Audiobooks Revisited

Remember when I said I had a love/hate relationship with audiobooks?  It was a while ago, I know.  A lot has happened since then.  A lot.  And then some.  But anyway, I decided I wasn’t into audiobooks at that time.  But I’m older and wiser now, and I’ve decided I really like audiobooks.  And I’ve discovered it’s really good at keeping bad thoughts away.  If I’m working on something that doesn’t require a ton of concentration my mind wanders and that’s not a good thing.  I muse on things I shouldn’t, so the soft drone of the audiobook keeps me from going to those dark places.  So, here’s what I’ve been listening to lately.

Michael Connelly

I love the Bosch Series.  It’s my favorite Amazon Original and LA noir is always up my alley.  And I was stoked to hear they’re going to spin it off and focus on Bosch and Maddie because, in my opinion, the father-daughter relationship was the best part of the later seasons.  So, I got the most recent Bosch audiobooks even though I’ve already seen some of the story lines on the show.  I gotta say, the show really improved on the books.  (Sorry, the-book-is-always-better people.)  Not this time.  Bosch is a hard cookie in the books and doesn’t have many personal relationships.  I think the Bosch on the show is much more likeable and the cast of characters around him is so much more enjoyable on the show.

I also binged the Lincoln Lawyer series.  I enjoyed Mickey Haller’s legal thrillers, although the court scenes do get a bit long.  I like how Michael Connelly explains what’s going on without talking down to the reader.  I know a good bit more about police procedure and trial lawyer tactics than I would otherwise.

The Virgin River Series

The Netflix series premiered late last year, and I needed something to listen to, so I decided to do these simultaneously.  It was actually an enjoyable experience.  The series departs wildly from the books so they’re really two different experiences.  I’m not normally one for romance books but these were good.  I recommend them for a light read but like many series, it started to get repetitive.  I got to the fifth book and decided I’d had enough romance.  But I’m looking forward to the second season of the show because you really can’t go by the books, and I need to see what happens to Jack. 

There were also some good one-offs like When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger.  It was just a good romp and I think I enjoyed it more when it was being read by someone in the characters’ voices.  Another was The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand.  Same case.  But a book like Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James could only be tolerated as an audiobook.  Life’s too short to read Jane Austen and it’s really too short for Jane Austen sequel books. 

So, I’m on the next one.  Happy listening, y’all.

Book Review: Broken (in the best possible way) by Jenny Lawson

What is there to say about Jenny Lawson?  She’s just great.  Really.  There aren’t many authors who can make me actually laugh out loud.  In fact, she might be the only one.  But I did while reading her newest memoir, Broken (in the best possible way), often and long.  She has a singular talent to make the mundane absolutely hilarious.

I’d been waiting for this book because I loved her first memoir Let’s Pretend This Never Happened.  I love to read about people who are struggling but make it funny.  Because we’re all struggling in some way, maybe not the way she is but we can all understand it.  When she describes her battles with depression, I get it.  Especially when she said it makes her feel “scooped out.”  I’ve actually used those words myself.  Virtual five!  So, yeah, we’ve all been there in some way as evidenced by all the mortifying slips of the tongue and misunderstandings submitted by the Twitterverse.  And I love the stories about her childhood and her conversations with her husband Victor. 

She understands the universal truth that we need to laugh and cry and laugh again because we’re all just doing the best we can.  Sometimes we’re scared and sometimes we just do it anyway and sometimes we can’t get out of bed in the morning but then we get up the next day.  She has more struggles than some, but she captures the ebb and flow of life in amusing and entertaining essays. 

I may not be buying any of her products from Shark Tank, but I will be buying her next book.  I wish you well, Jenny.  Be safe and take care and keep doing what you do.  You’ve got a fan in me.  Five enthusiastic stars.

Thanks to Goodreads giveaways for the ARC of this book.

Reading Roundup – The Buzz

This post (no comments about the length of time since the last one) is dedicated to the books I’ve read recently because there was buzz about them.  You know how they show up everywhere because some famous person has them in a “book club”?  Yeah, I usually don’t get pulled in by that, but a few times I did.  With varying results.

