Friday, August 18, 2017

Saturday Snapshot - August 19

To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky below. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

Last weekend, we went quasi-camping up at my Father-in-law's house.  I say "quasi" camping because the only really camping part of the whole thing was that we slept in a tent.  We hadn't used our tent in a couple of years and my husband wanted to make sure everything was in good shape--and the kids wanted to sleep in a tent.  Otherwise, we made full use of the house and all its amenities!

On our first night, my husband, father-in-law, and I went out to Point No Point, an area I had heard much about but had never visited (the kids opted to stay home and play with their Uncle).  It was a perfect night for walking on the beach (which is rather unusual for this part of the world) and the kids would have loved it if we'd been able to drag them along!

I loved this driftwood chair set up by the old lighthouse

This is someone's house on the way to Point No Point

The old lighthouse at Point No Point.  It's now automated, but I think you can go in at certain times of the day

We followed the trail and found this staircase.  It is actually much longer than it looks in the picture, but we climbed the whole thing.  Unfortunately, there wasn't much past it.

We did, however, find this "Seahawk" up there!

This used to be a swamp.  My husband claims to be disappointed that this is the swamp that was drained....


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Audiobook Review: "The Clockwork Dynasty" by Daniel H. Wilson

The Clockwork Dynasty by Daniel H. Wilson, narrated by David Giuntoli and Claire Coffee
Finished: August 11, 2017
Published: August 1, 2017
Genre: Science Fiction / Steampunk
Source: Audible

Deep in the rugged landscape of eastern Oregon, a young anthropologist named June Stefanov uncovers an exquisite artifact - a three-hundred-year-old mechanical doll - which is evidence of what she has spent years searching for. This is no ordinary is proof of a living race of ancient automatons that, she believes, exists to this day. Ingeniously hidden inside the intricate doll is a message, addressed to the court of Peter the Great, czar of Russia. 

In 1725 Russia, Peter and Elena, two human-like mechanical beings known as 'avtomat, ' are brought to life under the guise of Peter the Great. Their struggle to serve in the court of the czar while blending in, and to survive amid those who wish to annihilate them, will take Peter and Elena across Russia, Europe, and, ultimately, across the centuries to modern day.

Daniel H. Wilson's masterful new novel seamlessly interweaves past and present, exploring a race of beings that lives undetected among us. As June learns more about the 'avtomat' doll she has discovered, she is quickly drawn into a fierce and poignant battle that has spanned the centuries - and will ultimately affect the survival of this ancient race. 

My Thoughts:
Before I start getting into my thoughts, I need to make 2 things clear.  First, I am incredibly critical when it comes to the narrators of audio novels.  I return over half the novels I get from Audible because I don't like the narrators enough to actually listen to them.

Secondly, I listened to this book because of the narrators.  I actually had no interest in this book at all, but I enjoyed both David Giuntoli and Claire Coffee in Grimm, which I watched--until it became utterly unwatchable.  Even though I gave up on that show, I always said I'd follow the cast and this was apparently my first stop.

So, because of that, I was incredibly excited to give this one a listen.  I actually purchased some extra audible credits so that I wouldn't have to wait until the end of the month to download it.  My hopes were high as I pushed play and the story began....

...and then I worried that I had made a horrible mistake.

I really don't want to write what I'm about to write, but what is the purpose of a review if not to share how you felt about something?  Claire Coffee is the first narrator and the first thing that I noticed is that her voice is much higher and reedier than I realized.  I don't know if she modulates in her acting roles or if I just never noticed it when I was actually watching her, but her voice is not the type that I prefer to listen to.  Still, I wanted very much to like this so I told myself that I could get over the timbre issues and continued.  Then I noticed that she seemed to never have enough breath to finish her sentences.  I think we've all had those times when we are just trying to squeeze out the last bit of breath in our lungs to get out that last thought, but she seemed to be doing this for nearly every sentence.  That is indicative of breath control, and something I find horribly irritating (in part because it induces flash backs of my college voice instructor yelling, "SUPPORT!" and jabbing her fingers into my side).  Honestly, I was shocked that Coffee was having this issue, as it is something that actors master early in their training.  Things were not going well.

