Friday, September 15, 2017

Saturday Snapshot - September 16

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.

When this post goes live, my husband and I will be out of town celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary.  Since I post wedding pictures every year on the weekend closest to our anniversary, I'm going to post some that I haven't shown before--not because they are bad, but because they are the ones people seem to forget about.  Here are some of the details from our wedding day....

Hopefully I'll have some fun pictures from this week's getaway up next week!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Saturday Snapshot - September 9

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.

What a crazy week!  We're still adjusting to the school schedule and I somehow managed to schedule an appointment for myself every day this week.  Also, we've had to stay inside as much as possible, due to the poor air quality.  We've have a horrible wildfire in the Columbia River Gorge and much of western Oregon was covered in smoke.  Thankfully, it started to clear today, although the fire is still burning.  We're all praying that the firefighters are able to contain it soon.

Because of all this I have no pictures from this week.  However, we did get the our family pictures back that we had taken for our church directory.  While we had some of the whole family, we also got a few of just the kids...and this was one of the gems:

Sigh...I'm sure that one will end up on the Christmas card.  Kids!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Saturday Snapshot - September 2

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, our summer is officially over (despite the fact that we're in the  midst of another heat wave!).  The kids started back at school this week and here are some pictures from the big day!  (Can you tell the kids are a little excited?)

Sunday, August 27, 2017

It's Monday...What Are You Reading? August 28 #IMWAYR

Folks...we're almost there.  I can see the finish line....


Now, before you think I'm a worn out mother (I mean, I am, but....), my kids are just as excited about this as I am.  They both enjoy school and are wanting to see their friends.  My daughter had a lot of friend time at the beginning of the summer, but then most of her friends were out of town during the last part of the summer.  Plus, I think they are sick of looking at each other.  Anyone who grew up with siblings close to their own age can understand this.

Now, I promised that I would reveal who my other favorite audiobook narrator is.  If you go back to this post, you will recall that I was so taken with David Giuntoli's narration of The Clockwork Dynasty, that I added him to my "will listen to them read ANYTHING list," which previously only had one other name.  I left some clues, I offered a $15 Amazon card as a prize...and no one got the right answer!  So, I still have that card and I'll find something to do with it in the future--I think just a plain giveaway is a little dull, so I'm going to try to come up with something fun, but maybe not quite as hard.

But, I did say I would reveal who that person was in this post, so here you go...

Yes, ladies and gents, it is the incomparable Emma Thompson.  She actually doesn't have that many audio credits, but she has narrated some of her own books.  She wrote a few new Peter Rabbit books, which included CD's of her reading it.  The books are amazing (I actually didn't like the Beatrix Potter books--they freaked me out when I was a kid--but I love her books).  The kids and I also listened to her narrate another book she read, which I purposefully left off my post last week, but more on that below.  Anyway, I am keeping my eyes open for anything new that she narrates.

Okay, now 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!

We've been busy with end of summer stuff this week, so I didn't get much reading done, but I did a fair amount of listening.

I didn't make much progress with either Wish You Were Here or Priestdaddy.  But, again, that was completely due to circumstances.  I've really enjoyed what I have been able to read of both.  Once school starts up again, I will have more time (including my pick up line, I've missed that), so I'm hoping that both of these books will be moved below to the "read" portion of this update next week.

While I finished a lot of listening this week, I also gave up a lot listening--more on that below.  I decided that I needed to take a break from fiction because I just wasn't finding narrators that were working for me.  I came across Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House and thought it would be a great choice.  I have different narrator standards for non-fiction (basically, I'm much less critical) and, people, I really need some Obama stuff right now.  Anyway, this sounded great and I'm enjoying it...but so far Mastromonaco has spent time talking about menstruration mishaps, IBS, and travel induced vomiting, so it isn't exactly what I thought it would be.

I did finish two audio books last week, and loved both of them.  The first is the one I happened to not mention last week, Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang.  I was a little worried about how this would go down with the kids.  They haven't yet seen the first (or second) movie--although I think both are now waiting for me to pick up at the library, thanks to them not streaming anywhere!  Secondly, this has the story interspersed with Thompson's diaries about filming.  I wasn't sure if the kids would follow this, but they seemed to have no trouble with it.  From my part, I enjoyed the diary parts more than the actual story--not because the story was boring, but because the diaries were fascinating.  There is also a Q&A section at the end, which was quite fun.