Writers & Lovers by Lily King

Let’s head back to summer 2020 (oh, come on, you’re not that traumatized) to when I picked up this little book.  There’s really not a lot to say about this book because not much happens. A girl waitresses at a fancy restaurant. Then she writes some. Then she goes on dates with two different guys. Then she worries about her finances. And then she sells her book, ta-da! And all her problems are solved because her book is the best one ever written, and she can name her price, and everybody can shut up about how she should have given up and gotten a real job a long time ago. This book just felt like some writer’s fantasy.  It was not the least bit realistic or interesting for that matter.  Because it doesn’t happen that way.  It really doesn’t.  I only finished this one because it was short.  I don’t recommend it.

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

The cover got me on this one.  It’s just so intense and melancholy and beautiful.  And it was everywhere on Goodreads, so I gave it a go.  It’s definitely not something I would normally pick up but I’m really glad I did.  A story about a teen who starts a sexual relationship with her teacher and then a decade later has to decide if she was a willing participant or a victim could easily go melodramatic.  I can see many a YA book going full A Fault in Our Stars on that, but this one didn’t.  I was pleasantly surprised to read about a fully rendered character dealing with a difficult situation.  I totally got the mixed emotions, the need for acceptance, the absolute vulnerability of that age.  And the questions about what would make you a victim.  What part did Vanessa actually play and what is her culpability?  It was written with grace and understanding and even though I’ve never been in any situation like that, I got it.  Kudos to Ms. Russell for a graceful book about a really tough subject.  I’d recommend it but give a caveat about teen sexual abuse.

The Holdout by Graham Moore

I went for this one because I love mysteries and crime novels and the occasional legal thriller.  This one was billed as all three because it’s about a jury who got sequestered on a super high-profile case ten years ago and are coming back together to do a documentary on the case.  But then one of them ends up dead.  The titular holdout is our narrator Maya who convinced her fellow jurors that the defendant was not guilty.  We go back and forth between the past and present as Maya tries to clear her name for the other juror’s murder.  I finished this book but just barely.  It started off all right but quickly went off the rails.  The premise stretched credulity to begin with, but by the end I was rolling my eyes.  I’ve read a lot of mysteries and this one just doesn’t hold up.  Sorry, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

I hate a book with an agenda.  I’m really confused as to what was supposed to be the focus of this book.  We’ve got a lot of characters all vying for our attention, but no one who’s really our POV.  We’ve got the interplay between the privileged suburban family and the itinerate bohemian artist and her daughter who blow into town and cause some strife, but that storyline was really cliched.  And there’s the whole story of the white family trying to adopt a Chinese girl while her mother tries to win her back after abandoning her.  I can’t reconcile how these two storylines were supposed to fit together.  Were the Richardsons villains and Mia and Pearl heroes?  Were we supposed to pull for the Chinese woman to get her daughter back from the white couple because they would cut the baby off from her birth culture?  The author left these things open, but I feel like there was a “right” answer lurking beneath the surface.  Maybe I just didn’t get it, but this is one Reese’s Book Club pick I wish I had skipped.

So that’s what I have for the talked-about books I’ve dabbled in.  Since three out of four didn’t hit the spot it’s safe to say there probably won’t be many posts about buzzy books.  I’m guess I’m just too contrary for the mainstream.

Until next time (no, I don’t know when that will be, stop asking) happy reading, y’all!

Reading Round Up: End of Summer

It might be the unofficial start of fall this weekend but it’s still plenty hot here in SC.  I’m planning to stay inside and read my Book of the Month books if they get here in time.  Fingers crossed.  Here’s some reviews so you can start planning your weekend reading.

When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisburger

I never read The Devil Wears Prada but I saw the movie so I figured I could read this sequel with no problem.  And I was right.  I listened to the audiobook and while that’s not my preferred method, I absolutely loved this presentation.  This book is delightfully bitchy.  It’s like a girl-talk gossip session with no guilt because the people aren’t real.  I wouldn’t want to know Emily Charleton in real life, and I think she makes some bad decisions but she’s a thoroughly entertaining book character.  And getting even with a man who does a woman wrong was an unusually satisfying plot.  This book wasn’t really relatable in the details of the people’s lives, (Upper class NYC and Greenwich bunch) but you know people like this wherever you are.  I’m sure of it.  Because we all have a little bit of bitch in us.  If you’re looking for pure escapism, I recommend it.