Still, I continued to listen and I was, frankly, floored by her one-note performance.  There was barely any animation to her voice and her character, June, came across as lifeless.  In one of the early action scenes, Coffee did liven things up a bit, but in a way that really didn't make any sense.  She was more animated in the description passages, but the actual dialogue was almost lifeless.  I wasn't even sure how I was supposed to feel during this section.  Then, there were the accents.  Or what should have been accents.  I'm not exactly what she was trying to do, but the result was not any accent that I recognized, which was that thing that just made every.single.thing.worse. for me.  Honestly, if a narrator can't do an accent, they just should even try.

In short, I felt that Coffee was just reading a book..and let's just keep that sentiment in mind for a moment.

Coffee and Giuntoli alternate chapters, with Coffee reading the present day sections told from June's point of view and Giuntoli reading the sections set in the past told from Peter's point of view.  Once I got about 30 seconds into his first chapter, I was all, "What strange magic is this?"  Look, I've always known Giuntoli was a capable actor (probably more than capable, but Grimm really didn't give the actors much to work with), but I never would have pegged him as someone up to the task of giving the performance I found in this audiobook.  It wasn't that he was animated (although he was), but that he drew me into the story.  His pacing was spot on, he imbued his passages with great humanity (keep in mind, he was reading the part of what is essentially a robot.  A robot with a soul, but still.), he brought to life not only Peter, but any character he read, he hit all the accents nearly spot on, and I could not stop listening.

When it came down to it, he wasn't reading a book, as Coffee was, but telling me a story..and I didn't want it to end.  Within his first chapter, I put him on that list of narrators who I would listen to for any book.  That list, by the way, now has a whopping two names on it (and that other name happens to have 2 Oscars, 2 BAFTAs, 2 Golden Globes, and an Emmy--among many other awards**).  Of course, just my luck that this is the only book he's far (yes I checked...and keep checking...)

I had a problem.  I desperately wanted to finish this book because of Giuntoli's narration, but I couldn't bear to suffer through any more of Coffee's narration.  There was only one way to remedy this--I ended up downloading the Kindle version of the book and synced the two.  I would read June's chapters and listen to Peter's chapter and that worked surprisingly well.  As an aside, though, I should point out that when you do this, you can listen to the book through either the Audible app or the Kindle app.  I tried both and found the Kindle app to be buggy for listening.  My recommendation would be to just stick to the Audible app.  As long as you have WiFi, or have your apps set to use cellular data, the two will still sync.

The experience of this book, for me, was mostly about the narration, but I do want to address the story itself.  I was lukewarm on it, but I am chalking that up to preference instead of quality.  Steampunk is an acquired taste and is not for everyone.  I know the basics of Steampunk and have read one other book in the genre--a middle grade novel--but this one was just a bit too much for me.  From other reviews, it looks like those who enjoy steampunk are loving this book.  But, if you aren't too familiar with the genre, I wouldn't call this a gateway novel and you might want to start with another title.

When it comes to recommending this book, if you like Steampunk, you'll probably love this.  If you want a truly exceptional listening experience, get the audio book and listen to David Giuntoli's chapters.  If you aren't really in to either of those, I'd skip this one.

I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.

**Let's have some fun!  As I said, I now have 2 names on the "I will listen to you in ANYTHING" list, one being David Giuntoli.  But who is the other name on the list?  I left you a few clues and now I'm giving you a chance to guess who it is!  You can submit one guess a day through Tuesday, August 22.  I will choose one person who correctly answered to win a $15 Amazon gift e-certificate.  

While this game is open to anyone, the e-certificate will come from Amazon's US site and will need to be redeemed through the same site.

