Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sunday Salon: T-1

 Happy late Sunday afternoon friends!  I'm rolling in at this hour because I have to wait for my weekly dog pictures which are the last ones I will get before we to pick him up next Saturday.  I love the one of him reading.  And when I say I love our breeder, I mean, she and the puppy nanny are amazing.  They take the puppies on field trips, make sure they have exposure to other dogs, cats and people, and they read to them and play music.  They potty train and crate train them, and get them used to the leash.  This week I got to Face Time with Brody for the second time, so I could see him running around doing his thing.

  




It has been a full week.  Mid-week my back felt better, and I was able to go back to the trainer but I did spend many hours on the heating pad!  I should be close to 100% when I go tomorrow.  I'm really happy with these people, they aren't messing around.  I'm walking around like I've been riding a horse and can barely get in and out of a chair!  Haha!

I had a book club meeting to discuss "Me Before You" (my choice because I want as many people to love this book as I did).  Did you know it was going to be a movie late this summer?  A friend's son had confirmation.   Did some work in the yard - the weather has been gorgeous.  We attended a wine and food tasting with silent auction on Saturday night, which was hosted by my friend that owns a wine store.  That was fun.  I had hoped today to relax, read a little, take a nap, but in fact it was opposite.  I've been on the move all day, so after I finish this post, it is the shower and the comfy chair for me for a little bit.  My husband and my dad are out right now riding in an old B-17 bomber, so in the back of my mind I will be saying a few safe flying prayers.  Sheesh!

I continue to read a few pages here and there on "Where All the Light Tends To Go", which really has a wonderful voice of a 19 year old boy in Appalachia.  Dark and murky but also with a tiny bit of hope.  And I HOPE I can finish it this week.  On audio I finished "Ordinary Grace" by William Kent Krueger, a coming-of-age tale set in a small Minnesota town in 1961.  Incredible literary voice and story.  I had my quibbles, but still a fantastic listen.  I'm now a couple of hours into "A Man Called Ove" by Fredrick Backman, and it is funny and sweet about a curmudgeonly old man.

Hope everybody has a great Sunday, what is left of it.  After I shower, I will be roaming around on the blogs a bit.  See you there!  



Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sunday Salon: Best laid plans...

 Good evening...little late today.  I wanted to wait until I got the latest pictures of the puppy.  Of course.  He is 6 weeks old now, and we will pick him up in two weeks.  It is like we are anticipating a baby.  We are crazy.  Last weekend we actually got to FaceTime with Brody and his nanny.  We have the best breeder ever.  He is definitely on the heavier side of a six week PON.  The cats are just going to LOOOOOVE him.

















So the week started out good, or normal at least.  I was doing my thing, running here and there, going to the new trainer.  Then on Wednesday I casually picked up a small weight and completely threw my back out.  Man, it sucks being old.  So I've been laid up a bit...two trips to the chiropractor, lots of moaning and groaning, a heating pad and Advil.  Blah.  I'm going to try to get back to the gym tomorrow.  We will see how that goes.

Now that the Oscar contenders have been announced, we (primarily defined as my mom and I) are on a mission to see as many of the movies as possible.  This week we saw "The Imitation Game", "Ida" (nominated for Best Foreign Film and is Polish) and "American Sniper".  All great movies but "American Sniper" kinda blew us away.

On the reading front?  Eh.  I did start reading "Where All the Light Tends To Go", and is a troubling but easy read.  I am hoping to make some progress on it next week if I can stay away from that damned Wordbrain game.  On audio I finished "Lock In" by John Scalzi.  It was genius as far as world-building but the plot was a bit convoluted.  It still was pleasant to listen to Wil Wheaton narrating.  I'm now about halfway through "Ordinary Grace" by William Kent Krueger.  I intentionally didn't read the synopsis, so I have no idea where it is going, but I'm enjoying it so far as a coming-of-age tale.