Her Last Flight by Beatriz Williams

New Beatriz Alert!  If you’ve been reading this blog, you know I love Beatriz Williams and will preorder anything she writes.  It’s rare to find an author who can do it all and this one didn’t disappoint.  It focuses on a female aviator in the early twentieth century a la Amelia Earhart.  I wasn’t sure that would interest me, but in Ms. Williams’ capable hands it kept me turning pages.  Janey, a journalist, tracks down the missing aviatrix Irene Foster in Hawaii.  An exotic setting, beautiful writing, and characters with ulterior motives make this a compelling read.  If you haven’t checked out her books, you need to.  I recommend this one.  Obviously.

A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight

I wasn’t that impressed with Kimberly McCreight’s earlier work Reconstructing Amelia, but when her new book came up on Book of the Month, I thought I’d give her another chance.  And I’m so glad I did.  A Good Marriage is part mystery, part legal thriller, and part domestic drama.  A lawyer gets pulled in by a client she’s apprehensive about representing while clinging to a crumbling marriage.  I was super impressed that she wrote a 400 pager and managed to avoid the soggy bottom.  The characters felt real and developed and I didn’t feel cheated by the ending.  So, a big win for Ms. McCreight.  I’ll be keeping her on my radar, and I recommend this one for sure.

The Last Flight by Julie Clark

This was a Book of the Month dice roll.  Historically, that hasn’t worked out too well for me but this time I’m happy to report it did.  This wasn’t your typical mystery.  Two women trying to escape bad situations meet in a chance encounter where one ends up assuming the identity of the other.  But she has no idea what awaits her when she starts trying to live someone else’s life.  It makes you think about just how hard it is to disappear in the modern world and how appearances are usually deceiving.  I found both sides of this story engaging and enjoyed the plot twists.  I’d pick it up if you’re spending your weekend avoiding the heat.

Stay cool and enjoy the holiday.  And as always, happy reading y’all!

Reading Roundup: Yikes

It’s that time again.  That’s right, Reading Roundup!  Wha, wha!  So, in accordance with the current state of affairs in this world this post is dedicated to being negative.  These are the books I’ve wasted time on recently.  Will I be recommending them to anyone?  Spoiler: no.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Thank God I got this from the library because I’d be demanding my money back.  I thought this might be an enjoyable read for a long weekend what with its magic and lost manuscripts and forbidden love.  It might have been if I was really into descriptions of dusty manuscripts and libraries and wine and yoga and wine and tea and more wine.  If he’s a vampire and all he really likes is blood, why does he have so much wine?  And why does this author think we want to read about characters doing nothing but drinking wine and going to yoga and riding horses and hanging out in the library and drinking WINE?  Our main character is pretty chill for somebody who’s in immediate danger.  Is she in danger?  Yeah, I couldn’t really tell so I gave up.  Don’t waste your time and please don’t waste your money.

The Hilarious World of Depression by John Moe

The title is ironic because depression isn’t hilarious.  Or is it?  Let me tell you what isn’t hilarious: this book.  If you’re looking for funny memoirs by people who suffer from mental illness, allow me to direct you to Carrie Fisher or Jenny Lawson.  While this book does have some good info about depression and it may help those “normies” out there understand our old friend “Clinny D” a little better, it just wasn’t that interesting.  He really lost me in the middle when he spent a lot of time on how his brother’s suicide affected him.  I’m sympathetic, but I just didn’t get how that really had to do with his depression.  All of his reactions sounded just like any person dealing with something that horrific.  I’ve seen BuzzFeed articles with tweets and Insta’s about depression that are way funnier than this book.  And if you’ve been there, you know you need a sense of humor to get through it.  A dark sense of humor, but a sense of humor, nonetheless.