And, if you want to know who this is, I'll do a reveal in my August 27th "It's Monday, What Are you Reading?" post.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, August 13, 2017

It's Monday...What Are You Reading? - August 14 #IMWAYR

I'm writing this from our "camping trip" in Washington.  Those quotes are because we are camping in my father-in-law's front yard and I'm fully enjoying the amenities of a hot shower, flush toilet, and Wi-Fi.  Plus, I'm sitting at his kitchen table writing, you know, camping....

To be fair, we are sleeping in a tent.  At least unless it gets too cold.

Anyway, we are starting to wind down summer...which is fine with me.  We're trying to fit in some of the remaining items on our kids' summer bucket lists, but I don't think we'll be able to cross all of them off.  I would still like to get at least one beach trip in (not including the one we did last night...tune in for the next Saturday Snapshot post to see the pics).  We're also planning to head down to Salem for the Eclipse, but we may just stay home if the weather isn't optimal.  The traffic is supposed to be horrible and I don't want to battle it unless I know it is going to be worth it.

I've been doing quite a bit of reading lately, and a big chunk of it was audio.  So, here we go:

It's Monday...What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.  Please visit her blog to link up and join the fun!  Also, if you are participating in the meme, please be sure to link to your blog in your comment so that I can visit!

Look at that, completely different books from last week!

I've been in the mood for romance lately, I think because we are heading into a busy time of the year, and I found Bombshell (Hollywood A-List) on my Kindle as we were driving up here and decided to give it a try.  I'm only a couple chapters in so far, but it is entertaining--which is exactly what you need for vacation reading.  So far, though, I will say the writing is strong, even if Reiss does indulge in some typical romance cliches early on.

Full of Life is an interesting book--it is a memoir written in the 1950s, so there is a fair amount of mid-century sexism going on here.  However, it is also a surprisingly amusing book, including old-fashioned family drama going on.  I wasn't sure what I would think of this book, but I'm actually enjoying it.  I probably could have finished it by now, but I don't like to take books that don't belong to me with me when I travel.

On the recommendation of a friend, I'm listing to Mayim Bialik's Girling Up: How to Be Strong, Smart and Spectacular.  I'm a huge fan of Bialik and am enjoying her narration.  However, I'm really listening to this book to see if it is something I might give to my daughter in a few years, which I think it is.  It is definitely an informative audiobook and not an entertaining one.  Because of that, I might start up a second audiobook when I get back home.

Last week, I plowed through quite a bit.  At one point, I was 7 books behind schedule for my Goodreads goal.  I'm currently at only one book.  (Okay, I have been looking for shorter books to read!).

I finally finished An Extraordinary Union (The Loyal League).  It was actually quite a readable book, but I just had so many books going at once that it took me far longer to finish this on than it should have.  I've always said I'm not a fan of Historical Romance--although Historical Fiction is one of my favorite genres--but I've realized that I actually quite like Historical Romance if it is set in American history (and, of course, well-researched).  This one was definitely a winner.

I also finished listening to Goodnight Nobody.  As I said before, I read this book when it was originally released in 2005 and, while I didn't hate it, it wasn't one of my favorites.  My experience with it this time around was much more positive, for 3 reasons:
1 - I can relate to the story now that I'm a wife and mother, whereas I couldn't really do so 12 years go
2 - The narrator really brought this story to life.
3 - It seems like this a satire of the "girl books" that are so popular now, and that didn't exist in 2005.  Of course, it can't actually be satire of something that didn't exist--unless Jennifer Weiner is even more powerful than I had previously believed!

The Clockwork Dynasty was one of the most interesting, fulfilling, aggravating, and frustrating listening experiences I've ever had.  I'm not going to say much about it now because I have a review going up this coming Wednesday, but it seems fitting that I would listen to it right as I was writing up a post about audiobook narration.

Also, I'm going to have a bit of fun with that review.  I'm having a little guessing game--which really has nothing to do with the review or the book--in that post.  You'll have to read the review to get the clues, but then you can submit once guess per day.  I'll choose a winner from the correct answers for a $15 Amazon e-gift certificate, so be sure to come back for that one.

