Sunday Coffee – A True Autumn

img_6218My family arrived in Wisconsin on August 30th. In the month since, the world has exploded into color. Reds. Oranges. Yellows. Chunks of vivid color nestled in green. I love when trees change piecemeal: a single branch of color followed by bushy clumps followed by a full turning. This is the prettiest time of year!

I’ve enjoyed being in the Midwest for this again – watching the corn harvested, feeling the roller coaster of temps, tasting all the abundant produce available here. This week, there’s been football. There have been TV season premieres. There have been sweaters one day and shorts the next. There have been pumpkin patches and corn mazes. There have been spooky audiobooks and lots of crochet. There have been guests and travel and a husband who is finally home this weekend. And color. Fabulous, beautiful fall color.

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The Creeping Shadow, by Jonathan Stroud (audio)

creeping-shadowBook 4 in the Lockwood & Co series. This review will have minor spoilers from previous books but no spoilers from this volume.

So this book begins a few months after the abrupt end of The Hollow Boy. Lucy is coping – somewhat – with her new independence, and her gifts are getting stronger. Several events throw her and the rest of the Lockwood team together again. Darker plots within plots start to come to light.

I don’t know how long this series will continue, if Stroud has a planned finish or will keep going for as long as people are reading. Either way, I’ve loved experiencing each book as they get thicker into this world and the people that inhabit it. The character development, world-building, and politics are excellently written. Everyone – even minor ghosts – have their unique voice. I’m constantly coming up with theories as I read. Some turn out to be right and others are utter garbage. The whole thing is brilliant fun, and I already can’t wait for volume 5.

Can’t say much more than that without giving away giant series spoilers. What I will say is that this is a perfect spooky ghost-story- RIP series, and I’m so happy that whatever random twist of fate led me to it. (I still can’t remember where I first discovered the books.)

Performance: The first three books are each read by different narrators. Emily Bevan, the narrator for book three, reads this one as well. I’ve had a difficult time with the changes, especially because I adored The Screaming Staircase (Miranda Raison) so much. Perhaps I’d be fine with Bevan’s narration if she hadn’t been the third reader of the series, with the third set of different voices for the characters. Because I heard differently in the beginning, the current voices don’t sound right to me. Not saying they’re bad – just that it’s jarring to me after two other narrators. Still, the series is spine-tingling excellent on audio, so I’ll continue it this way even though the current narration isn’t a favorite.

Posted in 2016, Children's, Prose | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Books that are Better on Audio

I’m a huge fan of audiobooks, though I’m very picky about my audiobooks. Some books, however, just beg to be listened to. These are my favorites:

ravenboys1. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (narrator: Will Patton) – I originally tried this in print. Didn’t work. Years later, revisited on audio and fell completely in love.

2. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (Jenny Sterlin) – Ditto.

3. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (Simon Prebble) – Ditto.

4. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (multiple narrators) – I’m not sure if it was purely the reread that made this more enjoyable, or the audio, but I suspect the latter.

lolita5. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (Jeremy Irons) – I adored the book long before I listened to the audio, but listening to the audio helped me to wade through all the thick language and really get more from the book.

6. anything by Thomas Hardy – Pretty much ditto. I like Hardy, but I find him much easier to listen to. Especially when Alan Rickman narrates.

7. nonfiction – Sooooo…this is a category of books rather than a single book, but I claim it counts, because 95% of nonfiction works better on audio for me.

audio8. The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (Miranda Raison) – Reading the book in print = good. Listening to it on audio = creepy chills running up and down my spine phenomenal. I just wish Raison had continued to narrate the rest of the series!

9. Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris (Steven Pacey) – Honestly, I can’t say why this particular audiobook captured me so completely, but the experience of listening to it the first time has stayed with me, and every fall, I’m compelled to listen to it at least once. The print version is great, too, but I prefer the audio.

10. the Dublin Murder Squad series by Tana French (multiple) – Each of these is read by a different narrator, and I haven’t enjoyed every production. I always listen to these books, though. There’s something about them that is so much more enjoyable on audio, even when the performance isn’t my favorite. I think perhaps it might just be the genre, because I tend to like thrillers and mysteries on audio generally.

