thoughts on writing, the freedom of choosing what you want to read, finding love, dogs and grandmothers, book tours, etc. and all narrated by the author.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!  I am now about halfway through Michael Koryta's latest "Those Who Wish Me Dead", which is a very tense, action-packed plot.

In print I finished Karen White's "Strangers on Montague Street", the third in that series and probably my favorite of the three.  I'm still hoping that the adorable Ms. White will pull this story together.  Not sure how much longer I can deal with this love story that is rife with self-flagellation, self-deprivation and misunderstandings!  I'm now nearly half-way through Mara Leveritt's flabbergasting account of a farcical murder case in West Memphis, "Devil's Knot" (the book was a birthday gift from my son).  Stories like this make you scared to live in America.

So, wow.  Long post.  Are you still here?  LOL.  Hope you all have a lovely Sunday, filled with World Cup, a book, family and relaxation! 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sunday Salon: Celebrating another year of life

Good morning friends!  I'm slightly groggy this morning after celebrating another year of life yesterday.  We spent the weekend over at New Smyrna Beach, where friends have a condo.  We come over here a couple times a year (usually once around my birthday) and it just confirms the fact that we need to move over here for good once the kids head off to college.  What a great little town.  Anyway, on "my" day yesterday, I went for a long walk with my audiobook in the morning, I sat on the beach and read, watched a little World Cup, then went out with our friends.  Being over here is good for the soul.  Living in Florida doesn't always suck.

Fishbowl gin & tonic at Spanish River Grill

My view this morning

Besides the beach, though, it was a relatively uneventful week.  My daughter and I have been going to Andre's for his morning women's class and my son has been going to a later class with the hard core group.  My daughter has started her morning cross country runs.  I very bravely made a trip to the outlets with my daughter for various shopping needs (a horrid thing, but good deals).  And a week wouldn't be complete with one or two doctor appointments.

I can't believe we are heading into the late part of June already.

On audio I finished up Ben Winters' "Countdown City", the second of three installments that combine a police procedural with the impending apocalypse.  It's really good fun, which sounds twisted, but whatever.  I have faith that the asteroid will not hit earth and end our days.  We will find out for sure in the third installment "World of Trouble" which comes out mid-July.  I'm now about halfway through Ann Patchett's "This is the Story of a Happy Marriage", a collection of essays that she has written over the years for various magazines.  It is really wonderful.  She covers it all...marriage, divorce, writing, dog ownership, aging.  She narrates it herself, and does a great job.  It reminds me so much of "Too Many Candles, Plenty of Cake" by Anna Quindlen (and I always get these two confused).

In print I finished Uncle Stevie's "Mr. Mercedes", and I thoroughly enjoyed it, giving it four stars on Goodreads (if I could have I would have given it 4.5 stars).  Ti asked me why not five stars?  I guess my benchmark for Stephen King novels is "11/22/63".  Blew my mind, it was clever, it was heartfelt, it just made my brain buzz.  "Mr. Mercedes" did not.  The ending was a little too perfect.  But it entertained me, made my heart pound, and made me love the characters.  I'm pretty jacked that it is a trilogy, so I'll see those characters again.  Then I moved on to Karen White's "The Strangers on Montagu Street", which is the third installment of the Melanie Middleton series.  I do find these books a little predictable and silly, but I do like them.  And so far I think this one is my favorite.

Today I'm planning on another long walk, some beach time, and some fit-throwing and belligerence when my husband insists on going back home.  I don't want this to end yet!  Hope everyone has a great Sunday!    

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sunday Salon: Celebrating Dads

 Hey there!  Remember me?  Been a couple weeks since I've been around.  Summer is in full swing, and I've lost all control over my time.  I'm just riding the crazy river at this point.

So before I start talking about stuff, I want to honor all the dad's out there, particularly my husband (who is half-crazy from my kids but is such a dedicated father) and my own.  My dad has worked hard all his life - still does - and I believe has given me a sense of work ethic and tenacity.  He also has a huge heart and makes friends wherever he goes.  Today is all about them.  We are going to go to church and a brunch for my hubby, and then we will see what he wants to do.  He may want to golf, but then again he may want to watch World Cup!  Today he gets his way.

Last week my son and I drove the crappy drive up to Atlanta so he could compete in the National History Bee.  He and two other kids in his class qualified individually at the Regionals, and then they also formed a team for the team competition.  And hey, it was a good experience.  They really didn't do much to prepare...they are just kids that have an interest and learn things on their own.  I'm a little amazed at what my son actually knows.  Up there we saw a whole different breed of kid.  Ones that have been preparing for the last year, with crazy, wild-eyed, intense parents.  Ones that were cramming on AP books in between rounds, while our kids played their Game Boys.  Ha!  Anyway, the hotel charged $20 a day for Internet, which is very annoying, so this is why I didn't post last Sunday.