The Princess Diarist was a very quick listen for me--I actually made it through it in one evening, thanks to the fact that it really needs to be played at 1.25 speed.  This one was fun because it was really about her Star Wars experiences, both during the filming and all the decades afterwards.  What I didn't especially like was that there is a big chunk in the middle of the book where her daughter, Billie Lourd, reads her diary entries.  I'm sure Lourd is fine on her own, but the comparison between her and Fisher is striking and her section just did not work for me.

Once and For All: An American Valor Novel was another quick read for me--it recently won the  RITA "Best First Book" award, so I decided to give it a try.  It's a second-chance romance, which I love, so that was good.  I found it to be quite worth the time.  I will say, though, that I don't have a lot of positive feelings about the cover art.

Goodbye, Vitamin is one I've been itching to get to--I've heard so many good things about it.  It's a quick read, which my Goodreads Challenge appreciates, and that was just what I needed.  However, I'm not sure I was quite ready for this book.  The main character's father is suffering from Alzheimer's, which reminded me too much of the dementia my mother was going through towards the end of her life.  It was a fascinating book, but it hit a bit too close to home for me.

That's what I've got going on now, and here is what was on the blog this week:
Wednesday, August 9 - What Makes a Good Audiobook Narrator?
Saturday, August 12 - Saturday Snapshot

Friday, August 11, 2017

Saturday Snapshot - August 12

To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky below. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

Well, we've had another week of heat and smoke (although the foot problem is markedly improved), so we didn't do much this week...which means I have no pictures to show for it.

So, I went back through my phone and realized how many Girl Scout related pictures I have.  If you read this blog regularly, you know that my daughter is a Brownie and I am her troop leader and, well, it's kind of big thing in our house.  I haven't posted many pictures from our Scouting adventures, only because almost all my pictures feature children who are not mine.  I'm not comfortable posting pictures of other peoples' kids (just as I wouldn't want someone else posting pictures of my kids).

I did, however, dig through a bit and found a few from the past year that have only my daughter to enjoy!

This picture is my daughter with the new s'more cookies.  Let me tell you, these were quite the hit in our house.  Did you not get a chance to try them?  The good news is that the Girl Scouts will be selling them again in 2018!

This was back at the Girl Scouts night at OMSI.  She's making a Bug Poster, which was part of earning her Bugs badge--which I was all about, because I really did not want to lead that badge!

These two pictures go together.  The top picture is of some pizza box solar ovens that her troop made as part of their Eclipse Badge activity.  The girls used these ovens to make s'mores...and the second picture is my daughter after eating her s'more.  And, yes, that is chocolate on her forehead!

Finally, here is the back of her vest with all her fun patches.  And yes, it is full.  And yes, she still has one more year as a Brownie.  I went ahead and got her a sash for all the fun patches she'll get this year, which she can wear to special Girl Scouts events.

I'm going to try to take more pictures of just her at Girl Scouts events and activities to share in upcoming posts, but this is a good snapshot of what she did this past year.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

What Makes a Good Audiobook Narrator?

I've been thinking, and talking, about audiobooks lately.  If you've spent any time reading my blog, you know that I usually have an audiobook going along with my other reads.  It used to be that one book would last me at least a month, but I've gotten into the groove with my audio reading and I'm finishing three or four in the same period of time at this point.

Over the course of all this, I've developed some strong preferences in the audio realm.  My preferred genre is the celebrity (usually humorous) memoir, read by the author.  I very rarely listen to novels I haven't previously read, but I find audiobooks to be an excellent way to re-read something.  And I've learned that, when listening to a book, the narrator is just as important as the author.

Which, leaves me with the question...

As far as I can tell, there are 3 types of narrators and I don't think we can say one is type is better than another.  I've listened to all 3 types and I've had hits and misses in all of them.  However, I've learned to consider the type of narrator, along with the type of book, plays a part in how successful a listen it will be for me.