Tonight we are eating food that is bad for us and watching playoff football games.  Go Colts.  The kids have tomorrow off, so that takes some of the Sunday night pressure off the table.  What has everyone been up to today?  




Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sunday Salon: New Beginnings



Howdy guys!  What do you know, I'm up and on my game this morning.  I was thinking about my week, and decided it was definitely a good one.  I read a post yesterday (OK I read A LOT of posts yesterday as I've been really slacking and had to catch up) that reminded me to shut the hell up about being busy.  It isn't about being busy, it is about managing my time more wisely.  I have plenty of time to sit down and read or chill out, but I don't because that is the way I am.  In fact, I'm thinking that my word of the year should be something along these lines...CHILL.  Lest I give myself heart failure.

Lots of "beginnings" to the new year this week.  I had my first Polish class of the year on Wednesday evening.  It was nice to see some of my new friends again, and I'm hoping with the arrival of the puppy in a few weeks, I can keep this up.  It is good for my brain.  Speaking of the puppy, gratuitous weekly photo:    
















The puppy "nanny" who helps the breeder texted me this picture on Friday afternoon.  Made my day.  I love these women.  He is getting bigger by the day, and is so precious - look at that expression.  Makes my heart swell.  I should have my Sunday update pictures soon, and when I get those I'll post on FB.

Also had my first Heathrow Literary Society meeting of the year on Wednesday as well, discussing "Orphan Train".  That was such a good book but I read it so long ago.  I brought my mom with me, and I think she enjoyed it.  This group always reads the book and has lots to say.

I also think I found a new trainer to replace Andre.  I was a little bereft at the beginning of the week without my regular flogging, but tried a new place on Friday with a couple of my workout ladies, and we had our asses kicked thoroughly.  As in, I can't move, even today.  This is a good thing.  I'm going to give it a month and see how I do.

I'll need to do some extra working out next week because we went to a seafood buffet Friday night and out for my hubby's birthday last night.  Today will require bread and water I think.

I'd love to tell you that I did all kinds of reading, but I did not, at least in print.  I am totally addicted to a game on my phone called "Wordbrain", and until I conquer it, which will take awhile, I may be on a reading hiatus.  Ha!  (If you see me posting about the game on FB, it is because I am pimping myself out for hints to help me in the game.)  However, I did finish "Amy and Roger's Epic Detour" by Morgan Matson and in a word?  Perfect.  I claim to have started "Where All the Light Tends To Go" by David Joy but I haven't really started it in earnest.

On audio, I finished "Blue Lily, Lily Blue" by Maggie Stiefvater, the third installment in the Raven Cycle series, and it was very good.  Love this series, and I'm totally hyped for the fourth and final book.  This is a minor miracle, considering my general attitude towards YA.  I'm now about halfway through "Lock In" by John Scalzi (and narrated by Wil Wheaton - woo!).  Apparently Audible has a corner on this audiobook.  Even libraries aren't getting it, which is annoying, so I nabbed it with an Audible promotion.  It is good - creatively genius - but not the easiest thing to understand.  I'm wondering if this is going to be a series?  It could be.

I'm not sure what is on the agenda for today.  I'm afraid to speculate reading, because while that would be great, I'm usually offered other suggestions.  Sundays are for family.  It will be a surprise!  See, I'm chill.  
   


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Sunday Salon: New Year, New Dog, New Routine

Good evening friends!  I actually missed last Sunday...first time in so long.  The day just got away from me!  Holidays are a tough business.  I need a vacation from the holidays.  But I'm back in business now.  The kids go back to school tomorrow (woo hoo!) and I can go about starting my new year.

The first major change is that Andre the Trainer...you know, the one I've been going to for over three years...has shut his doors, as his building is being sold. He doesn't seem to have any plan of when or if he will be back in business, so I'm going to have to find an alternative plan.  This is equivalent to finding a new OB-Gyn or hairdresser, and it is distressing.  I'm on a mad search.