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Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

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Sunday Coffee – Bullet Journal (Part 2)

imageBy now, just about everyone has heard of bullet journaling. People either love it or hate it, and everyone who uses it seems to have a different way of doing so. I began my first bullet journal in late August last year, and reviewed the technique in October. As I see people going through their planners and bullet journals on Instagram, I’m struck by something I said back in that review: “It’s not a pretty way to journal.” I further clarified that I’m not really a pretty-planner, scrapbooking, stickers and colored-pens kind of person, and so this functional type of planner worked very well for me. A year later, this still holds true, though I now know it to be a partial truth.

img_6101Sure, my bullet journal has evolved over the last year. I now have a daily tracker for certain goals, but I still just mark stuff out with Xs instead of colored indicators. I use post-it flag now to keep often-used pages (like my monthly calendar) easy-to-find. I have a blog-tracker, though it’s basically identical to my monthly calendar, with blog posts instead of events written down. I sometimes use colored pencils if I’m designing a crochet pattern in detail. Mostly, though, my bullet journal still serves as a functional place to store my calendar, to-do lists, goals, trackers, tarot spreads, grocery/meal lists, crochet project plans, wishlists, and other sundry bits. It looks nearly identical to the pictures at the above link, as you can see if you wanted to compare the pictures there to the one at the right.

There’s nothing pretty about my bullet journals and they are certainly no pieces of art. I admire all of you who can create art out of planners and such, but I just don’t have the drive or intuition for it. I like my little function planner, and crossing out my tasks, and having my calendar all at a glance. That’s it for me. More recently, though, I’ve loved discovering that this technique is so adaptable, so that someone with stickers, tape, colored pens, and beautiful handwriting can use the exact same methods to make a piece of art that I use to quickly-and-unartistically organize my brain. This was not something I foresaw when I reviewed the technique last year, and I’ve loved watching what others do with their own bullet journals! This is why I say “partial truth” above. I personally still love my no-frills way of bullet journaling, but I understand now that this is not the only way to use the technique. And as dorky as this makes me, I get a little thrill every time I see someone adapting the technique in their own, unique manner. Ha!

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The Selection: Stories, by Kiera Cass

the_prince_and_the_guardNot much to say about this collection. The book consisted of two stories – “The Prince” and “The Guard” – which went through a few events of the original Selection trilogy from the point of view of other characters. Namely, the prince and the guard. I read the book as a bit of a diversion, and also because I’d mentioned when I first read the series last spring that I wished I could see this from Prince Maxon’s point of view. Which now I have, at least in limited part. And that’s just about all I have on that. Good for people who like this series already.

Note: There are apparently other books with this title that contain different short stories set in this world. I only read the edition with these two stories.

Posted in 2016, Prose, Young Adult | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

The Accidental Alchemist, by Gigi Pandian (audio)

accidental-alchemistA three-hundred-year-old alchemist, a teen hoodlum, and a French gourmet chef gargoyle take up residence in an abandoned haunted house in Portland… Sounds like the beginning of a joke, right? That’s essentially the opening premise to this book, however, followed by…and then a body shows up on the front porch. Yup. Because this is a cozy mystery in addition to being steeped in fantasy elements, plus an addition of lots of vegan recipes in the text. Because cozy mysteries are like that.

The Accidental Alchemist was my first RIP book this year, an audio I’d downloaded on a whim during Audible’s recent blowout sale. I had no idea if I’d like it, but for a couple bucks, I figured it was worth a try. I didn’t realize it was a cozy mystery before starting the book. Actually, I didn’t know anything at all about it, and that made this a fun book to just plow into unawares.

Thankfully, everything worked out happily for me! The novel was deliciously fun and autumn-like, and made me smile all the way through. It wasn’t a perfect book. I’m not fond of the cozy mystery way of fitting in thematic elements, and so got tired of hearing the ingredients of every single vegan dish prepared. But really, that was minor, and I really enjoyed the rest of the book: the characters, the mystery, the little quirks of Portland, the magic, etc. I’m happy to see there are further volumes of this series that (I imagine) could go on however long Pandian cares to write them!

Performance: Julia Motyka read this book. She did a fantastic job with it. Notably, there were a few spots where she coughed/cleared her throat after reading a sentence, and those parts were not edited out, so the production felt less professional than usual. I didn’t mind, though. The rest of the performance made up for that entirely.

Posted in 2016, Adult, Prose | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sunday Coffee: Library

img_6062I’m still not here very much right now. Settling in is going rough, trying to coordinate about a thousand different things. Jason is back in TX getting our house on the market, so I’m a single mom (kinda) this week (or longer). The in-laws have guests coming later this week, so the house will be very busy and full. I imagine I’m going to be a part-time blogger for the next few months until we get our own place, so please forgive me if I’m not around very often. I’m trying my best to at least get book reviews out!

Speaking of book reviews, I now have access to books again – I have a library card! That’s one of the two bits of exciting news in my life since last Sunday. (The other is that the truck finally arrived with our stuff, so I have all my crochet and coffee supplies, not to mention more clothes!) Mid-week, the whole family walked the half-mile to the library and got library cards. The library here is tiny, but it’s networked with about 40 libraries in this section of Wisconsin, and so we can get request books from any of those to be sent here. I have a bunch of books on hold already, some already winging my way. Woohoo!

Sadly, though, there is no Wowbrary. Ah well.

Posted in Book Talk | Tagged | 9 Comments