The first type of narrator is the author reading his or her own work and, frankly, this is probably the most fraught of the 3 categories for me.  As I've said, some of my favorite genre is the humorous celebrity memoir read by the author.  The likes of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Aasif Mandvi have made many an hour on the elliptical quite enjoyable and, when someone asks for a recommendation, these are the types of books I recommend (until they give me that look and say they just don't enjoy celebrity memoirs.  Folks, you don't know what you're missing!)

Generally, I've found that I don't enjoy audiobooks narrated by the authors unless those authors are performers in their own right.  I've tried listening to a number of non-fiction books read by the authors and it is nails on the chalkboard.  While these are mostly people that I've never heard of, sometimes it happens with someone whose fame transcends their writing, yet that doesn't mean that they can narrate well.  I consider Stephen King's On Writing to be one of the best titles about the trade and I thought I'd give it a listen as a refresher.  I think I made it an hour before I had to return it to Audible.  Stephen King has a way with words...on the page.  Those same words don't flow in quite the same way when they come out of his mouth.

There are times when even someone known for performing doesn't make it in the narrator world.  I'm sure this is an unpopular opinion, but I wish anyone other than Mindy Kaling had read her first book.  I have never not laughed so much in a humorous memoir as that one, and most of that was due to the delivery, not the text.

Kaling, however, can also be a cautionary tale for what I would consider the second category of narrators: actors.

As I've said, this can work in the memoir world, but I've also had great success with well-known actors reading books they did not write.  My favorite children's audio experience was Neil Patrick Harris reading the Henry Huggins books (which is ironic, because I actually didn't care for his narration of his own memoir. Of course, I didn't care much for the memoir itself).  There is also that whole class of British Thespians who could read a calculus book and I'd be all over it.

But, it doesn't always work.  I'm currently listening to an audio book narrated by 2 actors I like (you'll have to come back for my update post to see what and who I'm talking about).  I went into this feeling fairly confident that one of the narrators would be a good fit while the other, well, I was rolling the dice.  As it turns out, the second author--the one I was worried about--is simply breathaking as a narrator to the point that I'd put him in my top 3 (maybe top 2) of audio narrators .  However, the actor I felt would be a good fit is...not.  And she isn't a good fit on many levels, leaving me a bit confused as to why her performance is so unsuccessful for me.

Honestly, I find actors as narrators to be more of a crap shoot than I would have expected.  While talent on the stage or screen may be a good indicator of audio success, it isn't a guarantee.  That is something I remind myself every time I pick up a book with a famous name narrating it.

Finally, we come to those narrators who make their living doing this crazy stuff.  I won't say that I've never gone wrong here, but when a professional voice actor's narration doesn't work for me, it is more of a personal preference issue than an ability issue.  For example, I tried to listen to The Martian (which I had previously read) and the narrator, R.C. Bray, just didn't fit the voice I had previously internalized when I had read it earlier.

Recently, I listened to Jennifer Weiner's In Her Shoes, which has long been a favorite of mine.  Yet, the narrator, Barbara McCulloh, just didn't work for me.  It wasn't that her narration was lacking in anyway--I would probably love her narration of another book--but she just didn't fit with this one.

The strongest voice performers can be chameleons.  I was once listening to two audiobooks--one for myself (Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay) and one with my kids (The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex).  It wasn't until I had finished one and had almost finished the other that I realized that they had the same narrator, Bahni Turpin.

Once I find a professional voice actor who I enjoy, I find myself checking out what other books they've done.  I recently finished listening to Johanna Parker read Goodnight Nobody, another Jennifer Weiner novel that I was lukewarm to when I read it over a decade ago.  However, Parker's narration brought the story to life in a way I could not have imagined.  Before I even finished this book, I was already looking up Parker's other works (and there are many) and adding a few to my wishlist.

So, to answer my original question, there isn't one hard and fast thing that determines a good audiobook narrator.  Instead, it is a combination of talent, fit, preference, and dumb luck.  But, if you find yourself listening to the perfect narrator reading the perfect book, you are in for a treat.