And I better search quickly because my Lord, the eating and drinking that has been happening lately.  None of my clothes fit.  Something must be done soon.

We DID have a nice Christmas and New Year celebration.  It was dialed down a bit from earlier years but that didn't really seem to bother anyone.  Just having the time off (except from the cooking!) and spending it with family and friends was all that was needed.

And the new puppy!  The highlight of my life at the moment.  We are naming him Brody and have selected him from the litter of four.  Here he is at four weeks: 
















We will pick him up on January 31st in North Carolina.  For those that weren't around when I originally talked about him, he is a Polish Lowland Sheepdog.  Prepare to be barraged with pictures forever.

Reading was pretty slow.  I'm not sure why I think I'll get all this reading done when everyone is underfoot!  I did finally finish the true crime novel "Monster" by Steve Jackson, and it was really what true crime should be.  Horrifying, fascinating stuff.  I'm now about halfway through "Amy & Roger's Epic Detour" by Morgan Matson, a YA recommendation from Jill.  A little sneak peek on my opinion of this one...simply wonderful.  Maybe not totally groundbreaking material, but a balm for the soul.

Audio!  Not sure where I left off two weeks ago (and I'm too lazy to look) but I finished "Empty Mansions" by Bill Dedman for a February book club meeting, and I enjoyed it.  This is a true story about a very wealthy, eccentric heiress and her disappearing millions.  I also blew through a quick one called "Detroit: An American Autopsy" by Charlie LeDuff.  Again, more good non-fiction from a investigative journalist who sets out to poke around the ashes of a once-great city to learn where it all went wrong.  I decided it was time for something not-real so I'm listening to installment three of the amazing Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater called "Blue Lily, Lily Blue".  Such an escape for me, with incredible narration.

This upcoming week will bring the start of new Polish classes, as well as a book club meeting on "Orphan Train".  Back to the damned doctor appointments.  And to golf or not to golf?  I'll have to see how everything works out.  Happy Sunday, what's left of it!  




Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunday Salon: Highlights

 Good afternoon friends.  Late again.  Just plan on it from here on out!  Had a good, busy week.  My parents arrived from Indiana for the winter.  The kids were in their last week of school before the break (the daughter had mid-terms - drama!).  I finished the last bit of shopping and found an adorable local indie bookstore that just opened (our only one).  We had a book club meeting discussing "Eleanor & Park" by Rainbow Rowell.  So much love for that book!  We had an impromptu Christmas gathering at a friend's house last night.  My daughter got two free tickets to this Ice exhibition down at the Gaylord Palms resort, which gave us a taste of winter and froze our noses.

The kids tell me I need to get a life, but the highlight of my week really is the update on the puppies.  I know, call me lame.  They are now two weeks old, their eyes are open, they are starting to play with each other and make noises, and their pigment is starting to come in on their little noses.  








Oh, so this is a book blog I guess, except I'm not reading much. Still.  I did actually finish "Empty Mansions" on audio this week.  It was a fascinating piece of history about a lost fortune and a reclusive heiress.  I'm now about halfway through "Detroit: An American Autopsy" by Charlie LeDuff.  This is a grim, gritty sketch of a city gone to hell.  I guess I've had the need for some non-fiction lately!

Speaking of non-fiction, I'm also reading "Monster" by Steve Jackson, a true crime story about a sadistic serial killer of women.  I've been reading this one for awhile, but it IS good.  I hope to have the time to finish it soon.

I cannot believe that Thursday is Christmas.  It has totally snuck up on me!  Tonight we will have to do some hard core planning of the meals, including our traditional Polish feast called Wygilia, on Christmas Eve.  I wish all of you a wonderful week and look forward to seeing what Santa brought you all.

Peace!