I powered through Eleanor and Park and loved every minute of it.  I had previously read the book, so I knew I loved the story.  In fact, I think this might be my favorite YA novel of all.  But the narrators were quite good.  I was a little worried about it at first, only because both--Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra--seemed to be playing it a little safe.  But, as Eleanor and Park's relationship's intensify, so does the narration.  There were a few little nitpicks I could make about how the narrators did the secondary characters, but overall I'd give both narrators an A-.

As I said, it has been a crazy week, so not much on the blog.  The only post was last week's anemic eclipse-themed Saturday Snapshot.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Saturday Snapshot - August 26

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.

As many of you know, this past Monday was the big eclipse!  Being in Oregon, we had a great view.  We originally had plans to head south to my brother's house, which was in the path of totality--but we decided to stay put and avoid the traffic.  We were at 98%, so it was still a great experience.

Unfortunately, I don't have great pictures of it.  My husband tried to get some pictures of the actual eclipse, but none of them turned out.  I was going to try to do a time-lapse video, but the kids were too excited and kept knocking my iPhone tripod over.  So, here it is...the one eclipse picture I have!

Most of my friends have these great family pictures of everyone with their eclipse glasses on, all looking at the sky.  Unfortunately, I wasn't that organized, so this is what you get!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

It's Monday...What Are You Reading? August 21 #IMWAYR

Well, we're heading into the last week of summer in our house--and we're starting it with a bang.  Monday morning is the big eclipse--we're getting 98% totality at our house--and the kids are very excited.  We're stocked up with our eclipse glasses and I'm hoping to do a time-lapse video of the whole thing.  After that, it is all about getting ready for school to start again, which happens a week from Tuesday (and we are all excited about it).

Before I forget, I've received some emails and DM's on Twitter that my guessing game is just too hard.  So, I'm giving a few more clues.  First, go check out the post (the clues there are in the review and marked with **).  Now, here are the additional clues.
1 - She has 2 Oscars, but only one is for acting
2 - She is an author in her own right, namely of children's books
3 - She also sings and can be heard on a movie soundtrack released this year.
4 - If you look very closely in the label on this blog (in the right sidebar), you will find her name hidden there

Also, this is a pretty well-known name so I think that anyone can figure it out with just a bit of googling.  You have through Tuesday to enter and I'll choose one winner from the correct answers to win a $15 Amazon e-card.  You can enter on the original post.

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'm back to a manageable number of books to read at once!  I need to learn to limit it to 3 (one print, one eBook, one audio), but sometimes it is just so tempting to jump in with another title.

I received Priestdaddy: A Memoir a few months ago from the Book of the Month Club and just haven't had the chance to get to it yet.  I'm only about a chapter in, but I just love the writing.  I'm not quite sure where the book is going yet, but I'm enjoying the journey so far.  I've heard this is also quite good in audio, so I may give that a try as well at a later date.

I've enjoyed the books by Renee Carlino that I've read in the past, so I pre-ordered Wish You Were Here as soon I saw it was coming out.  Again, I'm not far in and I'm not sure where it is going.  I will say that the beginning feels a little frantic and I'm hoping that doesn't last much longer.

I read Eleanor and Park a while ago (you can read my original review here), so I'm doing an audio re-read.  I'm about halfway through and it is definitely worth it.  I was a little wary of the narrators at first--they were both fine, but a little vanilla.  But, as the story progressed, they both (especially Park, read by Sunil Malhotra) began to shine.

I finished 4 books this week, which is pretty good considering this week was a busy one for us.  The first was Bombshell (Hollywood A-List), which was ultimately quite disappointing.  The set up is interesting enough--a Hollywood A-lister and the nanny for his child.  However, there were some real issues with this one.  It definitely took some big steps towards the rape zone.  I don't think it ever fully got there, but there was quite a bit of glorified sexual harassment in it.  I have some real problems with books that do that and I won't be reading further in the series.

I enjoyed Full of Life by John Fante more than I thought I would.  I don't want to say it is exactly dated, but it is pretty clear that it was written in the 1950s.  Still, it was interesting to see how attitudes between men and women have changed since then.  But, really, I loved John's relationship with his father.

This Time Around was a sweet, quick read that totally got the Portland setting down.  The main relationship wasn't as fraught as I'm used to in romance novels, but the characters were both well-drawn and there was a far amount of humor to get me through.

I finished listening to Girling Up: How to Be Strong, Smart and Spectacular.  As I said last week, I was previewing it to see if it is something I would get for my daughter--which I think I will, but not for a few more years.  But if you are looking for a good book for a tween girl, this is the one I'd suggest.

This week on the blog:
Wednesday, August 16 - Audiobook Review: "The Clockwork Dynasty" (don't forget to enter your guess!)
Saturday, August 19 - Saturday Snapshot

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