Do you have any favorite narrators?  Or do you have any audiobook horror stories?  If so, please let me know in the comments!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

It's Monday...What Are You Reading? - August 7 #IMWAYR

Well, this was the week when I realized that summer is starting to come to a close.  My kids are back in school at the end of the month, which we're all happy about (trust me, my kids are ready!).  Still, I feel like there is so much we haven't done this year.  Between my foot issues and my daughter's sprained ankle, we had to miss out on a few traditional things we do each summer, which is a bummer.  Still, we might be able to squeeze a bit more fun in the next couple of weeks.

I'm hoping, now that my daughter and I can both walk with at least manageable pain, we will be a bit more productive.  I have to admit that I haven't been reading as much as I would like.  I am still getting some reading time in each day, but I've also been binge-watching The Girlfriend's Guide to Divorce.  I don't know why this show wasn't on my radar before--I adore the star, Lisa Edelstein, and I'm all about shows that are about women who are NOT in their 20s!  It's not a perfect show, but it has sucked me in...and away from my books!

It's Monday...What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.  Please visit her blog to link up and join the fun!  Also, if you are participating in the meme, please be sure to link to your blog in your comment so that I can visit!

Well, look at that...only 2 books.  Of course, that isn't exactly true.  I didn't finish Story Genius, but I realized that pushing through with that one wasn't the best idea, so I went back to working my way through it.  Because of that, I'm just going to leave it off these update posts (until I finally finish it!)

I had hoped to finish An Extraordinary Union (The Loyal League) this week but, well, The Girlfriend's Guide to Divorce happened.  Still, I am enjoying this one, although it was a slow start for me.  The only other Alyssa Cole work I had read was a short story, so I was happy to see that she can sustain a full novel (at least so far).  According to my kindle, I have about an our left of it to read, so I'm hoping to have it done in the next day or so, depending on how much binge-watching I do.  Once I (finally) finish this one, I'll start a new print and a new ebook in its place.

I'm doing another Jennifer Weiner audio re-read with Goodnight Nobody.  I read this years ago, right after it was released, and I don't actually remember much about it.  I do remember not especially liking it, but I am actually really enjoying listening to it!  I do think that part of that is because I just couldn't relate to it back then, whereas I can now.  I also think that the narrator (Johanna Parker, not Emily Skinner as it says in the picture) is really sealing the deal.  Honestly, she's one of the best narrators I've come across in all of my audiobook listening.

I was able to finish 2 items last week.  The first was the audiobook of Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher.  It is the 2nd of her 3 memoirs and I enjoyed it, but it seemed much more subdued than Wishful Drinking.  This was the first time I actually had to speed up the narration on an audiobook.  I do think, though, it was a good follow up to her first and it makes me excited to listen to The Princess Diarist soon.

I also finally finished The Littlest Bigfoot.  Despite the fact that I started it in 2016, it was a fast, fun read (and it was much faster once I gave up trying to read it to my daughter).  It is definitely something that I know she will enjoy in a couple of years and I'm looking forward to the follow-up, Little Bigfoot, Big City coming out in a couple of months.

Finally, here is what I posted on the blog this week:
Wednesday, August 2 - Audiobook Review: Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken
Saturday, August 5 - Saturday Snapshot

Friday, August 4, 2017

Saturday Snapshot - August 5

To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky below. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

I was really hoping that I'd have some exciting pictures to share this week, but you may have read in earlier posts that we had a bit of an injury in the house.  We've also had not only a heatwave, but also terrible air quality (which we can blame on Canada), so we've been pretty much homebound all week.

So, this is my daughter right after I brought her home from her last day of Girl Scout day camp:

I can't actually call it a camp injury as she did this while waiting for the bus at pick up (I had sent her with her friend, so I wasn't there when it happened).  Apparently, she spent the last day of camp eating sugar and having people bring her stuff.  So, you know, the best day ever!

She wasn't really able to walk on it until Thursday, at which point we were in the midst of a heat wave, made worse by smoke from the fires in British Columbia.  So, there was much TV watching and I actually caught this minute of sibling peace!