 




Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Best of 2014: Audiobooks

I cannot express the right words for how passionate I am about my audiobooks.  There are days (weeks!) when I don't look at a single printed page of a book because I'm running around like my hair is on fire.  But audios I can do...in the car, cleaning the house, doing yard work, cooking, walking.  A well-narrated audio can be the most incredible experience...in some cases the entire story comes to life and feels like a movie in my head.  

I can't vouch for these books in print.  But in my ears they came alive.  

Non-Fiction




Five Days at Memorial - Sheri Fink (narrated by Kirstin Potter):  This is an absolutely riveting and horrifying story about the events that transpired at Memorial Hospital in New Orleans after Katrina hit.  No electricity, a failed generator, and hundreds of critically ill and elderly patients too frail to evacuate.  In a move that was highly controversial, decisions were made to euthanize the most helpless patients with lethal doses of painkillers.  It is hard to imagine such events occurring today, and brings up some highly discussable topics.  Perfect for book clubs.  Kirstin Potter is a wonderful narrator, but the real attraction here is the facts. 





In the Kingdom of Ice - Hampton Sides (narrated by Arthur Morey):  This bit of history about an ill-fated Polar expedition in the late nineteenth century reads like a thriller.  An eccentric playboy benefactor, incorrect maps and misinformation, starvation, frostbite, a breached hull, trudging for hundreds of miles in the frozen tundra, madness...it just doesn't get any more fascinating than this.  Like "Five Days at Memorial", the narration was well-done but the facts are self-sustaining.    




This is the Story of a Happy Marriage - Ann Patchett (narrated by the author):  Before I listened to this audio, I would have sworn that I wasn't into "essays".  But Patchett's, written for magazines over the expanse of her career, are ones that will touch on something that will move you.  MOST of them moved me.  Stories about writing her first book, about her dog, about her failed first marriage and her successful second one, about relationships with family and friends, opening a bookstore, being persecuted because of the content of her books...it is absolutely perfect in every way.  Patchett is so natural in her narration too.  This is one audio that I want to purchase in print to keep forever.


Fiction  




Native Son - Richard Wright (narrated by Peter Francis James):  This story knocked the wind out of me.  Set in 1930's Chicago, it tells the tale of Bigger Thomas, a young black man that makes a series of bad decisions that drags him into a downward spiral.  It is gut-wrenching, and shows the desperation and hopelessness of the black man during that time.  I suspect the novel in print would have an equal impact, but the narration is superb.    





We Are Water - Wally Lamb (narrated by Wally Lamb, George Guidall, Maggi-Meg Reed, Tavia Gilbert, Richard Ferrone, Edoardo Ballerini, Cynthia Darlow,  Therese Plummer):  If you asked me to list my top 10 audios EVER, this one would be one of them.  Lamb is a hell of a storyteller, in this case covering everything from a modern family and their individual struggles, gay marriage, pedophilia, racial prejudice...oh yeah you get it all here, as is Lamb's way.  But the narrators?  That is a loaded cast of voices, and they made this audio completely unputdownable.  It unfolded like a movie right before me, truly some of the best narration I've heard.  We read this in my book club, and some of the members refused to read it because of the pedophilia.  It's too bad because while that was very hard to listen to, I believe it to be one of the best books written this year.




Someone Else's Love Story - Joshilyn Jackson (narrated by the author):  Most of you know this, but I refuse to read a JJ book in print.  All of her books but one are narrated by the author herself, and she is marvelous.  Her stories are marvelous too...quirky, usually dysfunctional, Southern, and all center on very strong women.  In this novel, she also throws in autism and a love triangle of sorts.  And a girl who got pregnant without having sex.  You have to read it to believe it.  It is classic Joshilyn Jackson.  



Every Day - David Levithan (narrated by Alex McKenna):  While this book officially fell under the YA genre, it gets serious credit for tickling my brain and presenting a very unique premise (something you don't get often in ANY genre).  Every day "A" (a spirit? a soul? a male?  a female?) wakes up in a different body.  A is at peace with its existence, and lives by the rules of not interfering or causing attention in its subject's life.  Then A meets and falls in love with a girl.  Suddenly every day is a mission to get close to her, which is difficult when each day A is a radically different person.  It sounds a little wacky, but it works.  It is beautiful.  And very beautifully narrated.     




