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 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!

Magnolia Run Available Now

Hello, happy readers!  Just wanted to let everybody know that my book Magnolia Run is now available via Christian Faith Publishing.  Find it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes.  You can also follow me on Goodreads.

This has been a singular experience.  It’s been nine months since I was told my book would be published and there are still days when I can’t believe it.  I guess I just don’t know how to handle that dream-come-true moment.  The idea of getting published was always more of a daydream than an actual this-will-happen-someday dream.  If I’m honest, I never thought I could write a book that someone else would actually read.  But I did.  And I’m here.  And it’s available.  Check it out and let me know what you think.  Happy reading, y’all!

Dreading the Soggy Bottom

Have you ever made a pie?  You work so hard making the crust and preparing the filling, only to have the middle of the bottom come out wet and yucky.  It ruins the whole pie.

There’s such a thing as the soggy bottom of a book too.  It’s that point about two thirds in where the author starts circling.  You know that book, the one where you’re loving the characters and you’re caught up in the mystery and then nothing happens for a hundred pages.  We keep going over the same clues and our characters spend a lot of time doing irrelevant things.  It’s enough to make you throw the book across the room.

I’ve been enjoying Michael Connelly’s new series about Renee Ballard and I really liked the recent crossover with Bosch, Dark Sacred Night.  I’m a big fan of the Amazon series but this was my first experience with Connelly’s writing.  I recently borrowed one of his called The Poet, a one-off from the mid-nineties.  At five hundred pages, this book had the soggiest soggy bottom I ever did see.  I skimmed the last two hundred pages and by the end I didn’t even like the characters anymore.  It was quite disappointing.

Of course, a book doesn’t have to have a soggy bottom to get ruined.  Case in point, the one I just finished, that will remain nameless, that had the granny menacing everyone with a blowtorch before revealing why she did it.  No, really.

So, it has not been the best few weeks for me in reading.  I hope y’all are faring better with your endeavors.  Maybe next time I’ll have better news and recommendations to share.  Until then, happy reading, y’all!

Bridge to Nowhere

Have you heard about Markus Zuzak’s new book Bridge of Clay?  You probably have because the whole world loved The Book Thief and have waited forever.  No really, it’s been thirteen years.  That’s the first red flag.

When I heard Mr. Zuzak was publishing a new book I was excited because I loved the writing of The Book Thief.  I thought the plot wasn’t that original or exciting but the style was awesome.  I also loved I Am the Messenger because the story was so off beat and interesting.  If we could have a book that married the amazing prose of The Book Thief with a charming plot like I Am the Messenger, we might have a contender for Favorite Book.

But it was not to be.  I read an interview on Goodreads where Zuzak said he had been trying to write this book since he was really young and he agonized over everything, making sure it was perfect.  Uh-oh.  Red Flag number two.  Something that personal does not usually translate.  Mostly it’ll resonate with, well, you.  Despite this reservation I gave it a shot.

What we have here is a failure to communicate.  I read about half of the book and I have no idea what we’re supposed to be getting from it.  We start out with five boisterous teenage boys taking care of themselves with a bunch of animals running around.  That was actually the part I liked.  They were interesting, I liked the way they interacted, each with his own unique personality.  Enter the deadbeat father who asks them if they’d like to come with him out to the middle of nowhere and build a bridge.  Um, okay.  So one of them decides it’d be a good idea to quit school and go to the middle of nowhere with a man he hardly knows to dig holes in the hot sun so they can put a bridge over a mostly dry river bed.  Um, okaaayyy…

Most of the 250 pages I read didn’t even have anything to do with Clay or his brothers.  It was all about their mother’s childhood behind the Iron Curtain and how she got to Australia and their father’s childhood and how he married one girl and then got divorced.  Why do I care?

I’m sorry, but you introduced a whole group of really interesting characters and then left them for half a book to talk about their parents’ pasts?  What does that have to do with anything?  Not to mention this is supposed to be a first person narrative.  The narrator is the oldest brother who isn’t seeing any of this first hand and yet writes like he has intimate knowledge.

To me, this book was a mess.  I think this is what happens when a story marinates too long in the writer’s head.  He gets too close and loses perspective.  Zuzak wanted to convey some awesome family saga with great points about healing and forgiveness but really it’s just a bunch of sound and fury signifying nothing.

As much as it pains me to say it, I think Mr. Zuzak missed the mark this time.  I would give this one a wide berth.

Book Review: Into the Water

I got the new Paula Hawkins novel, Into the Water, thanks to Book of the Month extras.  Just like her debut, The Girl on the Train, I couldn’t put it down.

It’s a quick read and it looks longer than it is in hardback format.  The type is large and the chapters are short.  It moves back and forth between narrators with speed and skill.  I’m normally not a fan of that but Ms. Hawkins does it really well.  I do admit that it was a little confusing at first trying to place everyone into the narrative but I think that was part of the point.  This book really makes you lose your bearings, very much like the characters.

I enjoyed the tight family drama and the suspense.  It kept me reading and I’m sad it’s over.  That’s what a good book should do.  I definitely recommend Into the Water to lovers of grip-lit like myself but I also recommend it to anyone who likes a well-told story.

Who Am I?

It’s been nearly a month since I left my job and it’s been both awesome and stressful.  I keep going back and forth from “I’m so glad I left” to “Holy crap! Why’d I leave the comfort of a full-time job?”

After a recent church class I realized that my angst is tied up in identity.  Who am I now? Who am I if I’m not Kim the tax accountant?

I’m Kim, Who Lives at Home.  I’m Kim, the aspiring author.  I’m Kim, who volunteers with kids. I’m Kim, who wants to work with kids.  I have to remind myself of that everyday, sometimes several times a day.

I do have plans but I want to take it one week at a time.  God has told me he wants me to spend more time in prayer and I’m making an effort.  I realize that I have to be patient and wait for Him to tell me where to go next.  The last thing I want is to screw this whole thing up.  This time is a gift from God and I’m not going to squander it.

Book Review: The Princess Diarist

And now for something completely different.  I’ve decided to start reviewing some of the books I read here at ol’ Kim Who Lives at Home.  Hope you enjoy.

Let me start by saying I love Carrie Fisher.  I’ve read her other two memoirs, Wishful Drinking and Shockaholic, so I was super excited when I heard she had written a third.  I was also sad to learn of her untimely death and her mother’s shortly after.  She was a fantastic writer and I’m sorry there won’t be any more.

The Princess Diarist did not disappoint.  I love Fisher’s writing style.  She’s so witty and self-deprecating.  In this one in particular I thought she sounded, well, a lot like me.

In this memoir she goes back to the time of filming Star Wars in 1976.  I wasn’t born then but that didn’t matter at all.  She was a nineteen year old girl just starting her life and not sure what she wanted to do with it.  Even though I’ve never starred in a movie-turned-phenomenon, nor had an affair with my reticent co-star, I found her wholly relatable.   She has printed some of her personal diaries from the time and she sounds just as confused and scared as any of us at that age (or older).

I definitely recommend Ms. Fisher’s last literary outing.  I recommend her other memoirs as well.  I can’t speak to her fiction but I’d love to get around to it someday.  She really was a renaissance woman, huh?  So if you’re a Star Wars fan seeking more info about the filming or just love a good memoir, I suggest you pick it up.