But, honestly, that didn't last long.

Since it was so hot, we had the Air Conditioning going for most of the day....and my daughter found a way to get all the cool air for herself...

In case you can't tell, she has her blanket over the vent.  While she's showing off for this picture, she spent most of her time with all the cool air under the blanket...which meant the rest of the family room was not getting any air.  Sigh!  I mean, I can't fault her creativity, but it got really hot in here!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Audiobook Review: "Al Franken, Giant of the Senate" by Al Franken

Al Franken, Giant of the Senate Al Franken, read by Al Franken
Date Finished: July 29, 2017
Date Published: May 30, 2017
ISBN: 9781455540433
Genre: Memoir, Politics
Source: Audible
Highly Recommended

You might enjoy this book if you like: Political memoirs, current events, comic memoirs

This is a book about an unlikely campaign that had an even more improbable ending: the closest outcome in history and an unprecedented eight-month recount saga, which is pretty funny in retrospect. It's a book about what happens when the nation's foremost progressive satirist gets a chance to serve in the United States Senate and, defying the low expectations of the pundit class, actually turns out to be good at it.It's a book about our deeply polarized, frequently depressing, occasionally inspiring political culture, written from inside the belly of the beast.

In this candid personal memoir, the honorable gentleman from Minnesota takes his army of loyal fans along with him from "Saturday Night Live" to the campaign trail, inside the halls of Congress, and behind the scenes of some of the most dramatic and/or hilarious moments of his new career in politics. Has Al Franken become a true Giant of the Senate? Franken asks readers to decide for themselves. 

My Thoughts:
I've always like Al Franken, back to the days of Stuart Smalley on Saturday Night Live.  Even so, I was one of those people who was very skeptical to hear that he was running for the Senate (albeit from Minnesota which, at the time, was the "Jesse Ventura State" in my mind).  However, he has truly impressed me as a statesman since he (finally) took his seat in the Senate.

My listening time is devoted to two things: podcasts and audiobooks and, in the case of the former, much of my focus is on news podcasts at the moment.  So, really, this book was the perfect merger of all that and this was the perfect, or surreal (more on that later) time for me to listen to it.

Franken devotes the first few chapters of this book to his upbringing and his time at SNL.  While hearing about his earlier life was interesting, the chapter or two devoted to SNL was probably the least interesting part of the book to me.  It wasn't because it was boring or badly written, because it wasn't.  It was just after reading and/or listening to so many other books by former SNL-ers, he really had nothing new to say there.  I guess the fact that everyone seems to say the same thing about their SNL years means that it is all true?

Once we get past that, the book picks up.  I was fascinated to hear about his first run for the Senate, which he won by the narrowest margin in history.  As I don't live in Minnesota, I wasn't aware of the details of that entire situation and Franken explains the details of it well.  More entertaining, though, was how Franken recounted the beginnings of his ongoing battle with not being allowed to be funny and having his comic past returning to haunt him in the political arena.  This is a theme that is woven through the rest of the memoir, never so much that it overtakes the narrative, but enough that we don't forget that this is Al Franken we're dealing with.

Here is the surreal part: I know that there is a turnaround with books.  Generally, one does not just write a book (and record an audiobook) only to have it released in a few days or weeks.  Yet, there had to be some sort of push to get this one out as it goes up to the very, very recent past.  In fact, it didn't seem like the past at all.  You see, I was listening to the chapter on Health Care on July 27th.  Let me put that in perspective: while I was listening to Al Franken lament what he thought would be the inevitable repeal of the ACA, the Senate was debating Repeal and Replace, which was ended failed, many thanks to Republican Senators Collins, McCain, and Murkowski.  So, when Al Franken says (paraphrased) "I don't know if we will still have the health care by the time you hear this," it was oddly true.