The Martian - Andy Weir (narrated by R.C. Bray):  If you've been anywhere near a book review this year, you will recognize this one.   This book was all the rage!  This won't be the only list you will see it on, particular in audio form.  About a wise-ass brainiac that get accidentally left on Mars during an exploration mission, it makes science fiction accessible and LIKABLE by one and all.  The narration of Bray provides the perfect snarky voice of a guy who is basically screwed but uses his last wit to stay alive.  Oh and by the way, it's going to be a movie starring Matt Damon.  Yep.




The Silkworm - Robert Galbraith (narrated by Robert Glenister):  If you thought J.K. Rowling shot her wad on Harry Potter, you were wrong.  This series started with "The Cuckoo's Calling" and set the groundwork with a protagonist who is a rumpled but genius private investigator, and his cute ambitious assistant.  I felt that Cuckoo's mystery was a tad pedestrian and one-dimensional, but she let out all the stops on this one.  The cherry on top was that the mystery occurs butt-deep in the publishing industry.  Robert Glenister's narration is simply as good as it gets.  He is amazing.   




World of Trouble - Ben H. Winters (narrated by Peter Berkrot):  This book is the third installment in The Last Policeman Trilogy, and yes, it is extremely unusual that the final book would be the mind-blower but it was.  The premise of the trilogy is that a very large asteroid is going to hit the earth and end civilization as we know it.  As time ticks down, people hunker down, pursue their bucket lists, kill themselves, get stoned on drugs.  But Detective Hank Palace (a little on the spectrum I think) continues to solve murders, chase down missing persons, and try to save his little sister.  The first two novels are good, but this one is remarkable.  Not too many people can pull off the end of the world quite like this.  The narrator isn't the best in the business, but his voice became Hank Palace and I was glad they kept him through the series.  




Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Best of 2014: Graphic Novels



So Graphic Novels!  This has been a more recent love that I acquired as a result of blogging.  I didn't read that many this year, but the ones I read for the most part were outstanding.  Here are my favorites...I'm quite pleased at how different each of them are from another.  



Watchmen - Alan Moore:  I read this at the behest of my son, and I thanked him afterward.  This is so much more than a comic.  It is a mystery, it is layered and complex, it folds in history and politics and made my brain tingle!  This is what all "comics" and superhero lore should strive to be.   




Blankets - Craig Johnson:  I'm a little late to the party on this one.  I'd heard so much about it over the years, so I finally ordered it from the library.  It is a whole different type of GN than Watchmen.  It is a autobiography about Johnson's life, starting with some traumatic incidents in his childhood, a first love he meets at camp as a teen, and his life as a young adult.  He struggles with love, loss and religion and is heartfelt.  




Palestine - Joe Sacco:  This GN was recommended by a whole list of other GN authors as being one of the best.  It is different from the other books listed here in that it is gritty, investigative journalism put into illustration.  We always hear stories from the Israeli point of view in our media...here is a chance to see things from the other side of the street, from the perspective of the common Palestinian.  This book is used in university classrooms, and with good reason.  I'll be rereading this one.





Saga - Brian K. Vaughan:  I had to give this series special mention.  None of the three installments have received more than 4 stars from me, but as a whole, they are a wondrous diversion into fantasy.  It is hard to describe the bizarre setup, but Wikipedia states it is a cross between Star Wars, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings and Romeo & Juliet.  So there you go, I'm sure that cleared things up!  It is a classic story of revenge, warring ethnicities, and forbidden love.  The imagery alone is worth your time.  Even if none of this sounds the least bit interesting, give it a shot.  You may find yourself getting sucked in just like me.