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

I usually love Lisa Jewell’s books and I bought this one thinking I’d like it too.  But it just didn’t cut it.  It was a strange book.  There was a family, but they didn’t live upstairs.  They lived locked in a house and they were a cult or trying to be a cult.  And a baby disappeared back then and now she’s an adult playing the violin on the street in France… or something?  Yeah, this book was just a mess.  It was really hard to follow and not very interesting.  I’m surprised I made it all the way through actually.  For a good time, see other Lisa Jewell books.

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

I’m puzzled as to why this is getting made into a TV series.  I know Big Little Lies is awesome and deserves an HBO series, but this book really isn’t thought-provoking or funny or even interesting.  The characters come together for what they think is a wellness retreat but actually it’s the experiment of a wacky Russian-Australian doctor who started to resemble The Brain from Animaniacs more than a legitimate villain.  Don’t think that was what Ms. Moriarty was going for.  I didn’t make it through this one.  Just watch Big Little Lies.  Trust me.

All right, you kids be safe and don’t watch the news.  See you next time and happy reading!

Social “Meania”

Media may keep us all connected, but it isn’t making a better world.  It isn’t making us more enlightened.  It’s just making us meaner.

The news since February has been bad.  And I don’t mean the events they’re reporting on, I mean the things that are said, the way they say it, and the way it’s skewed.  Everything is geared toward making you afraid of your environment, your federal and local governments, and your own neighbors.  To hear the news tell it, we’re all bad people.

And it isn’t just official news media.  All of us regular people are doing it to.  Whether it’s on your Facebook page, your Instagram, your Twitter, you can’t say anything at all without someone somewhere letting you know that you’re the problem.

YOU are a bad (or whatever insulting, demeaning word you want) person.  YOU are this country’s problem.  YOU are your neighbor’s problem.  YOU are responsible for the actions of everyone else.  There is no personal responsibility.  We are all just a lump sum of whatever people group we’ve been assigned to by the media and we are to be judged as such.

The ugly truth is we’ve made ourselves afraid.  The news may have started it, but now we’re all culpable in spreading the fear.  And we’ve got to stop.  Take a breath and stop talking.  There is no voice of reason right now, not yours not mine not theirs.

This rant doesn’t apply to one side of politics or the other, one news media outlet, or any one person or people group.  It applies to everyone.  Me, you, everybody.

We are all hypocrites in some way.  We are all flawed.  We’re all just people doing the best we can.  We all need to give ourselves a break and give everybody else a break.

Reading Roundup: Out on a Limb

It’s that time again.  That time when I realize I haven’t written anything for this blog in a long time and I start kicking myself.  It’s also that time when I realize no one’s actually waiting for this blog so I stop kicking myself.  But all the same here’s some reviews.  I chose to cover the ones over the past six months that I went out on a limb for, meaning they aren’t my usual fair.

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

A girl gets a free ride to Yale because she can see ghosts.  Um, what?  I took a chance on this one from Book of the Month and I’m really glad I did.  Trust me it all makes sense when you get into the world of Alex Stern.  She reluctantly takes a position monitoring the secret societies of Yale who don’t just party.  Alex has the ability to see ghosts which is really useful when you’re policing frat boys dabbling in the occult.  And when a town girl is murdered, she’s the one with the heart to pursue the case.  This is intended as a series and I actually can’t wait to see what happens to Alex and Darlington.  It’s a little bit Harry Potter and a little bit Veronica Mars and I’m in.

The Banker’s Wife by Cristina Alger

This one is half whodunit and half international espionage.  I’m not usually a big spies and governments fan but this one was okay.  Our character Annabel is a naïve wife of a banker who goes missing.  Determined to find out what happened to him, she’s pulled into a web of high finance and offshore accounts.  Unknowingly aided by Martina, an intrepid journalist, she risks her life with terrorists and blood money.  I listened to the audiobook and enjoyed it.  I would recommend it, but I enjoyed Alger’s new novel Girls Like Us more.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katerine Arden

In January I was in the mood for something completely different, so I got this one from the library.  Set in a fantasy medieval Russia, this story reads like a fairy tale where a girl must fight for her identity and to save her village.  Like all fairy tale stepmothers, Vasilisa’s is cold and unloving and against anything having to do with the old magic.  But it’s the old magic that Vasilisa must tap into to stop the evil that’s threatening her home.  Rich language and tons of atmosphere make this a fun read for a cold winter night.  I recommend it if you’re looking for something off the beaten path.