I can't imagine anyone other that Al Franken reading this book.  Normally, I'm wary of political memoirs read by the authors because, well, they aren't the best narrators.  Al Franken, however, with his background in the Entertainment industry and dry humor, is perfect for this.  Plus he does impressions of his fellow Senators.  That alone was worth the Audible credit for this one.  And, don't worry, even if he was to work to not be funny in his Political life, there are still belly laughs to be had.

And, yes, this kind of feels like a book from a person who is gearing up for a Presidential bid.  In every interview, Al Franken is adamant that this is not the case...but, you know what?  I'd vote for him.

I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

It's Monday....What Are You Reading? - July 31 #IMWAYR

Whew!  What a week!  As I said, my daughter had the past week at day camp and you would think that would make things less hectic for me, as I'd only have one child with me.  However, it ended up being even more hectic--I think because my son had no one to play with during the day and therefore wanted me to entertain him.  Also, even though my daughter was at camp, I still had to drive to the next town over to drop her off and pick her up each day.

Then, on her last day of camp, she sprained her ankle.  She didn't do this at camp, but waiting for the bus.  I had a doctor's appointment, so my friend/her friend's mother took her that day.  She was messing around and somehow twisted badly.  My friend thought she was okay when she got on the bus--my daughter wasn't limping--but, a few hours later, the camp called me.  She did get to spend most of the day at camp, but I needed to come get her before the buses got there for pick up.

Because of that, we've spent most of the weekend at home--my daughter can't walk on her ankle, but she is quite good at hopping around.  Honestly, the forced weekend at home has really been a good thing for us.  Not that I've gotten much actual reading done...but I've been powering through audiobooks!

Anyway, onto the update:

It's Monday...What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.  Please visit her blog to link up and join the fun!  Also, if you are participating in the meme, please be sure to link to your blog in your comment so that I can visit!

I have actually managed to slim down my currently reading from last week, although I will admit that I was hoping to clear it off.  Oh well, such is life.

Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere) is still coming along.  This is going to be a book that I won't ever actually finish.  I mean, I'm going to finish reading it, of course.  But then I'll just flip back and continue actually working through it.  I've read a number of books on writing and I really think that Cron's method is the best fit for me.

I'm hoping to finish The Littlest Bigfoot tonight.  It's a quick read, but I was busy finishing up other titles.  It's actually quite sweet and I know that my daughter will enjoy it in a year or two, but right now just isn't the time for her.  There is a sequel coming out this fall, which I will read on my own and then pass onto her...

I haven't made too much progress with An Extraordinary Union (The Loyal League), only because I've been working on other titles.  However, it is currently #2 on my priority list and will probably hit it hard starting tomorrow.

As I said next week, even though my focus was on finishing my current reads, I would start a new audiobook once I finished the one I was on.  Well, I did that...and then I finished that one.  Now, I'm on Shockaholic and finding it to be quite entertaining.  I'm actually listening to it as a I write this and I'll probably finish it up this evening.  Which is a good thing, because I realized I had quite the backlog in my audible account.  Oops!

Now, as for what I finished this week...

In Her Shoes was a fairly fun listen/re-read.  As I said, I wasn't overly fond of the narrator.  Frankly, she just sounded too old for the story.  I've actually been thinking about audiobook narrators lately, and you'll most likely see those thoughts in a post in the next couple of weeks.

Lust and Wonder: A Memoir was, for me, surprisingly enjoyable.  I didn't enjoy the one other book by Burroughs that I had read (Running with Scissors) and I wasn't looking forward to a repeat.  But, on the whole, this one just worked better on nearly every level for me.

I'm kind of ashamed that it took me as long as it did to read The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates.  The book is actually quite short, about 180 pages (it looks longer, thanks to about 50 pages of appendices) and it is a fascinating tale. Sadly, that's what happens when you have too many books going at once.  That should be a lesson for me!

I powered through Al Franken, Giant of the Senate.  I'm not going to say much about it here, because I've decided to do an actual review of it.  Let's just say it was a strangely surreal experience to be reading it right now.  Intrigued?  Come back later this week to see what I mean.