For that reason, I also wasn't able to immediately dive right in and start watching Orange is the New Black Season 2.  Drove me half insane!  I made up for it once I got home, and finished the season a couple of days ago.  Man I LOVE that series!  That last episode was incredible.  I can't even cope with the idea that I have to wait, what?  Another year for Season 3?  Gah!  Also season finale coming up for Game of Thrones tonight.  I've read this is going to be a humdinger.  After that I guess I have to wait until October for The Walking Dead?  I suppose I will fill my time watching Bates Motel, but it isn't as compelling as these other shows.

So!  Stephen King just released "Mr. Mercedes", which I grabbed on the day it came out, and I'm close to 300 pages in.  (I got temporarily diverted by the trip to Atlanta and OITNB but now I'm back on the case.)  I'm really enjoying it.  Nobody can tell a story quite like Uncle Stevie.  But I hear that this is the first of a trilogy!  I had no idea.  Trilogies annoy the hell out of me, primarily because it is such a money-grabbing trend.  But I can forgive Stevie because this is not his normal move.

I've also been working on "The Last Policeman" and "Countdown City" by Ben Winters on audio.  This is the TRILOGY about a cop solving crimes while the world goes to hell because an asteroid is scheduled to hit Earth in the near future.  Interesting premise.  Not the absolute best stuff around but I find the world-building fascinating.  Plus you just have to know if the thing really hits and what happens!

I've been gearing up for my birthday, which is next weekend.  We went out this past Friday night with friends (the BFF's birthday was June 2), and I'm hoping to get some beach time soon.  Hey, I don't mind getting older.  I'm going to celebrate every year I'm here.

Wishing everyone a great Father's Day and a great Sunday.  Happy World Cup watching, Game of Thrones watching, book reading, and relaxing.    


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sunday Salon: In Transition

 Don't think that by this week's post title that you will be reading a wearisome, "I'm finding myself" post where I'm turning from a caterpillar into a butterfly or some such crap.  By transition, I mean that this week was simply the in-between from school to summer.

As I told you all last week, the boy is done.  The girl had her finals this week, which is always...interesting.  Glass half-full, nothing is more important to my daughter than her grades.  Which is why there was more than one fight in the house, dare the rest of us disturb her focus.  Yes, I know she is taking the hardest classes they offer her, but she is a bit high-strung.  It works for her I guess, because she not only got A's in every one of her classes but aced all the finals as well.  I'm pretty proud of her.

My parents flew back to Indiana on Tuesday and my husband went out of town on business on Wednesday, so I had the little darlings all to myself.  I like the summer, the relaxed is a nice change of pace.  This summer the girl has an obnoxiously huge amount of summer work to do for her 3 AP classes next year, she is going to try to pack in some serious volunteer hours at the shelter, do some running with her cross country team, and is going to get more hours of driving experience before she gets her license in August.  The boy will have some reading to do, and will need to decide if he is playing football in high school (if he does, there will be conditioning starting in another week or so).  Just enough to keep them from being too lazy.

I signed up for a 30 day Ab challenge on Facebook that goes for the entire month of June.  Did anyone see that?  I figure it can't hurt.

I started watching the TV Series "Bates Motel", per the encouragement of my daughter.  She and I are also (slowly, maddeningly) finishing up the last four or five episodes of "The Walking Dead", in preparation for Season 5 in October.  And this Friday, we get a new season of "Orange is the New Black"!!! I am SO excited.  We have just a few more weeks of "Game of Thrones".  Never in a million years did I think I'd watch so much damned TV.  My son and I watched "Prisoners" on HBO this past week, starring Hugh Jackman but also many other A-list actors, and it was fantastic.  Way better than any of my expectations.  If you get a chance to watch it, definitely do that.

Anyway, for all of THIS going on this past week, my focus is slightly off with reading and reading blogs.  Since I always seem to have a kid in my car or a kid walking with me these days, I have had little time with audio, but I'm within a half hour of finishing "Five Days at Memorial", which is phenomenal.  It is about the five days at Memorial Hospital in NOLA after Katrina, the conditions, and the choices made by the doctors to care for the critically ill patients.  This is what non-fiction is all about, guys.  And in the hands of narrator Kirsten Potter, who is a favorite, it is a complete package.

I finished Anne Carter's (Pam Ripling) "Unmasking Paulie Bingham", a love story...sort of...about a bi-sexual glam rocker and the love of his life, Kate.  But it is so much more.  It almost defies description, and is unlike anything else I've ever read, so.  Check out my review.  Anyway, there is a sequel to this book called "For the love of Katrina Bingham", so I quickly downloaded that one and will finish that one soon.  I'm pretty attached to these characters.  In between these two books I read "Blankets" by Craig Thompson, the graphic novel I've been hearing about forever.  Wonderful book.  Now I know why everyone loved it.

Not sure what is on the agenda today.  It is just as hot and humid as it could be down here, so I'm not really anxious to get out in it, but I may have to appease my husband and golf with him.  Whatever happens, I know it will end with "Game of Thrones" and that is good enough for me.