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

I love the Big Little Lies series on HBO.  So, I decided to see what else Liane Moriarty had.  I have to say I was bit disappointed.  This one started out good with the non-linear timeline circling the events of a barbeque attended by three couples.  We gradually learn their secrets and motivations culminating in a traumatizing event.  I think this book just went on too long.  I kept waiting for it to end and it seemed like it just wouldn’t.  Are we going to just keep following these people forever?  Some editing would have helped.  I don’t think I would recommend this one.

Beartown by Frederik Backman

This is another one that’s pretty out there.  I loved Backman’s A Man Called Ove, so I wanted to see what else he had.  He spends a good bit of time introducing his characters which works here because then he hits you over the head with tragedy and it hurts.  It really does.  It’s really impressive how he makes you care so much about what happens to this tiny town in the woods and about hockey.  This is a book about people and no matter what sports we’re playing or where we are in the world, we can relate.  I recommend it and going in knowing as little as possible.

That’s it for now.  Until next time, happy reading y’all!

If You’re Reading This…

If you’re reading this, I’m not going to rehash all the things that are going on in the world right now.  You already know.  You know too well.

I’m going to weigh in but only to say this: We will overcome.

I believe we will overcome because Our Savior has overcome the world.  We don’t have to be afraid.  There will always be adversity in this life, and this is just another one.  I reject the notion that this one thing is going to change how we as people have operated for centuries.  We’ll still go to sporting events and concerts and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other fans.  We’ll still shake hands with business associates and acquaintances.  We’ll still hug our friends and strangers.  Because we’re humans, and humans were created for community.  I reject the fear mongering and the rhetoric.  Listen to that still small voice.  What is He telling you?

This is aggression from the enemy and that aggression will not stand.

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33 NKJV

Israel and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Have you seen The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime?  If not, that’s a shame because it’s awesome.  It was created by Amy Sherman-Palladino, who did Gilmore Girls, which I watched in high school with my mom.  In my opinion, Amy was ahead of her time.  Gilmore Girls was fast-paced, clever, emotional, and chock full of cultural references.  It had its issues with characters and story development especially at the end, but it was one of the best shows on TV at the time.

And now we’re in the Golden Age of television and enter Amy’s newest creation, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.  It’s like Gilmore Girls on steroids and I love it.  It’s so fast, you blink, and you’ll miss a joke.  But why would you want to blink?  I could go on and on about what I love about this show but there’s one aspect I’d like to focus on.

Midge is a typical 1950’s housewife.  She loves cooking brisket, shopping for fancy clothes, and living on the Upper West Side with her successful husband and two kids.  Then her husband leaves her, and she embarks on, of all things, a career as a stand-up comedienne.  And then the show becomes about how Midge was a repressed woman and a comment about how women were treated in the 50’s and Midge changes her entire personality because she’s a new woman!  A liberated woman!  A career woman!  Right?  Wrong.  Midge is the same person she’s always been.  She still loves her clothes and going to the expensive all summer resort in the Catskills and living the posh upper-class Jewish life she has always enjoyed.  She’s just added a career.  A career she’s perpetually late for and travels with a ridiculous amount of luggage for.

And this I believe is revolutionary in TV.  Here we have a heroine who is comfortable in her own skin, despite living in the 50’s and being a housewife.  Her circumstances changed.  She didn’t.  And that brings me to my recent trip to Israel.

I won’t bore you with a run-down of all the things we saw.  But I will say this.  Everyone expects you to come back from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land changed.  And how did this experience change you, they want to know.   I think we should look at it another way.  Midge added stand-up to her life, and she was able to become more of who already she is.  Not a different person.  I think going to Israel has opened up some things for me.  I feel like I’m becoming more of the person I already am.  I’m not changing but becoming.  And that is very exciting.

God made each of us the way we are.  Maybe we should be less concerned about changing and more concerned about how to become more.